As summer 2012 begins, it is timely to personally update readers regarding the status of our plans to bring a university campus to Payson.
First, I want to thank the citizens and businesses of our wonderful community for their support of this initiative. I have seen, heard and felt your enthusiasm at the many neighborhood and community forums held over the past year. Many of you raised valid questions and/or provided excellent ideas. Parents expressed their strong desires for their children to be able to earn college degrees, at a reasonable cost, while remaining close to home. Everyone has been enthusiastic about the much-needed financial benefits the campus will provide to our community, especially because of the long-term economic benefit to Rim Country for decades to come.
The most frequently asked question I receive, however, is an obvious one: “What’s taking so long?” It’s a challenge to conceive a great idea, be it a business, a TV show, or a work of art. It’s even harder to conceive a great idea and execute it to its potential. The more complicated the concept, the more difficult the execution. The campus project is a perfect example of such complexity.
Many interdependencies exist that slowed our timetable — which was aggressive from the start — to what seems like a crawl at times. However, during the past few months, we’ve made significant progress. Some examples include: (1) Obtaining final approvals for the Blue Ridge Water pipeline, which will ensure adequate water supply for both the town and the campus; (2) gaining preliminary agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to sell the desired 260-acre property on the south side of Highway 260
at appraised value for the campus; (3) making significant progress in satisfying the U.S. Forest Service’s administrative process to sell the property; (4) securing back up property to provide additional flexibility in getting the project under way on a timely basis; and (5) forming a Separate Legal Entity (SLE), as the municipal entity responsible for master planning, acquisition of land, contracting and stewardship of its properties. Each of these steps required securing cooperation and approvals from multiple governmental agencies, each with their own pre-determined processes, succinct timetables, and varying decision-making bodies and processes.
Our biggest hurdle remains finalizing a lease arrangement that is financially feasible and acceptable to each party. They are striving to reach a compromise that satisfies their respective financial models and requirements. In the meantime, our project has attracted national and international interest. If ASU concludes that the campus does not meet their financial requirement, others have expressed interest in becoming the educational partner for our campus. As frustrating as it seems, due to the confidential nature of these deliberations, we are not at liberty to share the status of these discussions at this time other than to say we are moving forward.
Despite the delays in reaching an agreement, significant preliminary design and pre-development work also has been accomplished. That “first mile” of the journey toward building a university campus has been accomplished by the generosity of a few dedicated and visionary citizens, who have paid the substantial costs from their own pockets, with no direct financial benefit expected or reimbursement or recognition desired.
Funding the “middle mile” of that process is now our immediate task — covering the cost of the various required pre-acquisition assessments, etc. These assessments must be completed before the purchase is finalized and funded by the investment group. It is with this “middle mile” that we are asking the local community to show its support by contributing what they can to help bring a university campus to the Rim Country. Many ideas for raising funds are being suggested and explored. Some may ultimately be adopted and used. Ideas that hurt other fund-raising or produce minimal results will not. The substantial “middle mile” costs will continue for the next seven to eight months. Every dollar contributed will make a critical difference. The subsequent multi-million dollar stage of acquiring the Forest Service property and making it ready for the development phase will be funded through a financing arrangement with a lender.
Through our Volunteer Committee, we will shortly launch an informational Web site to keep the community informed regarding our progress. We will also post on this site our fund-raising results each month, as well as upcoming activities in which you can participate.
I remain optimistic that Payson will be the home of a world-class campus nestled in the ponderosa pine forest that we all think of as home. The immediate economic benefits of the campus will be a boon and an enriching influence to those who live here today. But the real beneficiaries will be the Rim Country’s young people, who will have the opportunity to improve their lives and their futures, through access to a four-year college degree, earned among those same ponderosa pines, right here in Payson.
The leadership team that is driving this process is now the Rim Country Educational Alliance, a Separate Legal Entity, and their advisers and counsel who have assumed responsibility for the project. The project is strongly supported by the Community Volunteer Committees. Our talented and experienced team will continue to move the project forward with enthusiasm and vision. The Rim Country can feel good about rallying around a winning team and can be assured that I will be right there with you helping them “get’r done!”
Thank you for continued support.
Tax deductible contributions can be sent by check or money order to:
Rim Country Educational Foundation
308 East Aero Drive
Payson, AZ 85541