A new sign welcomes visitors to Ivins City, Utah on May 22, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — At their Thursday meeting, the Ivins City Council rejected a council member’s motion to support Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Utah Leads Together” pandemic plan, while giving approval to Washington County’s new 10-year contract with Republic Services for trash pick up, recycling and landfill management.
The council rejected 3-1 a motion by Councilwoman Sue Gordhammer to support the public health and economic recommendations in the Utah Leads Together COVID-19 pandemic plan.
The plan, the first version of which was introduced by the governor and the Utah legislature in March, includes the state’s color-coded risk level recommended restrictions as well as public health recommendations for preventing coronavirus infections by residents.
It was a rare moment for the council, which often votes unanimously in the affirmative.
The last time the council rejected a motion was April 4, 2019, when it rejected the appointment of Ed Haworth to the planning commission.
Gordhammer said during the meeting that she brought forward the motion to try to express unity with the state’s efforts to stem the pandemic.
“In hearing reports around the state, people seemed to be indicating a disconnect from what they were hearing from Gov. Herbert and the local level,” Gordhammer said. “This is just our way to say if Ivins wants to be consistent with the state, this will allow us to speak as one voice.”
Mayor Chris Hart, who doesn’t have a vote in meetings, gave his support as well.
“This is not politically charged in any way,” Hart said. “It’s just a statement that we have guidelines.”
However, council member Cheyne McDonald, who had previously expressed reservations about closing city facilities during the pandemic, voiced worry that the council would be taking away power from individuals to make their own health decisions.
“I think individuals, for the most part, are capable of knowing what’s best for their own health, whether it’s wear a mask or not wear a mask. In making a statement, people will feel like they are being forced,” McDonald said. “I’m not saying the virus is not real. I do believe numbers and stuff are elevated or exaggerated. That puts me on the edge of believing a majority of it.”
Hart, while expressing appreciation for McDonald’s opinion, said the problem with the COVID-19 pandemic is when an individual makes choices for themselves, they are also making it for others.
“They’re entitled to decide for themselves, but they’re deciding for other people who they come into contact with,” Hart said.
McDonald responded that it would be up to individuals to decide if they want to go out in the public during the pandemic.
“That’s for others to decide,” McDonald said. “If they decide to go out, they put themselves at risk.”
McDonald also said Hart should have consulted with the members of the council before signing a joint letter by local mayors and Washington County Commission members to encourage residents to wear masks.
Councilwoman Jenny Johnson said she was just visiting her daughter in Salt Lake City and noted more restrictions there, including a county requirement there that everyone wear masks in public settings. She said Ivins City isn’t the same as Salt Lake City.
“It’s important we do the best for the city we live in and not the same choices made in Salt Lake City,” Johnson said.
Councilman Dennis Mehr agreed they should keep Ivins City’s independence from decisions made in Salt Lake City.
“I feel like we’re doing a good job trying to mitigate the impacts of this in our community,” Mehr said. “It feels like a blank check like, ‘Whatever you say, governor, we’ll do. This is a little too far.”
Gordhammer ended up being the only council member voting for the motion. Whale rejected the motion, McDonald and other council members thanked Gordhammer for bringing up the motion.
Council approves trash pick-up deal, allows residents to opt-out of recycling
Back to its usual voting unity, the council unanimously approved, 4-0, its approval of a 10-year contract between Washington County and Phoenix-based Republic Services to handle trash pick-up, recycling pick-up and landfill management.
At the same time, the council is giving residents the opportunity to opt out of blue-bin recycling. Ivins City residents had been required to include recycling in their trash pick-up.
Residents will have until Nov. 30 to opt out of recycling. Residents who move to Ivins City will not have that opt-out ability.
The new waste management agreement was approved on June 17 by the 20-member Washington County solid waste board that includes McDonald. The Washington City Council approved the agreement on July 22.
“We’ve been working on this for a year,” McDonald said.
McDonald previously expressed reservations about the new agreement, especially about Republic running the landfill, which he said would result in a higher trash bill for customers.
However, McDonald won some concessions from the board, and in the end, unlike other cities in Washington County, there is the potential in the short-term for collection rates to actually go down for some Ivins City residents. This is because Ivins City is the only city in the county that had been requiring residents to include recycling.
Currently, the rate Republic collects from Ivins City is $16.04. That will go down to $13.40 if a resident doesn’t include recycling. The rate will be $19.06 for residents with recycling – an increase of $3.02 from current rates.
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