Four residents who are all insiders hoping to change significant problems in American Fork are competing for two open seats on the City Council.
Fred L. England, Juel A. Belmont, Patrick J. Fleming and Don Hampton all earned a spot on Tuesday's ballot by garnering the most votes in the primary election field of 17 candidates.The candidates are seeking four-year seats on the council being vacated by John McKinney, who failed in his primary bid for mayor, and George Brown, who isn't seeking re-election for personal reasons. If current Councilman Rick Storrs is elected mayor over opponent Ted Barratt, Storrs' slot on the council will have to be filled by appointment.
All four candidates have been heavily involved in the city's affairs. Two are former members of the City Council, and the other two have served on various boards and committees.
One of the top issues for the four candidates is the question of whether the city should bond for nearly $10 million in order to complete four separate projects. The questions involve bonds of $4.7 million for a new public library; $2.4 million to construct and equip a new portion of the city's public works facility and remodel another portion; $1 million to buy 2.4 acres downtown as the future site for City Hall and a police/fire/courts complex; and $1.1 million to purchase 91 acres of park property from the Utah State Development Center.
The city's current library is outdated and small. It has also run into problems because it does not meet federal standards for disabled persons. City officials propose to temporarily move the library's materials to another location while the new library is built on the site of the old one, 64 S. 100 East.
Several candidates believe the proposal for the new library is too expensive. The figure rose significantly during the last year as Mayor Jess Green and the City Council bickered about building a library. Most candidates and residents favor building a new library but think it can be done for less than $4.7 million. Meanwhile, the other bond questions have met little opposition.
Whichever candidates are elected will have to deal with the issue of restoring civility to the governmental process. The council recently has been well-known for fighting, name-calling and trying to fire the city's department heads. Improving the relationship among city officials, employees and residents will be a necessary but difficult task.
Also, future council members will have to deal with allegations of misconduct and insubordination by the city's police officers. After Green raised concerns about the police department earlier this year, several residents have stepped forward detailing incidents of run-ins with police.
So far, little concrete evidence for Green's allegations against police officers has been forthcoming, and much-talked-about independent investigations have yet to take place. Police are seeking to have their reputation restored, and residents are demanding to have the allegations either dismissed or validated.
Belmont is trying to become just the second woman in recent years to serve on American Fork's City Council. England and Hampton believe their professional areas of expertise, construction and ac-counting respectively, will be valuable to the city. Fleming cites significant experience with state, county and municipal government processes as his biggest strength.
(Information on mayoral candidates Ted B. Barratt and Rick K. Storrs was published Monday. More will be printed Sunday.)
Fred L. England
Occupation general contractor
Family: wife, Diana, 2 children
Experience: Chairman of the recreation committee, served one four-year term on the City Council earlier this decade.
Reasons for running: He believes he can help the city save money in connection with its building plans. Also, he believes residents' input is not being heard. In order to alleviate that situation, he proposes setting up electronic mail addresses for the city's elected officials.
Bond questions: He supports all four projects but thinks the library can be done for less money than proposed. "I agree that we need a new library," he said. "I just do not agree with the design or the amount. I think I can save the city a lot of money because of my building expertise, especially in the bid process." He said the library can be done for approximately $3 million to $3.5 million.
Improving relationships: "I think we can disagree on issues without being disagreeable," he said. "What has been happening between the council and the mayor does not reflect the citizenry as a whole." England said city employees do the bulk of the work and should receive due credit for their efforts. City staffers and elected leaders need to work together as a team.
Police: "I think there's a public relations problem with the police department . . . but I still have not seen any formal charges or proof." He favors an independent investigation and also believes the police need to work to restore their image and the trust between them and residents, regardless of whether allegations against them are true. England's personal experiences with the city's police have been positive.
Other issues: "I'd like to see us revitalize our downtown area. I'd like to see the city put some money and tax incentive there instead of on the west side." England said city officials should be cautious about signing a development agreement with Woodbury Corp. for the west-side business development. He believes the company did not follow through with all its promises on the business development it created on the city's southeast side several years ago.
Juel A. Belmont
Occupation: She spends most of her time doing volunteer work.
Family: Husband, John, 2 children, 7 grandchildren
Experience: American Fork Planning Commission for four years, beautification committee for 13 years, chair-woman of historic preservation committee for 15 years, served as vice chairwoman of the Utah County Centennial Celebration.
Reason for running: "What motivated me was watching frustrated people . . . come to every committee I've ever sat on and not being listened to. Citizens are the last people to know anything." She said many elected officials don't see the importance of notifying residents of what's going on. She hopes to encourage residents to participate in government processes by breaking the city into neighborhoods and forming councils for each one. Neighborhood spokesmen would represent their areas at the city's meetings.
Bond questions: "I am for the individual bonds." She thinks they are all important but believes there may be some tweaking still to be done. She doesn't favor a "carte blanche" for the city that would allow it to create "Taj Mahals" but favors doing what's necessary.
Improving relationships: The most important thing is to remember residents are the bosses, not elected officials. Problems have arisen from lack of leadership. When people are rewarded for their work and not advanced if they aren't qualified, relationships will improve. She believes department heads should be evaluated every two years instead of being allowed to continue without review for decades. "They need to be given challenges also, and then they need to be evaluated like any kind of corporation or business."
Police: "I think we need an investigation. The citizens are a little nervous, a little worried. If (police) are not accountable, how can you have confidence in them? They need to be accountable to citizens. If there's nothing there, an investigation will prove that." If there are "rotten apples in the barrel," an investigation would point that out and allay residents' fears.
Other issues: "I'm very concerned about our Main Street. Citizens would like to have our Main Street rejuvenated. This used to be a very vital Main Street." However, businesses have moved to the edge of town, and elected officials have done little to support downtown businesses. She has participated in seminars of the National Main Street Program and favors its proposals, but American Fork's elected leaders haven't supported them. She also believes developing a trail system that would link with trails in other cities is important.
Patrick J. Fleming
Occupation: Director of Utah County Human Services.
Family: Wife, Susan, 4 children.
Experience: American Fork Planning Commission for eight years, currently part of substance abuse technical advisory group for the state Healthcare Policy Commission.
Reasons for running: "I want to make sure that we follow the general plan. I also want to see American Fork just get back on the right road. We just need to get moving ahead."
Bond questions: "I think the bonds are really needed. We need to make sure we have the building and land capability. We haven't been doing that for the last four or five years." He has visited 800 homes during the campaign and believes most residents are concerned the library amount is too high. He favors all four bond questions, but hopes the library won't require the city to spend the entire $4.7 million.
Improving relationships: "I think the mayor is the key," he said. "He is the chief executive officer for the city and he has to have good people skills. Both of the candidates running right now have good skills, so I'm not worried about that." He believes the mayor must work together with the council in a positive way. Also, he proposes that the mayor convene a large working session of the key department heads, City Council and various volunteer committees. The session could be a day-long retreat and would focus on putting together a work plan for the city. Finally, the city should take the lead in improving relations with surrounding communities by approving interlocal agreements for joint regional planning.
Police: He has met with Chief John Durrant. He supports an internal administrative review by the mayor, who could then determine if an outside investigation is needed. In doing so, he would confer with the City Council. "I frankly want to see (the allegations and results) out in the light of day so we can take a look at it." He thinks the internal administrative review, with the cooperation of police, would solve the problems.
Other issues: "I think right now American Fork is really moving on its economic development plan." He hopes to continue to push for economic development, and believes his experience with state, county and local governments will allow him to facilitate economic growth.
Occupation: Semi-retired accountant and financial planner.
Family: Wife, Marianne, 7 children, 10 grand-children.
Experience: former City Council member.