HURRICANE – A small group of Hurricane residents listened Thursday night as City Council candidates participated in a question-and-answer session that included topics such as the candidates’ views on vacation rentals, RAP tax spending, mandatory recycling and more.
The Hurricane Valley Rotary Club sponsored the forum and city residents submitted most of the questions answered. Rotary Club President Jeff Hunt moderated. The candidates participating included Ginger Hall, Pam Humphries, Cheryl Reeve and Kevin Thomas. Tony Hoyt and Jason Smith dropped out of the race within the last few weeks and were not part of the discussion. With only four candidates and three seats open, voters will only be eliminating one candidate in next week’s election.
Each candidate provided opening statements expressing their background and philosophy.
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Hall said Hurricane is not the small town it used to be but has friendly people and great neighborhoods. She said she’d like to keep it that way. She said she is conservative and, if elected, would do her best to help the city stay within its means. Hall is against government help, she said; there are too many entitlements in the government today and she would like to see the city and its residents “depend on ourselves more.”
Thomas touted his experience as a state and county Republican delegate and his service as precinct chair while in that capacity.
“I feel like I have something to offer,” Thomas said, explaining he would not encourage a lot of change and wants to preserve the small-town feel Hurricane currently enjoys.
Humphries, a two-term incumbent, cited her experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as her nearly eight years on the council as assets to her campaign. She attends all of the budget meetings she can, she said, so that she has “a handle” on the budget. Humphries enjoys working with the public, she said, and she wants to stay on the council to promote more businesses and increase the city’s tax base.
A business owner along with her husband, Charles, Reeve said she has expertise in money management, has innovative ideas and can get along with others. The three B’s of her campaign are: budget, business and balance, she said.
The questions and the candidates’ answers are as follows:
What do you perceive as the three most important concerns facing Hurricane City?
The first concern Thomas mentioned was citizen apathy – that some residents do not vote and fail to find out what is going on around them. They see a disconnect between local issues and the federal government, he said, and get discouraged feeling there is nothing they can do. The next concern for Thomas is sticking within the budget. He said he’d like to see taxes go down and find more innovative ways to pay for things. The third issue Thomas talked about was individual freedom – he is generally against codes, covenants and regulations for property owners, he said, and residents should be able to do what they want to their property “to a certain degree.”
Vacation rentals were the first concern Humphries talked about. She said there are groups completely against them but others who want them more than anything. The other two concerns she touched on are more trails and the assurance that the budget is in line.
For Reeve, infrastructure, growth and utility costs are major issues. There is a need for growth that is good for both residents and businesses, she said. With current environmental concerns, Reeve said it could be a real struggle to keep utility costs at a rate residents can truly afford.
Hall said growth, water and budgets are all major concerns. In her mind, the Lake Powell Pipeline would be too expensive so the county and its municipalities need to find more water and conserve the water available, Hall said, and hopes such issues would not become an impetus for her children or grandchildren to leave the area. She said the city must stay on budget and “save and wait” if needed.
What is your opinion on vacation rentals?
The first one to answer, Hall said she doesn’t love the idea of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods but that they would be better in developments structured more for visitors, like those in Coral Canyon. In general, she said she is against them.
Thomas said he is in favor of vacation rentals for the most part. He said that currently there are only two within the city that are problems, and that, if necessary, they should be shut down. However, he feels that there should be a reasonable supply of short-term rentals because they would help fuel the economy.
“I personally don’t like them,” Humphries said. She was hesitant about them when the ordinance allowing them passed in January, she said. Explaining the current moratorium on those rentals, Humphries is concerned vacation rentals could change the dynamic of neighborhoods, she said, and wants to wait and see what the Planning Commission recommended.
Reeve said she is in favor of vacation rentals and thinks they will eventually take care of themselves. The current properties she knows are vacation rentals have improved over when they were full-time rentals, she said.
“A lot are well taken care of,” she said. “I don’t want property rights taken away.”
Should impact fees increase, decrease or stay the same?
All agreed that the city’s impact fees, as a whole, are too high. However, Humphries said she thinks the fee for safety is too low. Humphries mentioned that an impact fee study is currently ongoing. Both Reeve and Hall said it is unfair to give impact fee waivers to big businesses while making smaller business pay theirs. Hall said impact fees should be in line with surrounding municipalities. Thomas said Hurricane’s impact fees are the second highest in the state.
If you had to cut something from the city budget, what would it be?
Both Reeve and Thomas said they don’t know the budget well enough to respond. Reeve said that the city must find a cost-and-benefit balance in the budget. Hall said if she was forced to cut something, it would be parks and recreation programs, saying they are fun but not necessities. She said she would want to ensure police and fire are appropriately funded. Humphries said that every year the city has to cut things out of the budget, but they find a way to do it with the least amount of impact.
Was committing $10,000 from RAP tax funds to support Tuacahn a smart use for the money? How does it benefit the city of Hurricane?
All of the candidates admitted that they initially voted against the RAP tax, but said now that the city has it, they want to use it responsibly. Thomas said the decision to commit $10,000 to Tuacahn passed without adequate discussion and that by shopping in St. George, Hurricane residents are, in effect, making a contribution to Tuacahn.
Pointing out that she was the lone dissenter in the vote to help fund Tuacahn, Humphries said she truly doesn’t know how much it will benefit the city. Reeve said the city should have had the RAP tax budget meeting it had two weeks ago before any RAP tax money was committed to any entity. Hall said Washington County is already giving Tuacahn a huge amount of its RAP tax funds and that Hurricane’s RAP tax portion should be spent on things that directly benefit Hurricane residents, such as the community center and trails.
In response to a later question, which asked candidates if they would repeal the decision to commit the funds to Tuacahn if it was possible, Hall, Humphries and Thomas did not hesitate to say yes while Reeve said the city gave Tuacahn too much.
Do you support or oppose mandatory recycling?
Hall and Reeve said they are against mandatory recycling, saying residents should have a choice. Thomas said initially he was against it, but then he found out that one of the reasons the city leaned towards mandatory recycling is that landfill rates would have risen. With that knowledge, he said, he became a proponent because it would cost residents less than the opt-out option and preserve landfill rates and space. Humphries said that even with an opt-out option now, over the course of five years the program would become mandatory anyway.
How would you promote economic growth?
The first one to speak on the subject, Thomas said that government interference can sometimes stagnate business and that it would be best for government to just get out of the way. Humphries said the two entities in the county that hurt growth the most are the sewer and water districts because of their high impact fees. She said the representatives from the city that sit on the boards of the two districts must do what they can to try to reduce or waive those fees when businesses come along. Reeve and Hall echoed Humphries’s response.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.