Hurrah! District Didn’T Sell Frontier

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Thank goodness the Payson School Board decided not to sell Frontier Elementary School — at least for now.

The board abruptly called a special meeting on Thursday to consider offers for Frontier and one other property. But after a discussion behind closed doors, the school board emerged and announced it had decided to reject a bid that apparently came in below the $1.2 million minimum the district had placed on the sale.

We feared the worst, now we’ll have to hope for the best.

Despite the district’s current fiscal woes and the enrollment declines wrought by the four-year downturn that has driven so many young, working families to leave town to find work, we remain convinced selling Frontier would be a terrible mistake.

We have no doubt Payson will resume its once-steady growth as soon as the economy recovers. The state’s economy already is showing heartening signs of life. Clinching the deal with a university will jump start the recovery here. Meanwhile, the arrival of the Blue Ridge water will give Rim Country a crucial advantage over other, competing rural areas when the recovery takes hold.

We may not need to re-open Frontier right away — but the district will almost certainly need another school site long before Payson hits a build-out population of 30,000 or 40,000. In the meantime, several groups have already made lease proposals that would largely relieve the district from the burden of maintaining the school site.

At the very least, the district should hang onto the Frontier site until the real estate market fully recovers — and the land commands a good price. Better yet, the district should develop a sensible plan for the future. Does the school board really believe the existing facilities will suffice if Payson doubles or triples in population? If so, we’d like to see the plan. Will the district remain forever wedded to the current middle school model? What if the district shifts to a K-8 model?

The district needs a long-term plan, not a short-term cash infusion.

Besides, Payson has just started a year-long overhaul of its General Plan. The school district should partner in that effort. Let us generate some better models to predict future enrollment trends that take into account the town’s land use plan — and employ the town’s planning expertise.

So we’re delighted that the school board rejected a bad offer. Now we hope they’ll do a good job of planning for the future.

Don’t get fixated

FIXATED: To command the attention of exclusively or repeatedly; preoccupy obsessively. To attach (one’s self) to a person or thing in an immature or neurotic fashion. To be arrested at an early stage of psychosexual development.

OK. Well. Forget about the whole psychosexual development thing. But we sure hope the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE hasn’t gotten its poor, longsuffering self FIXATED on that 260 acres of U.S. Forest Service land on which it wants to build a university campus.

Everyone’s gone pretty quiet since the Alliance finished the environmental assessment of the yearned-for 260-acre site, paid for with community donations. Seems like we bought her a nice dinner, gave her a shiny diamond ring — and now she’s not returning our calls.

Now, we hope the U.S. Forest Service has grown wise and realistic and flexible, in these troubled times. We hope she read the memo from President Obama about creating jobs. We hope the Tonto National Forest understands it’ll never get the money to rebuild its visitor and firefighting facilities if it nitpicks this sale to death.

But, then again, this ain’t our first rodeo.

So we also hope the Alliance hasn’t gotten so fixated it doesn’t have a backup plan should the U.S. Forest Service behave, like, well, the U.S. Forest Service — and strangle a perfectly good idea in thick coils of red tape.

For instance, consider the benefits of putting the university down by Green Valley Park on some of the big, easily buildable stretches of land available for quick purchase at that end of town. Such a move could finally turn Main Street into a real commercial core. It would give the students access to Green Valley Park — and the recreational possibilities of the Doll Baby Ranch area. Heck, it could give a big boost to the development of the Doll Baby Ranch area — and its annexation to Payson.

Think of it this way. You gotta keep your options open. If she figures you’re desperate — she’ll break your heart every time.

Then there you’ll be: Arrested at an early stage of psychosexual development.

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