LAVERKIN – First and foremost on the minds of LaVerkin mayor and City Council candidates as they spoke to potential voters at the city’s Meet the Candidates Night on October 23, was improving the city’s image and attracting new businesses. Many also had a message for residents: Get involved.
Several candidates mentioned the need to spruce up the aesthetics of State Street, state Route 9, through the city, which they agreed would go a long way in helping attract the businesses they so desire. Improving the cosmetics of State Street would show a sense of pride in the community, Mayoral candidate Kerry Gubler said.
“We need to be a place people want to come,” Gubler said.
Unfortunately, he said, and several other candidates agreed, the city does not have the tax base to do all it wants to do right now. When it is done, Gubler said it must be done slowly and not put the city in debt.
Zoning along State Street will spell the future of the town, but unfortunately, hardly any residents show up to public hearings, mayoral candidate Ann Wixom, a planning and zoning committee veteran, said. The general plan needs to be revised and citizens need to be included in that plan, she said.
When asked what LaVerkin’s vision should be for the future, all of the candidates chimed in, most saying it needed to keep its rural feel.
“LaVerkin must avoid becoming another Bloomington,” City Council candidate Darwin Demille said. “We need to keep it beautiful but still rural.”
The city needs to be a community of neighbors; accepting everyone, City Council candidate Kenneth Hooten said.
In addition to State Street, Gubler and City Council candidate Chantelle Browning are also concerned about the city’s sidewalks, especially on the west side of State Street. Being an elementary school teacher, Browning said she knows of grants available to improve sidewalks on routes to schools and has experience writing grants. In addition to sidewalks, Browning said she would want to improve the streets in disrepair.
LaVerkin needs to stay on a path of progression instead of stagnation, said incumbent City Council candidate Ray Justice, who has already served two terms with the council. Justice said his career in hotel management has helped him know better how to capitalize on the tourists passing through town. Comparing tourists to sheep, he said “Let’s fleece those sheep in LaVerkin before they get to Springdale.” He is excited about the new hotel in town so that the city can collect the hotel taxes it will generate, bringing in more money from tourists and reducing the need to raise taxes.
Hooten said his human resources and financial management background would pay dividends if elected to the council.
“We have some hard times ahead, but we can help this city grow in a responsible way,” Hooten said.
Several candidates urged residents to take a more active role in the community. If residents have concerns, Hooten said they should attend city council meetings. Currently not many people attend City Council meetings, but if they did, their concerns would be addressed. DeMille advocates more communication between the city council and the community, saying the city should have more meetings such as the Meet the Candidates Night in order for residents to be more involved and have their voice heard.
“I want to know how mad you are,” DeMille said.
He said there is a need for honesty and not sugar coating from city leaders.
“I can bring something new to the table,” he said.
In response to a question from former mayoral candidate Dick Hirschi, Gubler and Wixom outlined their top three priorities if elected mayor.
Gubler said sprucing up State Street to increase business opportunities was his number one priority with improving sidewalks on the west side second and water access third. Wixom said beefing up law enforcement, which has experienced an increase in calls lately, better communication and cleaning up the city, such as the State
Street corridor, are on the top of her priority list.
Directed a question about attracting a chain restaurant next to the new hotel in town at the crossroads of state highways 9 and 17, Justice responded by saying that inevitably with a hotel in place a restaurant should follow, however, “big name” restaurants are reluctant to commit to small towns. He said he hopes something will spring up there because it is the most underutilized intersection in the state because approximately three million tourists pass through it every year on their way to Zion National Park. Hooten cited the need for more restaurants in town by saying tourists ask him where places are to eat as he assists elementary students across the street in his capacity as crossing guard.
The city needs to bring in businesses it can support, Browning said, while Justice said that city residents must patronize the businesses the town already has. Successful businesses will attract more businesses, Hooten said. Wixom would like the city to get involved with the Dixie Business Alliance, which matches businesses with facilities that will fit their needs, but warned the city does not want businesses coming in that “change our lifestyle.”
Numerous candidates spoke of the city’s need for fiscal responsibility. The city should not invest in pet projects, DeMille said, explaining that the city needs to evaluate any potential new program with “honest numbers.” Even if the city feels a need is great, such as adding more law enforcement officers, it should not put itself in financial jeopardy to do so, Browning said. Several candidates said they felt the city is doing the best job it can with the funds it has.
- STGnews Voter’s guide for Municipal Elections 2013; Washington, Kane, Iron Counties
- Roads, public safety among city council candidates’ concerns for LaVerkin
- An up-close view on LaVerkin’s mayoral candidates; Gubler, Hirschi, Wixom
- Primary Elections in Washington County: Voting guide
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