About 200 people attended a widely advertised mayor’s open mic session on Sept. 25 at Messinger Payson Funeral Home, criticizing a proposed access by the separate legal entity to a project off of Mud Springs Road.
Fliers posted along Mud Springs Road and Phoenix Street promised, “this will be an opportunity for the folks in your area to come and voice their opinion on what’s going on with the proposed community center and the bypass through your neighborhood. (Phoenix St. and Mud Springs Rd.)”
However, 90 minutes into the meeting, attendees discovered the Rim Country Educational Foundation had already canceled plans to extend Mud Springs Road and use the street to access a cluster of new developments.
The RCEF (the property manager of the SLE property) wrote a press release Morrissey received prior to the start of the open mic meeting. In it, the RCEF announced it would no longer seek a partnership with the town to build an aquatic complex and community center. The release suggested the RCEF had never planned to extend Mud Springs Road.
Instead, the new RCEF plan calls for a new road (called University Way) from Highway 260 to the proposed sports academy, health center and playing fields, just off of Mud Springs Road.
Almost all the speakers at the meeting opposed any development that would increase traffic on Mud Springs Road and the connecting streets. Many feared it would become a de facto highway bypass.
“I live on Phoenix Street and I am a disabled veteran. (The bypass/community center) doesn’t talk about me and the traffic coming from 260 to Granite Dells (Road), which I am not in favor of,” said one man.
Morrissey made clear his position.
“As far as that road, that bypass thing that people have been fearing and talking about — I don’t support something like that,” said Morrissey.
Other residents lamented that punching a road through from Mud Springs to Highway 260 would force residents to “lose a whole lot of quality of life,” because “our roads couldn’t handle the capacity.”
“We know the traffic during Labor Day — you think we can control the traffic going over 25 miles per hour? This is residential. At that point, none of us want to live here,” said one Mud Springs Road resident.
In response, Morrissey told the story of a lady who “was a victim of a hit and run. A car came along and hit her and left the scene,” he said.
“We have a problem with speed and we don’t need to encourage it,” he said.
At one point another audience member asked if any representatives of the RCEF were present.
“No, they aren’t here. Aren’t you glad?” said Morrissey. “We are here to talk to each other. It is my wish to bring you up to date on this.”
Then an audience member stood up to ask about the press release, which sat on the podium during the whole meeting.
“You received a press release statement from the RCEF at the beginning of the meeting. It said they have no intention of doing a bypass. I don’t understand why we are having this discussion.”
Morrissey responded, “We’re having this discussion.”
The audience member replied, “There’s no plans for a bypass. They are not going to do it.”
Then Morrissey explained, “until I saw that (press release), I saw nothing in writing.”
He later clarified his point.
“It was handed to me right before the meeting began and I could only scan read it,” he said. “As noted in the last paragraph the decision to not participate in the aquatic center, as far as I’m concerned at least, is based upon my not being in favor of committing the town to a ‘subsidy’ of what I understand to be between $500,000 and $600,000 a year, every year.”
Morrissey never referred to the statement that the RCEF never planned on extending Mud Springs, the point most of the people at the meeting talked about.
Still, Mud Springs resident Randy Maynard appreciated that the mayor took the time to invite neighbors to come out and air concerns and complaints.
“I and my neighbors didn’t speak (to each other during the meeting), but felt that our concerns were sufficiently and repeatedly expressed by others,” he said. “I was pleased with the atmosphere of the meeting, concerned but respectful, vigorous but mostly not angry.”
At the end of the meeting, acting Payson town manager Shelia DeSchaaf read the full press release, which said the RCEF stated it had never intended to extend Mud Springs. The release said the RCEF had dropped plans to partner with the town, but would still build the sports academy, ballfields, a health and wellness center and other facilities accessed by a new road that would connect to the highway at University Way and not take traffic through residential neighborhoods.
“After reviewing the consultant’s latest report, we want to clear up some externally created confusion regarding the location, process and elements of this exciting project for our town,” wrote the Rim Country Educational Foundation. “Due diligence required our developer to look at several impact studies, including extending Mud Springs up to 260, that was never a viable option nor one we would have approved. Nonetheless, the consultants were required to consider and include it for their comprehensive report ... We wish the town council the best in its efforts to internally fund and build a community aquatic center.”