Apple Valley Town Council meeting erupts into fireworks over Independence Day celebration

Residents voice their concerns during a Town Council meeting in Apple Valley, Utah, on July 17, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Residents of Apple Valley finally had “their piece to say” during a town council meeting Wednesday evening.

Before Mayor Marty Lisonbee opened the meeting to public comment, Fire Chief David Zolg Jr. gave his report and addressed the members of the council, stating the town’s leadership owed the fire department an apology regarding the recent issues surrounding fireworks purchased for the town’s Independence Day celebration:

“This is for the fire department, this is for all of the firefighters, this is for everybody who’s been here before. The fire department is requesting an apology from this town council to the past and present volunteers for the accusations about the illegal acts that the council accused the fire department of. This fire department has volunteered thousands of hours and saved multiple lives and does not deserve this slander.”

Members of the council did not address Zolg’s statement as they continued to receive reports from other departments.

Before Lisonbee opened the meeting to public comment, he gave members of the council the opportunity to make their own statements. Councilman Denny Bass said Zolg’s statements to St. George News were false.

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

Bass said Zolg called him a couple of days before the town council planned to travel to Moapa, Nevada to purchase the fireworks and asked him to tag along. Bass is a veteran of the armed forces and receives “a good discount” on fireworks, which he said Zolg told him they wanted to “use and abuse.”

Residents attend a Town Council meeting in Apple Valley, Utah, on July 17, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Bass said Zolg did not end up going with them to purchase the fireworks due to prior responsibilities, though the councilman alleged that Zolg ultimately decided not to go in order to sabotage the council.

“I find it very alarming and disgusting that he would use somebody to try to get back at the town council and the mayor for his own benefit. He’s done that. So what else has he done?”

Zolg defended himself during his time, and accused Bass of lying during his retelling of the events.

The fire chief said he called Councilman Mike McLaughlin to ask if he was supposed to be involved in purchasing the fireworks. Zolg says McLaughlin then asked him if he wanted to go, but the fire chief said he had prior obligations.

According to Zolg, Lisonbee said the town had $2,000 worth of fireworks, and he was worried about the weeds. The fire chief told the council he could wet the grass, but he was still concerned. Zolg ultimately called the fire marshal.

The fire marshal advised him to call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and name each of the people involved in the illegal purchasing of fireworks, but Zolg said he did not.

Lisonbee opened the floor to the residents of Apple Valley who, prior to the meeting, signed up for three-minute slots in order to make public comments. Rich Kopp, husband of Councilwoman Debbie Kopp, approached the council and began his three minutes by thanking the members of the council for the work they do, adding it is a “thankless job.”

The Smithsonian Fire Department located in Apple Valley, Utah, on July 17, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

According to Rich Kopp, the statements made by “the other side,” including Planning Commissioner Forrest Kuehne and Zolg, are “baseless,” “unwarranted” and “disgusting.” He accused Zolg of sabotaging the previous fire chief and said Zolg is the reason the previous fire chief “got bounced.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Kopp yelled. “You know that you are guilty as charged.”

The town council held a meeting several days after it was discovered the council had allegedly purchased fireworks illegally in Moapa for their Independence Day celebration. After it was revealed the State Fire Marshal would be confiscating Apple Valley’s fireworks, town council members accused Zolg of intentional sabotage for political gain.

The council tabled 13 of 18 agenda items during that meeting, and Lisonbee asserted it 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.”

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

Residents disagreed at the time. Several argued that they attended the meeting 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?”

Kuehne said at the prior meeting 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.

The Town Council’s next scheduled meeting is Aug. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Town Office Building on 1777 N. Meadowlark Drive in Apple Valley.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @AvereeRyann 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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