Hildale City Council hears criticism of previous councils

Hildale City Council, discusses civility, Safe Routes, wineries and liability insurance, among other topics, August 4, 2021 | Photo by Darren Fraser, St. George News

HILDALE — At Wednesday’s Hildale City Council meeting, resident Willie Jessop used the public comments portion of the meeting to criticize the behavior of former councils and to remind current councilmembers they have a duty to protect and serve the interests of the city.

While commending current councilmembers for their integrity and commitment to the city, Jessop alluded to the acrimonious relationship that has existed between the council and residents.

“This city needs integrity like it’s never needed it before. You people ran on it,” Jessop said.

Jessop leveled a litany of complaints against former councils, including nepotism, corruption and abuse of office and power. Jessop also expressed displeasure with the influence special interest groups — specifically UEP Trust and the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints — wielded under prior councils.

“Ordinary people come here (council meetings) to speak and get cut off, but special interest groups speak for 30 minutes,” he said.

Jessop concluded his address to the council with a plea for fairness.

“I want one thing from this council: treat me the way you want to be treated,” he said.

Hildale resident Jim Barlow followed Jessop at the podium. Barlow echoed many of Jessop’s concerns. He also mentioned his displeasure with the teeming alcohol and drug rehabilitation industry that has popped up in Hildale.

“We have a disgusting situation with all these rehabs,” Barlow said. “We’ve got more rehabs than most towns 10 times our population.”

General plan

Michael Hansen of Rural Community Consultants joined the meeting via video. Rural Community wrote the draft for the general plan. Hansen mentioned the plan process has been ongoing for a year.

“We think the plan is done,” Hansen said, adding that the city “has a lot to do.”

Before meeting with the council, Hansen met with the city’s planning commission. He showed the commission drone footage of the plan’s proposal to have commercial areas next to the highway. These would give way to industrial which would then go into residential areas.

“The commission actually didn’t love this,” Hansen said.

The commission preferred expanding industrial to the sewer lagoons, preserving the south and west sides of the highway for industrial use, but giving up other areas for residential use.

“The biggest takeaway is don’t encourage industrial on the east side,” Hansen said.

Councilmember Stacy Seay said she prefers leaving as is the industrial buffer on both sides of the highway.

I’m not a fan of having residences come clear up to the highway,” Seay said.

Byzantine development code

Hansen said after drafting the plan, Rural Community identified nine high priorities. One priority is the development of an economic, development strategic plan. Hansen said it is important to pursue these priorities because funding and grants may be available to finance them. The top priority is the development code.

“Your development code is huge,” Hansen said. “It’s almost 500 pages. It’s time to turn the planning commission’s attention into streamlining, simplifying it, updating (it) and making it Utah-focused, not Arizona-focused.”

Hansen said Rural Community would update the draft with recommendations from the planning commission and the council and provide a revised draft of the plan to the commission and council before their next respective meetings.

Canyon Street project

City Attorney/Zoning Administrator Christian Kesselring informed the council that the city has secured $350,000 in funding for its Canyon Street project. But time is proving to be a prohibitive factor in starting work on the project.

During a discussion regarding the possible modification of the scope of the project, Kesselring acknowledged the city has nearly run out of time to rebid the project.

“We ran into issues with a qualifying bidder,” Kesselring said. He added the new bid application would include an alternate bid item for a smart crosswalk project that was discussed at a prior council meeting.

The council approved putting the Canyon Street project out for rebid, including plans for a crosswalk and a four-way stop.

Winery DABC

Kesselring brought before the council a request for consent to sell wine at the winery. Kesselring said the winery, which currently operates a wine tasting room on site, would need a manufacturing license and a pack agency license to bottle and sell wine for offsite consumption. If the council approved the request, the mayor would send the request to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage control.

Councilmember Maha Layton noted the winery is across the street from the Short Creek Dream Center.

I think it’s something worth noting and that’s that were approving a winery production facility right next to a rehab facility,” Layton said.

Layton added she would vote in favor of the consent because the Dream Center is secure and enclosed by high walls.

Referring to the center, Layton said, “I think they do a really good job at containing their facility for whatever they’re doing.”

The winery is directly opposite Short Creek Dream Center at Field and Maple Streets, August 7, 2021 | Photo by Darren Fraser, St. George News

The council voted in favor of the consent.

Liability insurance and ULCT

City Manager Eric Duthie informed the council the city’s liability insurance is up for renewal. Duthie asked the council if it would be willing to approve the renewal, provided the cost came within 10% of the cost of last year’s premium. Dutson made the motion to renew, provided the cost is within 10%, but expressed misgivings.

“These insurance companies are just skyrocketing (costs),” Dutson said. “These insurance companies just take it or leave it. If you get another deal, they’ll just raise it (the price).”

The last item on the council’s agenda a discussion regarding sending councilmembers to the September Utah League of Cities and Towns conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The city’s cost for each attendee would be $495, excluding the price of lodging.

Duthie, a veteran of these conferences, said they are worth the money.

Seay, who attended a ULCT conference in St. George, agreed.

“We got to meet Governor Cox and sit at the table next to him,” Seay said. “We got to focus on Hildale. I know we are a sister city but it’s nice to prioritize Hildale now and then.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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