Big News For Payson

The year brought a slew of headlines as Payson leaders worked doggedly to conclude a deal to build a campus here, survive state budget cuts and bolster local businesses. Despite all the challenges, th

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Rim Country headlines this year included a new roof for a high school gym and start of construction for the Blue Ridge Pipeline

March 26: Signs of the times

Business owners gripe about limits on temporary signs and banners, prompting the Town Council to again revise its long-standing effort to loosen up the town’s sign ordinance. The business owners complained that the limits on materials, colors and the time they can leave out banners and signs hurts their business.

Jan. 18: FS land sale

The comment period on an environmental assessment of plans to sell 260 acres of federal land to the Rim Country Educational Alliance closed without incident, but the discovery of a handful of pottery shards prompted renewed negotiations on how the Alliance will protect any artifacts it finds on the Forest Service land.

Jan. 11: Proud as punch

Payson snatched a moment of calm before the storm on Thursday to celebrate its award-winning Fiesta Bowl Parade float — and to honor the hundreds of volunteers and businesses that made it possible. The float won the two top awards in the parade, thanks to a conga line of dancing trees and a townwide effort.

Dec. 28, 2012: Backers hit goal

Backers of the plan to build a university in Payson raised more than $150,000 to cover pre-development costs entailed in buying 260 acres for the campus from the U.S. Forest Service. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the community support to date,” commented Fund-raising Committee Co-chairperson Janet Vidnovic.

Dec. 18: Water plan unveiled,

Here’s the latest benefit of the Blue Ridge pipeline: Two streams running through the middle of town. Payson hopes that it can recharge its fallen water table with water from the pipeline – and as a side benefit create a stream running down the American Gulch through the center of town to get the water into underground storage in a way that will also lure tourists.

Nov. 20: Wither goest Payson?

What sort of town do you want to live in? That’s the question at the heart of the town’s once-a-decade overhaul of its General Plan land use blueprint. The year-long process run by a consulting team will cost Payson about 200,000, but will update the land use restrictions with an eye towards the town’s eventually growth to a refuge for about 40,000 residents.

Nov. 13: Honoring service

It’s those darn kids. The cute-as-kittens kindergartners from Payson Elementary School sat fidgeting all the way through the hour-long round of tributes to Rim Country veterans. Once again, hundreds of people turned out for Payson’s moving tribute to veterans at the Payson High School auditorium.

Oct. 10: McLane protests

People drive so fast on McLane that it has ruined the quality of life and poses a daily danger to people who live on the street, David Kibiloski told the Payson Town Council last week. Residents of the street lobbied the town persistently for months, seeking measures to slow traffic on McLane. The town so far has responded by posting police cars with radar guns on when school starts and ends, turning the succession of curves and driveways into a speed trap.

Oct. 10: Rise in density

Developers can build smaller, cheaper condos and apartments If developers ever do return to Payson, they will find they can build much smaller, hopefully cheaper, apartments and condos in town.

Sept. 28: Gila County contributes

Gila County gave the Rim Country Educational Alliance $12,500 to help pay for studies necessary to convince the U.S. Forest Service to sell 260 acres for a university campus. The Alliance ultimately raised $150,000 for the environmental assessment.

Aug. 7: Police costs rise

An irritated Payson Town Council reluctantly approved an emergency ordinance to comply with a new state law that will increase payments for any workmen’s compensation claims filed by police officers.

July 26: Contracts awarded

In a historic milestone, Payson last week awarded three contracts totaling $1.1 million to fulfill decades of effort by starting construction on the Blue Ridge pipeline. The contracts came in a stunning $900,000 below estimates, perhaps a reflection of the still

July 3: ASU, Alliance agree

Arizona State University and the Rim Country Educational Alliance (SLE) have agreed in principle to complete their plans to build a university here, but will continue to iron out details for “several weeks,” according to a source close to the negotiations. In addition, supporters of the plan to build a 6,000-student university in Payson have raised enough money that the Forest Service has resumed work on the environmental assessment necessary to buy some 260 acrese.

June 27: Payson selling water

Worried about paying the bill for the Blue Ridge pipeline without big water rate increases, the Payson council last week approved a deal worth as much as $100,000 to sell two private golf courses perhaps 50 acre-feet of water.

June 8: Pipeline hits budget

The Payson Town Council on Tuesday adopted a budget that avoids threatened layoffs and boosts town spending significantly — mostly as a result of the start of construction of the $34 million Blue Ridge pipeline. Town spending will most likely increase to about $14 million, a hefty a 60 percent jump from this year’s projected year-end total of $8.7 million. However, a $4 million increase in spending on the pipeline accounts for the vast majority of the projected increase.

May 25: Budget brightens

Town officials cancel layoffs as estimates of revenue rise by $600,000. Payson officials ransacked their budget projections for spare change and windfalls and came up with an estimated $600,000 in added revenue — enough to avert threatened layoffs and probably even restore full funding to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.

May 2: Historic thinning contract

The U.S. Forest Service last week awarded the largest contract in history to a private timber company to turn 300,000 acres of small trees into wood products, a move Rim Country officials said may ultimately protect endangered Rim Country communities from wildfires.

April 27: Land sale news

The Forest Service continues to plod through the process of selling 300 acres to the Rim Country Educational Alliance, despite uncertainties about whether the group can strike a deal with Arizona State University. Countering suggestions the land sale awaited money for environmental studies, Payson Ranger District head ranger Angie Elam said, “we’re moving through NEPA as quickly as we can. Completion is scheduled for this fall — I think in October.”

April 24: Inspectors for SV

Payson and Star Valley’s cozy new good neighbor policy took another step forward last week. The Payson Town Council unanimously approved a plan to rent Star Valley a building inspector, to complete inspections of the lone house under construction.

April 24: Financial crunch

With financial disaster looming, Payson Head Ranger Angie Elam managed to hack through the Gordian knot of Forest Service bureaucracy. Payson feared it would lose millions of dollars worth of federal grant money when Blue Ridge pipeline project managers learned the U.S. Forest Service rules required detailed engineering plans for the entire $34 million pipeline and water treatment plant before issuing a construction permit.

April 24: Tontozona news

The return of Arizona State University’s football team to Camp Tontozona outside of Christopher Creek will yield huge benefits to Rim Country beyond the $250,000 per day fans, players and coaches will likely spend.

April 10: Sign debate reopened

Once more into the breech, dear friends. Last week the Payson Town Council might not have had King Henry V or Shakespeare to get them riled up: But they did vote to charge into the heart of a once-and-future controversy — its sign ordinance. Payson’s effort to impose a restrained, resort-town standard on signs several years ago spurred repeated debates and bitter complaints by local merchants.

March 16: Voters return incumbents

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans this week received a fresh, virtually unanimous mandate from voters as work on several major initiatives reaches a critical stage. Evans received 2,835 votes as he ran unopposed for a third, two-year term and the town dealing with the frustrating negotiations with Arizona State University moving to a critical phase, construction set to start on the Blue Ridge pipeline in June and a $25 million telemedicine grant education in the final cut for federal funding.

March 8: Designer drug law

The Payson Town Council has taken the first step toward adopting a cutting edge law that attempts to bar the sale of designer drugs by focusing on whether the store selling those substances ought to know people will take them to get high. The new law represents an attempt to cope with mixes of compounds sold as “bath salts” or “potpourri” which include things like synthetic imitations of the active ingredient in marijuana that bundlers can readily change to evade bans based on their components.

Feb. 21: Council opts out of discipline

No more politically charged, excruciatingly public firings and demotions. The Payson Town Council just took itself out of the loop. Still smarting from two painfully public employee appeals, the Payson Town Council last week decided to let fired and demoted employees appeal to professional personnel hearing officers in the future — instead of the town council.

Feb. 7: GCC seeks partnership

Gila Community College needs to do a much better job of partnering with the Rim Country Educational Alliance, the board decided recently. Board member Tom Loeffler suggested the 3,400-student community college district set up a committee to work with the backers of a proposed university in Payson — presumably Arizona State University.

Jan. 13: Payson still ‘strivin’

Could have been worse. Might even get better. That’s the gist of the Payson Town Council’s first-ever quarterly financial report, offered by finance director Hope Cribb at a recent regular meeting. “We’re not thriving,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans after hearing the report, “but we’re striving to get to the next step.”

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