Washington City Council candidates skeptical of interchange

L-R: Washington City Council candidates Kurt Ivie (incumbent), Doug Ward and Douglas Dennett (not pictured) discuss issues facing Washington City during a candidate forum held at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, July 12, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Views toward a potential highway interchange and how to promote a better business environment were addressed by Washington City Council candidates during a political forum Wednesday.

Three of the five city council candidates – incumbent Kurt Ivie and challengers Doug Ward and Douglas Dennett – appeared at a forum hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce held at Dixie State University Wednesday. The remaining candidates, incumbent Garth Nisson and Daniel Cluff, were unable to attend.

Washington City Council candidate Douglas Dennett discusses issues facing Washington City during a candidate forum held at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, July 12, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

A topic of prime concern to downtown residents in Washington City is the possibility of a highway interchange from Interstate 15 reaching into the residential heart of the city.

An interchange in that area has been pointed to by the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization as a possible solution for congestion issues at the Green Springs/Exit 10 interchange.

Read more: City residents voice opposition to highway interchange

The Dixie MPO itself is made up of transportation planners and civic officials from the county and municipalities who plan for the county’s transportation needs.

However, residents worry an off-ramp from the interchange into the residential area will destroy the character of downtown Washington City, negatively impact property values and cause safety issues.

Ward, a manager with Andrus Transportation, who has previous expressed his opposition to the interchange idea, reiterated his position during the forum.

I think it will hurt our community and our entire area,” he said, adding that downtown Washington City is a walkable community and should stay that way.

People should also feel like their City Council is protecting their general interests, Ward said.

Incumbent Kurt Ivie, a school teacher and business owner, said he also opposes the interchange idea, but possibly for different reasons.

I just don’t see that (an interchange) would mitigate the traffic,” Ivie said.

Extending Main Street north to the Northern Corridor – if that ever happens – would be a more palatable solution, he said.

Ivie supports the idea of a mandatory commercial trucking route that would route trucks away from Exit 10.

Douglas Dennett also opposes the interchange, and wondered why one wasn’t considered and built when the nearby underpass was constructed in St. George.

While not present at the forum, both Nisson and Cluff have also previously mentioned their opposition to the proposed interchange.

Other questions asked of candidates at the forum were largely interrelated as they addressed how Washington City could promote better relations with business owners and the oversight the candidates felt the City Council had over city employees.

L-R: Washington City Council candidates Kurt Ivie (incumbent), Doug Ward and Douglas Dennett discuss issues facing Washington City during a candidate forum held at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, July 12, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s tough to work in Washington City,” Dennett said “It’s not a friendly place.”

Dennett, who owns Dennett Construction, said he and follow contractors have not had the best experiences in dealing with members of the city staff. And unlike City Council members who can be voted out if the public doesn’t like what they are doing, it isn’t as easy to get rid of a city employee, he said.

“I think it starts with the staff,” he said. “They really run the city.”

The city needs people in positions who know what they are doing and are easier to work with, Dennett said.

“We do have some issues in Washington,” Ward said, “but we don’t need to pick on city employees.”

Ward said he would promote a culture of change within the city that would have to start at the top with the City Council. Part of this would involve creating a better understanding of the residents and businesses in the area, which would in turn create better outreach between the city government and the community.

Washington City Council incumbent Kurt Ivie discusses issues facing Washington City during a candidate forum held at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, July 12, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Due to the city’s continuing growth, however, city employees are also asked to do more and more with less and less, Ivie said.

“While the city has increased by thousands, (city staff) has increased by ones and twos,” he said, adding it has also been a challenge to keep quality employees due to better job offers elsewhere. Other cities have increased their staffs’ wages as a way to try and prevent this, he said.

Ivie also said the right people need to be doing the right jobs. Someone who may like the outdoors but is working inside should probably be shifted to something outdoor-related while someone who has great customer service skills may need to be put in a position where those skills can be put to the best use.

Those skills need to be recognized and shifted to the right place, Ivie said.

Jon Palmer, who was originally listed as a council candidate, has withdrawn from the council race, according to the Washington City website’s elections page.

The primary election is set for Aug. 15, with early voting starting Aug. 1.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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5 Comments

  • R. July 12, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Exit 10 is a cluster as a direct result of poor planning by the city planner. They had to have known this would be a huge problem with all the businesses they allowed in such a small area. The traffic should decrease once the mall closes, which it surely will, if they don’t get some decent stores to shop at (VS and Dillards excluded) & what’s with having on one option for dining?? Not everyone wants pizza?

  • DRT July 12, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    “Not everyone wants pizza?”
    Most particularly the cold pizza served in the mall! Particularly when you see little kids with dirty hands fingering the pizza.
    The last time I was there, and it is the last time I will ever go there, I saw one little jerk take a slice of pizza and take a bite out of it. Guess he didn’t like it, because he put it back for someone else to take.
    Actually, I should not have called him a jerk. He likely was never taught better by his jerk parents. The same jerk parents that ignore their kids, and what they act like.

  • SteveSGU July 12, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    The newly built underpass doesn’t seem to be a solution for Exit 10 traffic congestion. (People should decide which side of the freeway their destination is on and stay on that side.) The huge bow in the road with the traffic signal only seems to be slowing down the drive on Red Hills Drive, and I think the traffic signal is not very visible, which could cause crashes. I think they should close that silly tunnel, but if they don’t, it needs to be converted into a non-stop traffic circle.

  • utahdiablo July 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Maybe build another Costco in Cedar or by Sun River, after all they going to build another 3,500 homes off the SR7 darn soon folks, but Green springs is a lost cause for many many years from now no matter what is done to help as the endless greed of building more homes anywhere empty dirt is found here in the driest part of the state continues….. but once the water runs out along with another housing & stock market crash? Have your popcorn at the ready folks, going to be a hoot to watch

  • Lastdays July 13, 2017 at 8:08 am

    If anyone is curious just how many Washington people use Exit 10 to come and go onto Telegraph, just sit at Nisson Park and watch. Probably 90% of those vehicles are using Exit 10 or the intersection at Tele & Green Springs. So, an Interchange at Main St & I-15, or 300 E. would obviously help reduce traffic at Exit 10.
    To say it wouldn’t is just political posturing to get votes.

    Dennett Constr remarks, and whining, about working in Washington was just hilarious. When a contractors skills and understanding of work required is among the lowest in the entire area, they will experience some problems with people enforcing Specs and requirements to meet these standards. They are creating their own problems by unprofessional behaviors.

    The Mall and new Underpass are not really a part of this equation. The Underpass was mostly built for traffic on Mall Dr which connects to 3000 E and all that traffic that travels that route.

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