“If the people believe we just have arbitrary powers and they don’t believe what they say matters, how do we expect them to stay involved,” Griffiths said. “They need to know what they say matters and that’s why I’m willing to explore some of the ideas put forward by the people during the Truth and Taxation Hearing.”
During the public comment period which took place after the vote, several residents spoke out against the tax increase. Some admitted they had not paid attention to the city’s business, including not attending the prior public hearings regarding the proposed tax increase. They said they now will attend all future city council meetings.
Former mayor Worth Grimshaw addressed the council with his proposal for a referendum which would allow the residents to vote for or against the tax increase rather than the city council.
Grimshaw also spoke outside after the meeting to several residents who stuck around to hear more about his ideas for a referendum. In that discussion Grimshaw referenced the new police cars which were approved by the council two years ago.
Requested then by Chief Jackson Ames, Ames asked for four new cars on the premise he and his officers could bring in enough revenue from freeway tickets to pay for the additional debt. That hasn’t happened as Ames had hoped.
“We were idealistic,” Ames said. “We wanted to make it work and believed we could. But we just haven’t been able to get up there like we thought we were going to. Our primary responsibility is to Enoch and we’ve been so busy fielding calls down here, we admittedly haven’t gotten up there like we wanted to.”
The police department’s failure to secure this revenue is in part the basis for Grimshaw’s criticism of the vehicles, which are costing the city approximately $30,000 a year for the five-year lease agreement.
“I was in that meeting the day the Chief and his officer got up and told the council they wouldn’t have to worry about paying for the new cars because they would be out on that freeway handing out tickets, and that would bring in enough revenue to pay for the new cars,” Grimshaw said.
At the time of the request Enoch police were driving cars five years or older, according to Ames.
“The cars were breaking down on the officers while on their shifts and we were spending a lot of money in maintenance and upkeep,” Ames said. “The last thing I want is one of my officers responding to an emergency and ending up having their car break down.”
The cars aren’t the only issue however. Some residents argue the more than $400,000 budget of the Enoch police department could be cut in half if the city eliminated the department altogether and instead contracted with the Iron County Sheriff to provide law enforcement services.
The idea, while not gaining much popularity, has been an item of discussion since the tax increase was initially put on the table. However, many residents admit they are not too keen on the idea of not having their own police force. Others maintain too much time and money have already been invested in the current department.
“We have invested too much time, money, training, and resources into our police department to just do away with it now,” said city treasurer Susan Lewis.
Throughout the meeting council members spoke out, at times getting emotional about their decision to increase taxes.
Councilman Rick Bonzo who attended the meeting via telephone spoke out strongly as well, including about his feelings towards some online comments he said were made by a former candidate.
“They (the comments) were mean and unnecessary and this former candidate had a dirty mouth,” Bonzo said.
Other council members reiterated their feelings about having to approve a tax increase and how difficult the decision was. They also shared their willingness to do everything they can to bring in business and eventually lower the taxes again.
“I have received many phone calls in support of what we’re doing,” said Councilman John Banks. “I’ve done a lot of thinking about whether I’m doing the right thing. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and even shed a lot of tears.”
The city has an approximate $350,0000 budget shortfall which has been made up the last few years by dipping into savings. Part of the shortfall has come from the new residential growth to Enoch over the last ten years which has increased the costs to city coffers by the need for new parks, roads and services. The city however, has not had any new business industry for years, which is what would increase the tax base and bring in more money.
According to city manager Rob Dotson the city was in the process of attracting some outside businesses when the economy downturned. There are city committees now working to attract businesses to Enoch in order to increase the tax base.