Payson Totals Up Its $10 Million Wish List

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Payson continues to lurch along like a comeback boxer with his eyes swollen closed in the ninth round — but still on his wobbly feet.

The town’s punch drunk conditions dominated recent discussions on a speculative capital spending plan for 2011-12, with a long list of projects that will probably never break ground. Unless, of course, a deal with Arizona State University and an inrush of federal grants changes everything.

The town hopes to cut a deal with ASU this year and start work on a 300-acre campus and support facilities that could eventually cost some $400 million,

The town can’t spend money on anything it doesn’t include in its budget in June, according to state law. That means the capital spending budget always includes a large element of wishful thinking — with millions of dollars worth of projects for which the town hopes to get state and federal grants.

So the proposed capital spending budget this year totals some $10 million, including $6 million worth of water projects — many of them connected to the Blue Ridge pipeline.

However, the long discussion on individual projects made it clear that the town will most likely continue a third year of desperate penny pinching when it comes to spending money out of the hard-pressed general fund.

Out of the $10 million worth of projects on the wish list, the water department accounted for 60 percent and the street department for 23 percent — due to $2.3 million in street maintenance projects.

Among the major projects on the list:

Third Fire Station: The town wants to use $360,000 in leftover bond money to finish and furnish crew quarters in the third fire station — although the town might not actually have the money to staff it until town revenues rise.

Recycling: $460,000 to improve the town’s ability to recycle.

Police Department: $161,000 to remodel the police building and upgrade security and the parking lot.

Council Chambers: $223,000 to replace frayed carpet in town hall and make improvements in the council chambers.

Mud Springs Road: $1.3 million to extend Mud Springs Road from the roundabout to the highway in the unlikely event the state provides gas tax funding.

Community Development: $800,000 for grant-funded projects that probably won’t actually happen, including $25,000 for affordable housing, $500,000 to spruce up Main Street, $140,000 to fix up low-income housing and $150,000 for highway landscaping.

Rumsey Drive: $60,000 to buy land to eventually widen Rumsey Drive from McLane to Highway 87. Eventually, the town hopes to get $560,000 in gas tax funding to pay to rebuild, widen and add sidewalks and a bike path to the deteriorating major thruway.

Bonita Street: $10,000 to buy right of way for the $1.5-million rebuild of Bonita, which at least recently won a slot of the state’s long-term funding plan.

Road maintenance: $450,000 to oil and chip seal existing streets. The town’s plan calls for resealing every street in town once every seven years, but Payson dropped even routine road maintenance in the past two years.

Signs: $71,000 to replace and add traffic signs throughout town.

Montezuma Castle Land Exchange: $450,000 to begin putting in roads, water and other infrastructure in portions of the 200 acres swapped with the Forest Service near the airport. It will eventually cost $6.3 million to build all the infrastructure needed to develop the empty land, but landowners will foot the bill through taxes paid into an improvement district.

Park Master Plan: $70,000 to come up with a master plan for the park system, providing the town lands a state grant.

Blue Ridge Pipeline: $4.2 million to start work on the pipeline and $325,000 to start work on the water treatment plant, which will come from a federal grant and represents a down payment on the $30 million cost of the project.

Water pipes: $830,000 from water department reserves to begin replacing 30-year-old, undersized water mains.

Groundwater wells: $500,000 from water department reserves to drill more wells or perform upkeep on the existing wells.

Equipment: The town wants to buy or replace about $1.6 million worth of equipment, much of which depends on getting various hoped-for grants.

The list includes a $350,000 upgrade of the police and fire radio system, $75,000 in new dump trucks, $100,000 in street maintenance equipment, $120,000 for new vehicles, $115,000 for two new fire department vehicles, $80,000 for heart defibrillators to carry on fire trucks or position at key points around town, $500,000 for a new fire truck, $75,000 for scuba diving equipment and underwater breathers for rescue and maintenance operations.

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