Ivins City Council praises proposed budget but receives no public comment

Composite image | Background photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Ivins City Council gave a chance for the public to have a say in the tentative city budget and paying for a new City Hall at its council meeting held on the Zoom app Thursday night.

Photo illustration of using public meeting applications like Zoom. | Photo by Gabriel Benois/Unsplash, St. George News

But the public didn’t show up. 

This was despite posting an announcement on the city website and newsletter that there would be a public hearing Thursday. And while an original public notice said residents should email comments, city officials created and posted an amended city council agenda that included instructions on how to log into a Zoom link if people wanted to give live public comment. On Zoom, members of the public were capable of pressing the “raise hand” and “Q&A” functions in order to speak to the council. 

Repeatedly, Mayor Chris Hart asked Thursday, “Are there any public comments?” but the reply from City Manager Dale Collum or Director of Finance Lane Meacham was, “No hands are raised. No comments at this time.” 

That didn’t stop the council from discussing the proposed 2021 budget, which sees overall revenue of around $21 million – $6.6 million more than the 2020 budget – and spending of about $25.1 million, which is $7 million more than 2020. 

That discussion of the proposed budget consisted of unanimous praise from city officials, especially for what Hart said was a conservative budget that takes into account uncertainty surrounding the current economy and a possible loss in city revenue.

“You’ve created a budget that is responsible to our citizens,” Councilman Dennis Mehr said to Meacham. 

The next step will be for the council to decide if they are going to approve a final budget at a future meeting. 

Public input was also opened on the possibility of the city applying for a $3.5 million loan toward paying for the construction of a new Ivins City Hall, to be built behind the current city hall on North Main Street. 

This image taken of a slide show presentation shows the potential layout for the interior of the new Ivins City Hall, Ivins, Utah, Feb. 6 | Photo of slide by Hollie Reina, St. George News

And once again, no one from the public came forward to comment. However, Mehr expressed some concern about taking such a loan.

“I don’t think we should saddle our taxpayers with $2 million of debt,” he said. 

However, Meacham said the city might have enough from impact fees to pay off an existing loan that was used toward the building of UNITY Park, which would allow the city to use funds that were used toward paying off that debt toward the building of the new City Hall. 

It was also noted by Collum that a loan would likely be mostly needed if the city was unable to sell 15.5 acres of property it has been trying to sell at 750 East and Center Street.

Later in the meeting, the city moved closer to that sale after the council unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote an all-cash offer to purchase the property by real estate developer Gardner Plumb for $2.55 million dollars.  

Coronavirus discussion

As Southern Utah leaders push toward lowering coronavirus restrictions to the “yellow” level, the Ivins City Council looked at some semblance of a return to normal, starting with the reopening of the city’s splash pad at UNITY Park immediately.

This April 2020 file photo shows a sign mentioning the closure of a pavilion at Ivins City Park in Ivins City, Utah, April 9, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“The difference between a splash pad and a playground is you don’t have kids touching anything,” Hart said. “The fact is, we’ve done a great job in this county flattening the curve. We flattened it so much, nobody is going to the hospital.”

Hart also announced that the Tuacahn Center for the Arts has worked with the Utah governor’s office on a plan to reopen on July 11. It will be reduced to 50% capacity, and patrons may have to wear masks.  

Councilwoman Miriah Elliott expressed concerns, however, that the general public still needs to realize measures like social distancing are still in place.

“We can’t be on lockdown forever, but my impression is folks might underestimate the chance for transmission,” Elliott said.

The council also looked at other measures toward mitigating abuse from crowds utilizing Fire Lake Park and other public lands from those eager to take in the outdoors as the state reopens up. 

The council gave its blessing for the immediate construction of an entry gate to Fire Lake Park to enforce park closure hours at night.

In addition, new no-parking zones are being enforced along Old Highway 91 starting this weekend.

“There will be no-parking signs all the way to Kayenta,” Public Safety Director Bob Flowers said. “We’re going to be strict in enforcing this.”

The parking enforcement move drew praise from Councilwoman Sue Gordhammer.

“This is a step in the right direction,” she said.

In other council business:

  • The council approved unanimously $170,641.05 to provide improvements and gap fill repaving to the east side of 200 East between 300 South and 400 South. 
  • $12,124 was unanimously approved for pavement striping on areas not undergoing maintenance this year.

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

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