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Proposed rec complex flares tempers in Payson

2 wanted center’s funding on ballot

SHARE Proposed rec complex flares tempers in Payson

PAYSON — Two Payson City Council members last week unsuccessfully tried to put the funding of a controversial proposed recreation center on the November ballot.

Councilwomen Jan Tanner and Colleen Jacobson favored the ballot measure, but Councilman Burtis Bills challenged Jacobson's motion as a "point of order," asserting the issue wasn't on Wednesday's City Council agenda. Mayor Bernell Evans agreed and no vote was taken.

The recreation center is destined to replace Payson's historic horse racing track.

Evans vetoed the vote after a round of verbal sparring that began when Bills made a motion to hold four town meetings to explain the recreation center proposal, which will include a quad complex of four baseball diamonds, a new swimming pool complex, the extension of 800 East through the rack and eventually a new equestrian center with race track and bleachers.

Bills' motion was defeated when Jacobson, Tanner and Councilman Max Roberts dissented. Jacobson then initiated her motion to place a general obligation bond on the ballot to see if voters would support the recreation center, leading to the procedure challenge by Bills.

Tanner disputed the mayor's ruling that the motion was out of order, saying it grew out of Bills' motion.

While Tanner was defending Jacobson's motion, she was heckled by someone in the audience. Tanner turned to the heckler to defend her argument and Bernell said both she and the heckler were out of order. Roberts then turned on the mayor.

"You should be controlling the meeting," he chastised.

After a few moments of arguing between council members, Jacobson, a child care provider, said: "We're acting in a way I don't allow children in my day care center to act."

Evans called for a break in the meeting so cooler heads could prevail.

Officials earlier said they hadn't yet determined how much the recreation center would cost but pegged it somewhere between $4 million and $10 million. The council has asked that designs for the center be prepared by April 15.

During the meeting's earlier public forum, four residents objected to the city's plan to tear out the race track in favor of the new recreation center. R. Dale Whitelock said the plan is flawed. He said late afternoon winds off the race track hill would send chills over swimmers if an outdoor pool were built. The council is also considering a covered pool.

Gwen Harmer spoke against extending 800 East through the race track and Ivan Haskell challenged ripping out the equestrian track to accommodate the plan.

"It's (the track) Payson's identity," he said. "I used to race on the race track with other cowboys with fast horses."

Dennis Dixon also asked the council to preserve the race track.

In other business, the council amended the city fee for using race track stalls to $1 a month to allow the Payson Racing Association to raise money by charging higher fees and using that money for another race track site.

"I don't know if we can sublease city property," Tanner said.

City Administrator Andy Hall said the fee could be constructed to meet legal requirements.

E-mail: rodger@desnews.com