The Payson Town Council on Thursday approved new contracts with the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Payson Senior Center.
Both contracts represented the last vestiges of the town’s once-extension support for local charities and community organizations, which have all fallen to the town’s chronic budget woes in the past three years.
The council approved a $36,000 annual contract with the chamber of commerce, which is intended to cover the costs of operating the visitors center on Main Street. Staffed by a combination of volunteers and paid staff, the visitors center hands out information about local attractions, hotels, motels and town events.
The council cut the chamber’s contract several years ago, but the total has held steady at $36,000 for the past several years.
The town also approved a $6,700 monthly contract with the Payson Senior Center to cover the cost of running the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers food to housebound senior citizens. The bulk of that $80,000 comes from federal Community Development Block Grant funds the town receives each year.
The town used to also provide funding for half a dozen other community groups and charities, but has phased out those subsidies over the past several years.
Town officials argued that the contracts with the senior center and the chamber of commerce are different, since those two organizations provide specific services for which the town pays.
The council approved both contracts on the consent agenda, which means that councilors didn’t discuss the contracts.
However, Councilor Su Connell later in the meeting cited the lack of an increase in the senior center’s contract when she voted against a proposed increase in the contract for the Humane Society of Central Arizona from $88,000 annually to $110,000 annually.
“When the senior center is getting $6,700 a month and no increase and the Humane Society wants a 27 percent increase, I’m just opposed to that. We have to take care of our children and our seniors.”
Councilor Ed Blair commented, “my wife said the same thing.”
The council ultimately rejected the Humane Society’s request and in the end approved all three contracts with no increase for the third year running.