N. Ogden polling site choice nixed; councilman stirs debate

Jun 16 2013 - 8:25pm

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North Ogden Councilman Wade Bigler
North Ogden Councilman Wade Bigler

NORTH OGDEN -- A normal housekeeping item turned ugly early last week when a council member and mayoral candidate opposed one of the August primary polling sites in his city.

Weber County chose three voting centers for voters in the city, and the city recorder asked the council for approval on those sites.

The first two sites, at the city offices and the senior center, both in the area of 2600 North and about 500 East, were fine, but the third, at an LDS meetinghouse on 3550 North, raised the ire of Councilman Wade Bigler, who is also a mayoral candidate.

At first, he opposed the idea of doing it at a church because it might appear biased to some in the community, but then he also raised the concern that the 3550 North location was in close proximity to some of the candidates, which he thinks would give them an unfair advantage.

Two city council candidates, Phillip Swanson and Bryan Russell, live near that location.

"Why not the library or more at the senior center?" Bigler said.

City Recorder Annette Spendlove said the senior center could not let them use the whole building to set up the needed voting booths, and the library did not have the needed space.

She said that the county has tried to keep the sites at the city center, but that it wasn't feasible because of the high voter turnout in recent elections.

Weber County Election Director Jennifer Morrell agreed, saying, "There is not enough parking there at all."

They also tried to pick another spot that was a good northern location to accommodate voters and to find a spot that was handicapped accessible.

Morrell said schools really aren't an option anymore because of safety issues for students with so many strangers wandering in and out of the buildings.

In the last election, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse on Elberta Drive was used, but the county felt that the church on 3550 North was a bit bigger with more parking and accessibility, Morrell said.

Bigler suggested moving the other location to the church on 1700 North.

"We would have no complaints about home cooking," Bigler said, although his home is only about two blocks from that location.

When asked about his suggestion for that site, Bigler said in an email after the meeting that he wasn't being serious about the 1700 North site but was just trying to illustrate that the very south end of the city could be used as well as the very north end of the city.

"I can get that approved for you by tomorrow, no problem," Bigler told Spendlove about the 1700 North church site.

Spendlove explained that it doesn't work that way, that the county has to go through LDS Church headquarters to get the building reserved, and it also has to look at the building to make sure it meets the requirements for voting.

Bigler kept bringing up that there was "home cooking" by the city recorder in the process. She said she didn't help choose the locations and that the county chose the locations.

"We don't know they didn't have help," Bigler said of the county's choices.

At that, Councilman Justin Fawson suggested they use the church just up the street from the city offices on 2600 North.

Spendlove said she could work on that approval, and the city council unanimously approved the site because it is close to the city center.

Morrell said Spendlove had no say in the choice of the voting centers other than providing answers to questions when asked.

"We make those choices," Morrell said.

She was surprised by the controversy, because the county has an interlocal agreement with 15 cities in the county to handle elections, and there has never been any dissention.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Brent Taylor was also dismayed by the conflict and by Bigler's accusation toward Spendlove.

"The insinuations that someone might have helped and that kind of accusation was not appropriate," Taylor said.

Later, in a phone conversation, Taylor said that Spendlove has also acted professionally in every was and that he was disappointed that some council members would treat her in such a manner.

Bigler took exception to Taylor's comments.

"I wasn't speaking on behalf of Wade Bigler, I was speaking for the residents," Bigler said.

He said he wants to avoid the perception by residents that the city is picking one candidate over another.

The other four candidates running for city council all live in close proximity to the city center compared to the 3550 North location.

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