Stormwaters thunder down American Gulch

The American Gulch frequently fills with floodwater. In a 100-year storm, floodwaters could inundate the Northern Gila County Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment facility. It’s hoped the upgrades to the drainage will help control this problem.

The name remains unlovely, but that’s no reason to look ugly.

In a unanimous vote, the Payson Town Council agreed to upgrade and stabilize the American Gulch from the Sawmill Crossing to the Westerly bridge during its Sept. 12 meeting.

The Arizona Water Protection Fund provided a grant for the project that will “include stabilization structures, including rock ... and larger natural ... material,” wrote the town in its request for bids.

The town will then provide “containerized plants, willows and sedge plugs” to the contractor who will place the plants to improve the riparian area under a separate contract.

The D.D. Haught Excavation, Co., along with Total Maintenance Erosion Control, LLC and M.D. Merret, Inc., submitted bids in early August after the town had to scrap the bid process and start over. Haught’s bid came in at $151,572.

“We’re very happy,” said Sheila DeSchaaf, acting town manager. “As you recall not too many meetings ago we had to reject the only bid we received for this project.”

The council rejected the original bid because of cost.

“During the first round of the bid process, we had four contractors attend the mandatory pre-bid meeting,” said Trever Fleetham, economic development and planning manager. “Only one of the four submitted a bid, which ended up being much higher than our engineer’s cost estimate and grant amount.”

During the second round of the bid process, nine contractors attended which resulted in three bids within the cost parameters.

Fleetham has an idea why contractors had more appropriate bids.

“There was an addendum sent out to all plan holders that contained the engineer’s cost estimate,” said Fleetham. “This, along with the additional questions asked at the second pre-bid meeting, most likely gave the contractors more detail and a better understanding of the project to help them submit bids closer to our engineer’s cost estimate.”

Councilor Suzy Tubbs-Avakian expressed her relief the beautification of the gulch would move forward.

“I am so happy that we were able to receive three bids — very nice to see,” she said.

She then sought to understand why staff thought D.D. Haught had the best bid.

“The bidders, is there something that maybe stood out — or were they just all over the place in their numbers?” she asked.

DeSchaaf wasn’t sure why, but offered an explanation.

“Sometimes it just has to do with how hungry people that are coming in to do the project are for work,” she said.

Councilor Jim Ferris hoped he could see what it would look like and if it would help with the land donation from the adjacent owners.

“It would be nice (to see) what it’s going to look like when it’s done,” he said. “And I hope, too, that it helps with the future possible land exchange deal.”

DeSchaaf explained that staff had already moved “forward accepting some property” west of Westerly bridge.

“And so ideally, we can channel some of the water going across that project in that area and this will be a continuation of this,” she said.

The bid requires D.D. Haught Excavation to start by Oct. 31 and complete the work by Dec. 31, 2019. All equipment must remain at the worksite or near Sawmill Crossing.

Already the town has built a bird watching area to start the gulch’s makeover.

Next up — look at a new name.

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(1) comment

Mike White

I think we should start with first pumping some of the Green Lake water up to the start of the American Gulch up near the theaters, and let it flow down to the lake. Modify the Gulch to be more of a rocky stream bed and include some waterfall areas and arched-bridge crossovers. That gives us a low-cost waterfront along which could be built plank walkways with lighting that looks like the old-time gas lamps and some benches.

Connect this riverwalk with a plank walkway to Main St. at a few spots, especially to businesses that fit the theme, like the Oxbow (if it can be refurbished a bit more to reasonable codes). I would look to the Oxbow to be the initial anchor for drawing more businesses. Use some of the empty lots on Main St for parking. To start, motivate a few investors to build some modest eating + drinking (with fast alcohol permitting) establishments along the riverwalk, with both inside and creekside seating. Encourage people to stroll down the riverwalk to the lake after going to the movies, for some drinks and dinner, and shopping. There would need to be some investment, though, for the lamp lights and some nice landscaping along the gulch. Allow appropriate kiosk vendors, too.

I'll bet a good plan would motivate a small army of local volunteers to help with building the plank walkways and putting in the landscaping (and drip system using the recovered Gulch water). Local contractors may provide some greatly discounted materials in exchange for the great publicity and tax deduction. Experienced contractors would need to provide the supervision of volunteers to maintain quality and safety, though.

And maybe a good plan might bring in some federal Community Revitalization grant money.

Over time, more businesses will be attracted, but they would have to agree ahead of time to stay with the established western waterfront theme. Facades really don't cost much. And I'll bet some of stores on Main would relocate there once there is some foot traffic. (And they wouldn't lose their existing customers by moving over one block).

Sadly, it is too late and way too expensive to force existing businesses on Main St to convert to a Western theme, especially when their businesses have nothing to do with foot-traffic customers looking to eat, drink, and shop. Many may spend a modest amount on a Western facade and themed signage, but most won't. And I wouldn't blame them.

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