The idea that some people are so unhappy in Utah they want their entire city to become part of another state - and Nevada, at that - doesn't seem to bother many Utahns.
In a recent Deseret News/KSL poll, 51 percent of the 608 Utahns surveyed said they favor Wendover, Utah, being annexed into West Wendover, Nev.In the poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, 26 percent of those questioned said they were strongly in favor of annexation while 25 percent said they were somewhat in favor of the concept. Only 13 percent said they strongly opposed the idea and 8 percent somewhat opposed it.
A full 28 percent didn't know what they thought about the proposal, which Wendover Mayor Brenda Morgan and at least two City Council members support.
"I'm for it for one simple reason - we're a divided community out here," Wendover Councilman Steve Perry said.
Morgan has conducted her own straw poll. It showed most Wendover residents like the idea, she said.
Redrawing the state line has been an on-again, off-again topic of discussion, at least on the Utah side of the border, since West Wendover, Nev. incorporated in 1991. Some Wendover residents are tired of sitting on their deteriorating side of the imaginary fence, watching West Wendover's five casinos take an increasing amount of cash out of gamblers' pockets - more than $96 million in 1995 - and re-investing it in the local economy, mostly on the Nevada side.
Annexation was the buzzword again earlier this year as the end of a 10-year cooperative agreement between the Elko County, Nev. and Tooele County school systems approached. Children from both cities attend elementary school together in West Wendover while the older kids share Wendover High School on the Utah side. But beginning this fall when the new West Wendover High School opens, children will stay on their own sides of the border.
Utah's Wendover, a city of about 1,800 residents, the large majority of whom are Hispanic, lacks a primary school. The Tooele School District plans to educate Wendover's elementary pupils in portable trailers until a new school is built. That won't happen for at least two years, and only if Tooele County voters approve a bond issue. Some Wendover parents fear they'll never get a new school.
Bob Linnell, deputy of governmental relations for Gov. Mike Leavitt, wasn't surprised with the poll's results.
"I suspect most people here think if they want to be annexed, that's fine. It's an easy solution, let's wash our hands of it - it's that attitude," he said.
But, as Linnell can attest, annexation is not a simple procedure. And the opinions that really count are those of officials in West Wendover, the state of Nevada and, ultimately, Congress. All would need to approve of the notion for it to move forward, and Nevada and federal leaders aren't high on the idea.
"They'd have to start bringing the existing problems under control," West Wendover City Manager Janice Fox said of the Utah city, which has an aging infrastructure that hardly promotes growth. "We would be annexing things that we could not afford, or wouldn't have the funds, to rapidly repair."
Richard Urey, a spokesman for Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, said his state's position on annexation hasn't wavered.
"It's something that this state feels isn't the appropriate solution," Urey said.
Utah officials have been open to the idea of annexation, but Linnell said he thinks Wendover residents now recognize that other solutions are more viable. Linnell helped organize the Wendover Resource Council Committee, which will meet every other month beginning in June. The committee's goal will be to improve communication and cooperation between the many state and local agencies that serve the two Wendovers.
According to the poll, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are less likely to support annexation than members of other faiths. Seventy-five percent of Catholics and 63 percent of Protestants questioned liked the idea. Only 48 percent of Mormons favored annexation.
Fifty-two percent of Democrats favored annexation while 48 percent of Republicans agreed. Fifty-three percent of men liked the idea, compared with 49 percent of the women who responded.
Deseret News/KSL poll
Do you favor or oppose Wendover, Utah, becoming a part of Nevada?
STRONGLY FAVOR 26%
SOMEWHAT FAVOR 25%
SOMEWHAT OPPOSE 8%
STRONGLY OPPOSE 13%
DON'T KNOW 28%
Poll conducted March 26-28, 1996, 608 Utah residents. Margin of error +/- 4%. Survey conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. 1996 Deseret News.