Changes in store for Dammeron Valley Fire District as County Commission moves to appoint members

The Dammeron Valley Fire Station after heavy rains doused the region, Washington County, Utah, July 14, 2018 | File photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Dammeron Valley Special Service District Board of Directors was dissolved earlier this month during a special Washington County Commission meeting.

In this file photo shown for illustration purposes, residents from Dammeron Valley attend a County Planning Commission in St. George, Utah, Aug. 21, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During the meeting held March 6 at the Washington County Administration Building in St. George, the commission voted to dissolve the board. A new board will be appointed by the commissioners rather than by election, as was previously the case.

The resolution was brought before the commission following a “robust discussion with folks up and down (state Route 18) about emergency services,” Commission Chairman Victor Iverson said during the meeting.

Finding people who are willing to serve the community and undergo an election process can be difficult, Iverson said. As such, he said establishing a board by appointment is the appropriate action to take in this situation.

“There will be a brief time that we assume the board,” Iverson said of himself and his fellow commissioners. In the meantime, an application and interview process will take place, after which a new board will be appointed.

Additionally, vacancies can be filled more quickly using the appointment process, Iverson said, explaining that service boards created with appointed members have and continue to work well in a number of other communities, including Hurricane.

Commissioner Dean Cox told St. George News the decision to restructure the board was in the works, but when Board Chair Amanda Ballif submitted a letter of resignation March 2, they had to move quickly because the board no longer comprised a quorum.

Community members address the Dammeron Valley Fire Special Service District Board during a public meeting, Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 12, 2020 | File photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

Cox said the County Commission began looking into various alternatives in structuring the board, in part, after issues arose with the community’s relationship with the fire district’s board of directors.

A number of issues came to light following the forced resignation of Dammeron Valley Fire Chief Kevin Dye. Through a series of emergency board meetings, many of which were standing room only, residents voiced their concerns over decisions made by the board that resulted in the resignation of many of the department’s firefighters.

Referring to the fire district’s now-dissolved board, Cox said “these people have a tremendous amount of ownership and commitment to their fire district.”

He added that serving on the board was an unpaid position, and he commended the efforts of those who have served.

In a subsequent commission meeting held last week, Dammeron Valley Special Service District’s operational policies and procedures were discussed, during which Cox said he has been in communication with the former board chair regarding keys and other procedural items that “we ought to take care of.”

One of the existing board members, Gabriel Bilek, said during the commission meeting that there are several candidates who are appropriate for the board and have completed the board training.

Iverson then advised Bilek that the board would be reset and candidates would be interviewed and selected by the Washington County Commission. The new board will decide issues related to the public safety of the community.

Cox added that all applications would remain valid, regardless of whether their information was submitted prior to the board reset.

Bilek said he would still hold a community meeting when the board would normally schedule their meetings, but Cox advised that since the board would be dissolved, there would be no further meetings, community or otherwise, without the approval of the commission.

Cox is acting board chair until the new board is set up and operational. Any legal matters will be handled by interim Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke.

With the board of commissioners acting as the special services board until a new one is established, the contracted accounting firm that has handled the bills and receivables for the fire district will be dissolved and replaced by the Washington County Clerk Kim Hafen.

The commission has posted an announcement stating there are five vacancies on the board, and anyone interested in serving on the board should contact the Washington County Commission Office, 197 E. Tabernacle Street, St. George, no later than April 6.

The County Commission will consider the nominees for appointment during the meeting scheduled April 21.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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