Mayor Tom Morrissey responds to criticism about the splash pad project Thursday night.

The Payson Town Council hopes to receive a 50/50 match federal grant to build a $415,000 splash pad in Green Valley Park.

On Thursday night, the council approved applying for financial assistance under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which the Arizona State Parks and Trails administers.

The council hopes to have a splash pad built by the spring or summer of next year.

But that is contingent on if the town receives the federal funding and the cost of materials.

The council has set aside $337,000 in contingency funds for the project, enough to fund the project outright likely. But the town is seeking grants to help offset the cost of the project.

The pad would sit at the corner of South Green Valley Parkway and West Lake Drive. The water department recently removed an old building from the site, which was going to be removed regardless of whether they build a splash pad, said Courtney Spawn-Kort, director of Payson’s parks, recreation and tourism. There is an old septic system under the site that will need to be addressed.

The town is just getting started with the design and engineering of the site.

There are a lot of unknowns at this point. Those include, is the site close enough to the bathrooms, what water treatment system will be used and what features will be included.

The town has been working with Vortex, a supplier of splash pad equipment, for some time. Vortex has priced out equipment to sell to the town based on initial requests from town staff.

However, the equipment bid is only good through Oct. 1 of this year. If the town delays, it could have to pay Vortex an additional 3%-5% for the same equipment.

Spawn-Kort said they could put down a 30% deposit on the equipment now and pay a storage fee of $600 a week to lock in the price.

The town would need to store the equipment for at least 10 weeks, a cost of $6,000.

But it may need to store the equipment longer if the design and engineering is delayed.

Several council members expressed frustration at paying such a massive storage fee for a project that is still in the planning stages.

Councilor Steve Smith said it made little sense for the council to lock itself in with a package of equipment when they don’t even know what the splash pad will look like as architects and engineers have just started work on the project.

Smith said buying something because it is cool, putting it in storage and then figuring out if it fits is not the right way to go about a project.

He encouraged town staff to get the design and engineers done and then put out a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Councilor Jim Ferris agreed, saying they may even get a lower bid on equipment.

Councilor Suzy Tubbs-Avakian agreed that getting at least three bids on the equipment was critical.

Not everyone is sold on the project.

During the public comment period, Stan Garner submitted comments critical of the council’s decision to put a splash pad in Green Valley Park. He said there are several old-growth trees in the area that would likely be removed that he would like to see saved.

Resident Jeff Robbins said tree roots could cause irrigation issues. He was also critical of the location, saying it is on a busy corner where children could get hurt.

Mayor Tom Morrissey responded by saying Robbins has a problem with any project he is involved with in the town.

Morrissey said the splash pad is going to happen and when it is done there will be a lot of “smiling faces.”

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