PAYSON Retail sales-tax revenue is lifeblood for cities like Payson.
And in a letter addressed to Utah's Department of Transportation, Payson Mayor Burtis Bills expresses fears that one aspect of the proposed I-15 Draft Environmental Impact Statement would bleed dry several businesses in his city.
In the letter dated Jan. 2, Bills said he and city staff agree with improvements detailed in the I-15 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, such as widening I-15 and improving Exit 248. But they have "serious concerns" about proposed changes to Exit 250, which leads to several key businesses along Main Street.
"We wanted to make sure our feelings about that design were aired," Bills said.
When contacted, UDOT regional spokesman Geoff Dupaix said transportation authorities have not had an opportunity to review the details of Bills' letter because the public comment session for the draft statement just ended on Friday. However, he said he was surprised the letter was sent because they've met with Payson city officials several times to discuss their issues.
"If there's some concerns," he said, "we'll definitely look forward to meeting them again."
Currently, northbound and southbound traffic on I-15 flows over Main Street on a ramp. But according to details in the draft statement, that exit would be overhauled, Bills said, and Main Street traffic would flow over I-15 on an east-to-west ramp. That prospective layout would hamper traffic to many businesses, he said, which, in turn, would have a ripple effect on the rest of the community.
"We rely heavily on the tax base that is generated from retail sales," Bills wrote in the letter. "Freeway interchanges are ideal locations for retail businesses because of visibility, accessibility to the traveling public and the associated high traffic volumes."
Bills said he thinks the plan, if realized, would eliminate four business a Chevron gas station, Subway, Calvin Blohm Insurance Agency and Payson Diesel.
Four other businesses Payson Market, McDonald's, Rite-Aid and Comfort Inn would have their accessibility reduced or eliminated, he said, and truckers' access to the Flying J Fuel and Truck Stop would be greatly reduced.
Gloria and Ron Hatfield own and operate Payson Diesel a Caterpillar dealer that repairs semi-trucks that pass through Payson. Gloria Hatfield said she's endured many sleepless nights since she heard about the prospective changes coming to Exit 250.
"I'm furious," she said. "I can't sleep."
The Hatfields were practically starving when they started their dealership 25 years ago, Gloria Hatfield said. Over the years, she said, they've built up their business on reputation and honesty. She said truckers from Canada to California stop at their shop for repairs, and those truckers also frequent the nearby businesses that could be edged out by the I-15 Draft Environmental Impact
"That's our bread and butter," she said.
Bills said Payson collected nearly $82,000 from such businesses last year. The proposed change would hurt those businesses and permeate through the rest of the community, he said.
"It affects a lot of people," he said.
Bills said city staffers planned to meet with UDOT officials in early December but they had to cancel because Bills underwent knee surgery. He said they hope to reschedule a meeting to find a solution that fits with UDOT's master plan and protects Payson's businesses.
Dupaix said UDOT has received 300 comments from the public on the I-15 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and he said UDOT plans to review and respond to each of them, including Bills' letter.
Hatfield said she hopes UDOT and Payson find a satisfactory resolution to the issue. She and her husband aren't ready to close their dealership."I would fight my guts out," she said. "It's imperative our business remains there."