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Taxes and growth on the minds of Hooper City Council, mayoral candidates at Tuesday debate

By Rob Nielsen - | Oct 18, 2023
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Hooper City Council candidates participate in a forum Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.
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Hooper mayoral candidates participate in a debate Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.

HOOPER — Hooper’s municipal candidates are looking at how to bring their community together on the issues of recent tax hikes and how to grow responsibly in the coming years.

Tuesday night marked the Weber County League of Women Voters’ first major forum of the 2023 general election cycle and gave both the four City Council candidates and two mayoral candidates the opportunity to answer several questions from members of the community.

City Council

Leading off the night was a debate featuring the four City Council candidates — incumbent Mayor Dale Fowers, incumbent council members Ryan Hill and Cindy Cox and challenger Kamie Hubbard.

The candidates were asked about the recent 6% hike on utility (electricity and natural gas) rates and whether the city is adequately funded.

Hill said he would’ve preferred a lower rate hike.

“I was the only council member to vote against this,” he said. “I thought the 6% was too much initially. I think we could’ve started with a lower percentage. I wanted to have a discussion about where that money was going to go.”

Hubbard said she would’ve also gone with a lower rate and feels there are other revenue sources available that don’t include raising rates of taxes or utilities.

“I think I probably would’ve done a 2% (hike),” she said. “I’m hoping we can do other ways to find money by working on grants. I think grants would be a great way to bring more money into our city.”

Cox said she supported the utility hike because it was the most fair option available.

“I’m on a fixed income and my husband and I are both retired — I didn’t take it lightly,” she said. “This was the most fair way to generate taxes. Every entity that uses gas or power pays 6%, so to me, that’s very equitable.”

Fowers said he favored it because expenses are only getting higher, citing the services of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office as an example.

“I’m aware of the increases that are going to come our way as we work through our contract with the Weber County Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “That’s not going to be the same as it has been.”

Sustainable economic growth also came up late in the debate.

Cox said the city’s updated general plan has increased available land for commercial development.

“I would like to see more commercial businesses come,” she said. “Maybe some light manufacturing or something of that nature, maybe some small, specialty things. We just have to make sure we keep those areas open for them to come to.”

Fowers said there’s still a need to use caution.

“I think we have set the stage for businesses to start looking to come to Hooper,” he said. “I’d like to be a little careful about what types of businesses come. I’m not sure that I’d be sold on what we call big-box stores or anything like that.”

Hill said some opportunities are likely gone.

“It’s no secret that we’re watching commercial development going in right next door to us,” he said. “There’s four convenience stores right on our doorstep. I hate to say this, but I think the ship has sailed as far as finding an opportunity to put a convenience store in Hooper.”

Hubbard said she’d like to see Hooper finally gain a distinctive landmark shared by most small towns.

“We need to figure out where we’d like to have a little downtown,” she said. “We need businesses, we need their tax money. … It would be really nice to have a little downtown like the Hallmark movies.”

The City Council candidates were also asked about term limits, trail systems, a time when they made a difficult decision, housing, how they’d heal divisions in the community, and water and sewer issues.

Mayor

Immediately following the City Council forum Tuesday evening, Hooper mayoral candidates Greg Simpson and Sheri Bingham also participated in a forum.

Among the questions was how the city should go about finding additional revenue.

Bingham said she leans heavily toward grants.

“We have a lot of places we can get revenue that I would like to see us pursue,” she said. “I’ve been very actively involved in grants, and I know sometimes people think that’s a temporary solution, but it is not. There’s always money available that we can apply for in grants.”

Simpson said he is exploring options for the city.

“I just learned, recently, of the sales tax you get for having something bought online and brought to your house and that seems like a great way to go about it,” he said. “I’ve talked to a couple of mayors about these kinds of (revenue streams) and I haven’t settled on any one thing on how to do it yet.”

The two candidates were also asked about how they will approach making impactful decisions that affect friends and neighbors.

Simpson said communication and understanding of the ordinances is key.

“Because I value the friendships that I’ve made over the decades of living here, I hope that I make decisions that will be right for my friends and this community,” he said. “Our community is based on friendship. That’s what makes a community, so we have to talk. We have to understand what the ordinances are. We have to not try to circumvent, but try to come to the understanding of what those ordinances are and comply with them and see it from that perspective instead of maybe a personal gain perspective.”

Bingham said being able to listen is important.

“We need to be willing to listen,” she said. “Too many times, people feel like they are not listened to. Even if we don’t agree with them and they may have to understand we can’t always have it both ways. … People need to feel like they are actually being listened to anytime they come here to Hooper City to the office, if they ever come here to a City Council meeting, a Planning Commission meeting. If they happen to come to whoever is elected, in any position … they always need to feel like somebody is listening.”

Candidates were also asked about an example of hard decisions they’ve made, promoting unity, landowner rights, safety, budget cuts, sewer and water issues, housing, candidate access and the general plan.

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