Hold off on those splash pad playdates.

Even though Payson received a much-anticipated $207,500 grant from the federal government to build a splash pad, the town could scrap the whole project if bids aren’t reasonable.

The Payson Town Council split its vote 4-1 at its Aug. 12 meeting to accept a Land Water Conservation Fund matching grant for $207,000 because no ultimate design or budget exists for the splash pad.

“I’m sitting here, and I’m being asked to accept this grant, not knowing what this splash pad will look like,” said Councilor Jolynn Schinstock.

The Payson council has explored the idea of building a splash pad for the past two years. Community members pushed for the idea in January 2019. At the time, those interested didn’t see the project costing more than $178,000 after talking to the town manager of Snowflake.

“(Splash pads are) relatively inexpensive, starting around $50,000 for a small area. Lots of towns partner with local organizations and businesses for donations or sponsorships, even some private donations and fundraising can be done,” said Lori Mills at the Jan. 24, 2019 Payson council meeting.

Since that time, the town has identified a spot in Green Valley Park for the splash pad, removed a building and received estimates that have risen as high as $687,000 to address engineering needs, accommodate those with disabilities, improve parking and add a fence to keep children safe and wildlife out.

Courtney Spawn, director of the Parks, Recreation and Tourism department, has explored designs and locations, funding and features for the past two years.

In March, she reported the town had a good chance of qualifying for the Land Water Conservation Fund grant, but “if the town pursues bids or any costs before the grant’s approval, the town runs the risk of not being reimbursed.”

The council backed off and waited for news of the grant.

Now, they’re not sure the project will remain within the $415,000 budgeted in the 2021-22 budget.

Staff came up with a budget of $415,000 by doubling the Land Water Conservation Fund grant. This grant is a matching grant. That means the town must pay half the costs.

The town may apply for more funds, especially since the grant requires both an archaeological survey and a project manager — expenses the town did not foresee.

Vice Mayor Chris Higgins wondered if the town could “go out for bids before we accept the grant” so council “could have a better idea what the splash pad will look like before accepting the grant.”

Mayor Tom Morrissey expressed concern at further delays.

“We can’t play games at this point. We need to have some type of aquatic splash pad (or) pool,” he said. “I believe we should move forward and accept that grant.”

Spawn agreed with the mayor.

“It’s been approved. We need to let the granting authority know,” she said.

Town Manager Troy Smith agreed now is the time to go out for a bid. He suggested “the scope of services can be adjusted after a bid.”

Schinstock still expressed frustration at the vagueness of the project.

“I have no idea what this looks like and what I am signing up for,” she said.

To which Councilor Scott Nossek said, “When I told my family we’re fighting about a splash pad … that sounds about right where we are politically in this country.”

He ticked off the positives.

“Do kids love splash pads? Yes. Would it be good for kids? Yes. Is there a good location? Yes,” he said. “I think together with the grant and town budget we can come together to build the best splash pad in Arizona.”

Councilor Barbara Underwood agreed with Nossek but cautioned she’s tired of the constantly shifting scope of the project.

“If we can make it that we spend no more than $415,000 … so we don’t end up with a come back to the council for another $200,000 … I am leaning to allow this project to go through,” she said.

Spawn explained that if the council cannot find a bid they agree with, “You would then have the ability to say we are not proceeding with the project” to the granting authority.

The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the grant. The council only had five members present with Councilor Jim Ferris in the hospital with COVID and Suzy Tubbs-Avakian not able to attend remotely. Schinstock voted against accepting the grant.

Spawn will go out for a bid to see “what project you get for your price point.”

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

Recommended for you

(5) comments

Jeff Robbins


418000 Project (207500k town budgeted item)

207500-10375(5% surcharge) =197125 grant reserve

Grant required Project manager = 100k

97 k balance grant reserve

Archeology monitoring =200k plus

Grant required archeologist


Grant Required site training

Grant required reports


special equipment

ADA compliance

Grant required Design review plan

The Grant stipulations will be more than the total award and slowdown timeline to build

Award -0 could be a 100k + debt or more

IF you increase the cost to accommodate this grant than you must increase the match it’s a 50/50 grant. In this case with the stipulations, it may very well turn a 400k project into a 600k project. In Courtney spawns report it clearly says: CONS – Accepting the grant would increase the cost of the project and delay build time.

I am not against the Splash Pad project it would be nice for the little kids. I am against the fumbled way this thing has been handled since Jan 2019.

Jeff Robbins

Payson Proud, Support the Payson splash pad and Transparent Payson must be a bunch of Democratic leftists or Elitist RINO’S. If you don’t vote there way you get called out or cancelled. That’s what they do in communist countries. Now their socialistic tendencies are out in full display. Back at the taxpayer trough to get there way. Drink up that big free munificent taxpayer subsidy. Thank God we have one true conservative on the town council protecting the taxpayers from elitist bloated spending. Jolynn Schinstock recommended people help themselves by fundraising like they did in Show Low and not be controlled by big government handouts. Why would anyone vote to spend taxpayers’ money on a fumbled project that has no plan, no know cost, and no maintenance plan? The only fiscally aware person on the Town Council deserves our respect for doing the conservative right thing.

There never was a plan to look at. Vortex did a conceptual drawing 3 years ago then the splash pad committee found out the features cost too much and had to reduce size and features. A follow up report was never completed. This project was fumbled from the start by trying to circumvent the Town of Payson procurement policy.

Proverbs 6:16 - 19

Paul Frommelt

WOW! It's obvious the author REALLY doesn't like the splashpad, to word the article the way she did. And only in Payson, could a $200k project like this balloon it's cost to around $700k, by loading it with pork! Jolynn Schinstock admitted, she never read the plans for the splash pad. So of course, she's confused. Even the tiny community of Snowflake built a splashpad for $180k. And Jolynn still doesn't understand that voting to accept a grant for over $200k doesn't lock the town into any design or plan. She should know this. She has experience as a government clerk, doesn't she? Enough with the excuses. Build the splash pad and move on to other issues for the town! The grant is Good News!

Mike White

Who is mandating the archeological survey? Was it already done when the park went in and when the building was put in? Also, can Town staff (Planning, Parks, etc.) handle the project management with the assistance of the contractors involved? Might volunteers be able to handle some of the manager duties, too? I have to wonder if the other towns who built their pads for under $100,000 (after considering inflation) had to spend a lot of money to hire a separate project. manager. I also wonder whether local contractors could bid the fence and the parking lot at a low-margin level to get a tax break and help the community.

Dave Golembewski

It was noted the grant can be expanded to include the archeological costs and project manager costs they wanted yet Schinstock voted against it . Was that vote because it was not her project . Please Council vote for the kiddies on this one and try to repair Taylor Pool for the bigger kids and leave the children out of the political fights. Thank you

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Avoid obscene, hateful, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful.
Be Nice. No name-calling, racism, sexism or any sort of -ism degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. Real names only!