A community organization that offers after-school help for struggling families will soon open its doors after all, saved more by a weak construction market and a low bid than by any help from the Town of Payson.
Payson Community Kids (PCK) raised nearly $6,000 in three weeks to cobble together enough money to pave the dead-end dirt street in front of the modest home converted to an after-school facility for kids from families hammered by the economic downturn.
The group turned to fund-raising after Payson refused to reduce or delay a requirement to pave the dirt road in front of the home converted to harbor an after-school program for about 50 kids and a food and clothes distribution point for another 100 families.
The group pleaded with Payson for months to relax its requirements for an asphalt road with a six-inch bed and rolled edges at the end of a dirt road intermittently paved with a deteriorating two-inch-thin slap of asphalt on a dirt base. But the town refused to issue an occupancy permit until PCK could raise the money to hire a contractor to build a section of road, a third of which wasn’t even in front of the house the group spent $68,000 building with the help of donors and contractors contributing work for free.
Despairing of a break from the town, the group raised $5,813 in about three weeks. The story had an especially happy ending when Richard Herrera of H & H Paving submitted a bid of $4,200. The high bids reached the daunting total of $10,000, said Suzy Tubbs, the community volunteer who currently heads up PCK.
Three private donors contributed about two-thirds of the money raised, including Rim Country Arizonans for Children and two private donors who wanted to remain anonymous, said Tubbs.
Sharon King, who helped spark plug the fund-raising effort, said, “I thought if we challenged some people, it might help — but everyone is going after the same dollar these days.”
Tubbs said the contractor would start excavating for the new roadbed this week. Payson Kiwanis will paint the building on Oct. 27 and the group hopes to move the after-school program from its temporary quarters in the Southern Baptist Church to their new digs the first week in November.
Tubbs said the number of families seeking help has roughly tripled since the onset of the recession in 2009
The group spent a frustrating seven months trying to get a break from Payson on its requirements, said Tubbs. The group hoped that the town would either let it open its doors and pave the road once it had raised the funds or build a road that cost half as much, but matched the existing patches of pavement.
“We felt like we were deadlocked,” said Tubbs of the long and futile effort to seek a waiver of the conditions included in the group’s original building permit, which she said the group’s advocates didn’t fully understand until too late.
“We kept going back to our same donors and trying to keep our program open. We live on a shoestring and 99.9 percent of our people are volunteers. We did ask to be on the city council agenda — but for some sort of a reason we couldn’t be on because we didn’t do things in the proper procedure. We’re tired of fighting. We just want in the building, so we can take care of those children in Payson that we help.”
The town released documents concerning the appeal of the road requirements in response to a request from the Roundup.
Assistant Town Manager LaRon Garrett wrote a Sept. 25 memo to the town council saying, “I have received a lot of correspondence concerning the paving of a portion of Tonto Street to access the new building at Payson Community Kids. Currently, they are not willing to install the required pavement in accordance with the Town Code. They have requested staff to reduce the requirements, which we cannot do.”
PCK board member James Leubner had written to Garrett with copies to the council members on Sept. 20, pleading for some sort of accommodation that would let the group move into its new facility.
Leubner said that the requirement that the group pay for a two-inch thick layer of asphalt on a six-inch roadbed would create an isolated patch of road built to a much higher standard than the rest of the street, with only a third of the new road actually fronting the property. He noted that the town had approved previous buildings on the street without the expensive street requirements.
“Is it ethically and morally correct to ask a non-profit organization or anyone else to cover for a municipal government’s mistake or poor decision?” wrote Leubner. “It makes me feel as if we are being bullied into complying with this condition of approval.”
He said that Payson Community Kids accepted the condition when the town approved its project because no one knew how expensive the paving project would prove — nor the way in which it would create a short stretch of pavement in a longer length of street built to a very different standard.
Responses from the town suggested PCK should comply with the conditions of its building permit. Garrett also pointed out that the town could have insisted that the group provide curbs, gutters and sidewalks, all required by the town’s building standards.
However, none or the rest of the street has curbs, gutters or sidewalks and the PCK facility sits at the end of a dead-end, minimizing the need for the additional improvements.
In a letter to Leubner, Garrett wrote, “This is a minimal section to provide service with low maintenance costs. This location is at the end of the street where all of the vehicles will be turning, which adds to additional stress to the pavement. In my opinion, this structural section, or one equivalent to it, is not negotiable. The fact that the remaining pavement to the north is of lower quality is irrelevant. It was placed there at another time under different standards. One area of the road being substandard does not justify continuing to build on a sub-standard road that will require more maintenance funds.”