NORTH OGDEN -- In a standing room-only crowd at Tuesday night's city council meeting, residents shared their dissatisfaction with the way the city is handling finding the site for its proposed $8.5 million public works facility.
Some city council members even got in on the mud-slinging toward other council members and the mayor.
Residents became upset a week and a half ago when word started circulating that the city wants to build a 7-acre public works facility in the southwest corner of Barker Park at 2375 North and Fruitland Drive.
When Mayor Richard Harris approached Lorna Barker with the plan, she was furious. Barker and her husband, Carl, sold the 35 acres of land to the city in 1999 with the agreement the area would be used only for a park. Word of the conversation between Harris and Barker spread quickly, and residents started calling and visiting the city offices to express their concern.
"There has been a lot of information and misinformation about this thing," Harris said. He went through a detailed presentation discussing the need for the facility and explained that plans for a site started in 2005 when the city set aside $100,000 to start work on a new facility.
"The current facility does not meet our needs in any way, shape or form," Harris said as he pointed out pictures of the equipment sitting outside year-round and the repair bays that most of the equipment doesn't fit in at the current site at 332 Pleasant View Drive.
Harris also rolled out architectural renderings of what a new public works facility would look like. He pointed out that it would not be a run-down eyesore that many people imagine.
He said the city has studied many sites and the Barker Park site has many advantages.
"We knew it would be controversial, but the city owns the property," Harris said. That alone would save the city $475,000 to $1 million, he said.
"What it boils down to is that there are 35 acres of alfalfa, and we would use seven of those acres," he said.
The city plans to honor the agreement made with the Barker family, although nothing was recorded by the city of such an agreement when the deed was signed, Harris said.
"The only thing I would do is ask the Barkers to reconsider, but it is up to them," Harris said.
At that, resident after resident stood to express their concerns and opinions on the matter. Many spoke of the long history their families had in North Ogden, many with family members who had been elected officials or on planning committees.
Elaine Brown lives across the street from the proposed Barker Park site and said she didn't believe Harris when he said the site would be unobtrusive.
"Can you tuck away noise pollution, the widening of 2600 North, safety of our children? No, no and no. I say to this, no thank you," Brown said. "I am 84 years old, and I may have rolled over a few times, but I'm not dead yet, and you have put the old fire back in my belly."
Resident Bruce Hall expressed frustration over the process. He noted that this was the second or third time he has had to come to the council about the public works site.
"We went the rounds in late August," he said. He asked the council when it was going to learn that the process by which it was going about finding a site wasn't working. Other residents offered suggestions of other sites, including across the street from the city's aquatic center. Many said they would like to see the facility in a commercial or industrial zone, not residential.
Harris maintained that the city wants to keep commercial land for commercial development to bring tax revenues into the city. He also said that no matter where the facility is built, neighbors would complain.
Dale Anderson questioned the council's intent and said that pushing the site seemed "corrupt."
"I am more concerned about a city council that works by surprise to its residents," Anderson said.
City Councilman Wade Bigler told residents he was against the process from the start and explained that the city council has five different people and isn't just one body.
"Every time this site came up, I said I was opposed to it," Bigler said. He's frustrated that his suggestions have been ignored. "The public hearing shouldn't be saved until the end of the conversation."
Bigler also questioned who was on the public works committee. Currently two city council members sit on the committee. Jim Harris, City Councilwoman Martha Harris' husband, volunteers as the project manager at no cost to the city, but Bigler feels it is a conflict of interest for him to serve on the committee and for Martha Harris to not be on the committee. Bigler thinks it automatically puts three votes in favor of whatever the committee suggests.
Other council members, including Ron Flamm, who sits on the committee, told Bigler that was simply not true.
Councilman Brent Taylor invited those interested to come to the next public works committee meeting, to be at 4 p.m. today at the community services building, 2705 N. 550 East, North Ogden.
The city is looking at other sites, but many are on private property and can't be disclosed until agreements are made between the seller and the city.