Elk hiking American Gulch Trail

The Payson Town Council added improvements to the American Gulch to their priority list of projects, along with a parks master plan, building a community center with an indoor pool and maintaing existing facilities.

There’s a big difference between a laundry list and a priority list.

So last week Payson Town Manager Troy Smith suggested the council turn its laundry list of capital improvement projections into a much more focused priority list.

The town has repeatedly updated its Corporate Strategic Plan (CSP) since 1995 without actually moving forward with many of the projects to the frustration of many community members.

But when everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority, Smith said at a budget study session last week.

“I think it is difficult for this plan to drive the organization because of the breadth of the plan,” said Smith. “There are great things to do, but we are not working on them.”

Vice Mayor Chris Higgins agreed. He has sat on the council longer than anyone, so has worked on the CSP for years.

“In previous years it seemed a feeble exercise,” he said of the three-level plan that outlines priorities and strategies for implementation. “It can be frustrating. You keep talking about these things and you know they will not come to fruition.”

So Smith spent four hours with the council setting realistic goals for the coming year. The council ended up creating a list that addressed park planning, economic development and infrastructure maintenance.

Smith noted that completion of the $50 million C.C. Cragin pipeline opens the door to other priorities.

“Now it’s time to address what the community desires and develop critical funding plans for infrastructure,” he said.

He spoke of debt financing and bonds. Payson has not gone out for bonds since 2003, when the town asked voters to approve funding for a new fire station and upgrades to parks and roads.

The fire station funding received voter approval, but not the other two. Now, comments and community surveys suggest voters would like to address its parks and infrastructure.

Smith was honest with the council when he said, “We don’t have the ability to maintain things with the existing revenue stream.”

Smith told the council if they would like to fix or replace the current assets, he’ll have to come back with a funding plan.

For the rest of the meeting, Smith worked with the council to come up with a sharply focused list of projects that were popular and possible.

The council discussed everything from the value of Green Valley Parkway, an outdoor pool and a community center with an indoor pool.

To which Smith asked, “Could you envision the town constructing a community center that didn’t include a pool?”

None could.

Councilor Suzy Tubbs-Avakian wanted the top three priorities to include a master plan for the town’s park system, maintenance of existing infrastructure and covering the event center.

Which prompted Smith to ask, “How about Main Street, does it seem a priority?”

Councilor Jim Ferris and Mayor Tom Morrissey immediately shared their dreams of a water feature robust enough to handle kayakers in the American Gulch, which runs along Main Street.

But the community survey on parks won the day. The first priority for the council will be to create a community center with an indoor pool. Then a park master plan that will address the need for open spaces, parks and playing fields throughout Payson. Next, come up with a plan to maintain existing facilities.

Last on the list? Work on amenities such as the American Gulch to improve Main Street.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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(1) comment

Mike White

Maybe provide about $30,000 to pay for a western-themed façade to overlay the sterile storage building/hangar appearance of the new county building?

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