Apple Valley residents desire transparency, leave town council meeting with more questions

Apple Valley, Utah, Oct. 2, 2015 | Photo by Cami Cox Jim, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Apple Valley residents say local officials are ignoring their concerns after the town council tabled over half the items on their meeting agenda on Wednesday.

The meeting took place several days after it was discovered the Town Council had illegally purchased fireworks in Moapa, Nevada, for their Independence Day celebration.

Apple Valley Mayor Marty Lisonbee and Councilwoman Debbie Kopp said tabling 13 of 18 agenda items is fairly common. Lisonbee asserted the meeting was cut short after he “read the temperature in the room” and was “tired of the fighting.”

“I think enough has been said. Let’s just let this stuff die,” he said. “Everybody’s had their piece to say. There’s nothing left to say that hasn’t already been said.”

Residents of Apple Valley in attendance Wednesday disagree. When members of the public were asked if they had a chance to say “their piece,” they erupted in opposition. Several argued that they came to voice their concerns and opinions on the Town Council’s conduct but were turned away.

Another resident said she was hoping the Town Council would have been more transparent by allowing residents to learn more about the fireworks situation.

“We never got to speak,” one resident said. “How are we supposed to know what’s going on if we can’t ask questions?”

Another resident, Jerry Jorgensen, said the town has a wedge driven in “so deep that you will never recover your town.”

Jorgensen said residents of Apple Valley were the ones responsible for the wedge in the community and pressed those in attendance to point to the person at fault in the situation.

Planning Commissioner Forrest Kuehne said the Town Council’s decision to table a sizable portion of the agenda was “not normal” but has happened before.

Kuehne said he doesn’t have all of the answers, but the council’s meetings and public hearings are meant to bridge the gap between the public and the government. That didn’t stop Kuehne from expressing his general distrust of the mayor.

“If his lips are moving, he is lying,” he said, adding that the story regarding the fireworks incident “does not hold up.”

After it was revealed the State Fire Marshal would be confiscating Apple Valley’s fireworks, Town Council members accused Fire Chief David Zolg Jr. of intentional sabotage.

Read more: Apple Valley officials say Fire Department sabotaged Town Council for ‘political gain’

The council contends the fireworks for their Independence Day celebration were purchased using donated funds “under the supervision of the Fire Department.”

Councilman Mike McLaughlin said the Fire Marshal wasn’t actually able to confiscate any fireworks because the Town Council returned them once they realized it was illegal to cross state lines to purchase the fireworks. He said the Town Council made an effort to “abide by the rules and regulations that we’re supposed to.”

Lisonbee said purchasing fireworks across state lines for past shows “has probably always been illegal” but that the Town Council didn’t have a problem with it because the fire chief was overseeing the purchasing of the fireworks and the organization of the event.

However, Zolg said past shows were organized using fireworks donated from Apple Valley residents. He said no fireworks were ever personally purchased by the Fire Department, and fireworks used in shows organized by the department never crossed state lines.

“I’m doing what I can out here, but it’s turned into an abuse of power,” Zolg said of the situation. “It worries me where it’s going to go from here.” 

Lisonbee says he looks forward to putting the situation to rest.

The Town Council’s next scheduled meeting is July 17 at 6 p.m. at the Town Office Building on 1777 N. Meadowlark Drive in Apple Valley.

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