Ivins City Council gets first peek at 2021 budget, temporarily closes pickleball courts and park bathrooms

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

ST. GEORGE — The Ivins City Council started the process of approving a 2021 budget at its meeting Thursday night with its first look at a budget, which has a “wait-and-see” policy toward city spending. Additionally, outdoor parks and recreation sites in the city were discussed.

The entrance to Ivins City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020 in Ivins City, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The meeting was conducted through the Zoom application, with the council members and staff being able to see and hear each other and see visual materials despite being at different sites. The public was able to listen to audio only of the meeting through the city website.

City Manager Dale Coulam and recorder Kari Jimenez were the only ones actually in the council chambers at City Hall, with the council members at different sites.

Lane Mecham, the city’s director of finance, presented the budget, which anticipates $7.1 million in the general fund to support city operations – about $100,000 lower than the 2020 budget.

“We’re in a good position from a general fund perspective,” Mecham told the council. “How that finishes off as far as COVID is concerned could be interesting.”

The overall tentative 2021 budget, which can be seen here, 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.

However, Mecham anticipates there will be no new debt related to the construction of a new City Hall because of revenue from the sale of city property.

File photo of Cuncilman Dennis Mehr in the Feb. 20, 2020, Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins City, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

That didn’t stop Councilman Dennis Mehr from saying that uncertainty surrounding the pandemic may be reason to reconsider the timeline for the new City Hall.

“Maybe it should be pushed back a year,” Mehr said. “I don’t know if that helps or hurts us.”

Mecham said he is looking at revenues in the months to come as a “V-shape,” with a sharp decline in revenues for the rest of 2020, followed by a sharp rise when the pandemic has passed.

“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” Mecham said. “We’re asking department heads to defer expenditures as much as possible until we have an idea of what to expect.”

From a public safety perspective, an additional police officer is budgeted, but a proposal for speed cameras is nixed. The budget also has one of the animal shelter positions going from part time to full time.

The tentative budget will be up for approval by the council on May 7, with a May 21 tentative date for a public hearing and the final budget adopted by the council shortly after.

Social distancing measures

Social distancing at the state park at Snow Canyon in Ivins City, which Gov. Gary Herbert ordered open only to residents of Washington County on Wednesday, is beyond the control of the city. However, city officials can control what goes on in their own parks.

City Director of Parks and Recreation Benny Sorensen said from his standpoint, he has seen social distancing working at the city parks, with a few exemptions.

“People will try to keep away from each other,” Sorensen said. “Once in a while, people on the tennis court will sit with each other on the bleachers, which is not a good thing.”

File photo of Councilwoman Miriah Elliott in the March 5, 2020, Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins City, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Councilwoman Miriah Elliot raised a concern about the restrooms still being open at the parks.

“We now have evidence of asymptomatic spread,” Elliot said. “If the governor has mandated that playgrounds be closed, at the very least, our bathrooms should be closed.”

Hart also showed concern that with other nearby cities closing their facilities – including St. George, which has closed its pickleball courts and skate park – it may be inviting people from outside the area to flock to Ivins City’s parks for the wrong reason.

However, Mehr expressed concern about closing too many outdoor resources.

“I would hate to put a lock and key on our great asset, which is the outdoors,” Mehr said. “I’m torn because I can see a family being cooped up all day needing to get some fresh air. There is another aspect of our health which is our mental health.”

In the end, the council agreed to the mayor closing the pickleball courts at Ivins City Park – with their main use being by the elderly, who are most at risk for the virus – as well as the bathrooms, but the council asked the skate park at Unity Park to stay open as long as those using it adhered to social distancing.

“I think we can just monitor the skate park and close it if it becomes an issue,” Councilman Cheyne McDonald said. “You’re not likely to be seeing someone over 40 in the skate park.”

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

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