NORTH OGDEN — Residents will vote on June 26 on whether the city should issue up to $7 million in revenue bonds to build a new public works facility.
The issue was placed on the ballot after nearly 3,500 residents signed a petition last fall asking for a say on whether the city should bond for that much money.
Groups on both sides agree a new facility is needed, but disagree over price and size of the complex. Those against the bond think the public should have had more say in the matter, while those in favor of the bond say the public has had its say through many community meetings and information provided by the city.
The issue has been hotly contested for the past year since the city council passed a resolution to bond for up to $10 million for the public works complex. Public clamor was huge against the initial bond, so the council passed another resolution to bond up to $7 million.
Many in the public, including city councilman, Wade Bigler were still opposed at that price tag and started the petition process to place the issue on the ballot.
Bigler was the only council member to vote against the $7 million bond resolution. He is also the only person who remains on the council from the group that approved that resolution.
If the proposition passes, the council will proceed with bonding for up to $7 million. If the proposition does not pass, the council will go back to the drawing board with a new public works committee and basically start the process again.
The city has been setting aside $100,000 a year for the past few years for the public works project, but the current council plans to bond, regardless of the outcome of the election, in order to get the complex built quickly.
“The need for a facility is immediate. We don’t have the luxury of saving in arrears in order to pay cash. I would hope that we have the foresight to look ahead to avoid this type of situation in the future,” said City Councilman Justin Fawson.
Residents received a voter pamphlet this past week in which the “for” and “against” information was written entirely by city council members plus one other person. The “for” side was written by City Councilman Dave Hulme, and the “against” portion was written by the other four council members and city resident David Gordon.
Mark Thomas, director of elections for the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, said that while one member of the council writing the “for” argument and the other four writing the “against” is unusual, it is not illegal. The city did offer previous council members who voted for the bond resolution to take part in the pamphlet and they turned it down, so the council decided to write both sides.
While the issue seems to have quieted down a bit in the city, former council members, the mayor and current council members still have strong feelings about the subject.
Bigler said in an email that the city needs to look at how Pleasant View just built their facility. He realizes the city sizes are different but even if North Ogden doubled the size of Pleasant View’s facility the price would still be under $2 million.
Mayor Richard Harris and former Councilman Carl Turner disagree with Bigler’s comparison to Pleasant View. Harris worries that if a less adequate facility is built, like what he feels is being proposed, the city will pay a lot more money in the long run.
“We have more equipment and a bigger need than Pleasant View. Making that comparison just doesn’t work,” Turner said.
Hulme worries that if residents vote “no” on the bond issue and the council ends up having to bond anyway, it will be going against what residents want. It makes sense to him to vote “yes” and the council can proceed with a complex that will cost much less than $7 million anyway.
Turner is also concerned about voter apathy. He would still like to see the bond pass, but fears it won’t just because people don’t care. He believes people signed the petition to get the issue on the ballot because people came door-to-door and when it comes to actually going to the polls they just won’t do it.
Harris said several residents have called the city asking what Proposition One even is and when they find out, they aren’t asking a lot of questions, although the early voting has been steady at the city offices.