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  • Writer's pictureScott Phillips

June 20, 2023 - Council Meeting

Transparency is important at every level of government, which is why I keep you informed through this newsletter. With this principle in mind, I want to share a few concerns that are weighing heavily on me this month.


First, I want to assure you that your voice is heard and valued. I believe each challenge should be tackled as a community effort. The more we work together, the better off we’ll be. Some folks say they feel as if they’re not being acknowledged, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know I speak for all of us when I say that your questions and comments are incredibly important.


We listen to you, we listen to the experts, and we listen to each other. This is why Heber is the flourishing community it is today—and I’m confident it will continue in this direction. Contrary to what some believe, the council members talk and get along very well. Yes, we have tough conversations that involve strongly held opinions, but we’re always willing to step back and listen to each other. More importantly, we’re open to honest feedback as we debate and deliberate.


That said, I’m disappointed in Mayor Franco’s leadership. Whether intentional or not, she has a way of making others feel inferior. This meeting was another example of hours wasted working tirelessly on an issue, only to have her assert her authority. This is difficult to navigate, especially as we attempt to address complex issues that require our immediate attention.


We need thoughtful leadership that is grounded in respect and teamwork, not a quest for power. Heber is a place where shared values and diverse opinions coexist harmoniously—and this is what makes our community so special.


I’m also concerned that employees of Heber City leave our meetings feeling reprimanded and embarrassed. To these people, my message is clear: your contributions are valued, and your hard work is appreciated. Again, I’m afraid Mayor Franco is not leading the City Council with dignity and compassion. We can and must strive for a better environment where everyone feels respected.


My hope is that we can put our differences aside and focus on shared goals. I want to thank my fellow councilmembers for their dedication and perseverance in the face of these obstacles.


All things considered, I’d like to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in Heber, not to mention this beautiful country. As we approach Independence Day, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on how privileged we are to live in a Republic where everyone has a voice and a vote—and with those votes, we hold the power. It is through our collective power that we can shape the future of our community.

In closing, I’d like to wish you a safe summer filled with memorable moments. Have a happy 4th of July, and I hope you will join us for the Red, White and Blue Festival!


Code Amendments

We started the meeting with an extensive work session regarding code changes. Our goal is not to impose burdens or punishments, but rather to safeguard the rights of every individual. We need to be thoughtful and creative as we look ahead. The session proved to be productive, bringing us closer to reaching a consensus on the proposed changes.


FBO Settlement

After more than seven years, we finally reached a resolution with OK3 Air, the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the Heber Valley Airport. The conclusion of this lawsuit brings a sense of relief and closure. Moving forward, I hope that we can work together and continue to have the airport be self-sustaining and safe for operations. The settlement was approved unanimously with a 5-0 vote.


Budget

We were able to hear from our new finance director, Sara Nagel, who provided valuable insights on various finance-related matters. She has been an exceptional addition to our staff, and I am truly grateful for her knowledge and professionalism.


We started with a public hearing concerning unbilled services, which addresses the practice of charging our own buildings for city-provided services like water and sewer. We also conducted a final budget amendment public hearing to ensure our financial plans align with our objectives.


As the Community Reinvestment Agency (CRA), we convened to approve our budget for the upcoming 2023-2034 period. Next, as part of the finance discussion, we looked at a risk assessment pertaining to fraud.


Lastly, we concluded the session by approving the termination of an interfund note from the sewer capital fund to the sewer impact fund.


Central Heber Replacement Project

We had the pleasure of hearing an update from Russ Funk, our city engineer, regarding the downtown sewer replacement project. Russ consistently demonstrates preparedness and professionalism in all his presentations, and this occasion was no different. The scale of this project is substantial, and Russ has been doing an exceptional job keeping us informed.


It’s worth noting that Center Street will remain closed until August, and maneuvering around the post office area may pose some challenges. However, it’s important to highlight that access to the post office will be maintained throughout the construction period. We appreciate Russ’s efforts in ensuring that the impact on the community is minimal.


Adoption of the Airport Master Plan

After four years of studying the airport and our needs, the Master Plan is finally complete. The airport has been a divisive topic, making it a difficult challenge to address.


It became clear that our best course of action is to proceed with the runway widening and relocation to the southwest, along with the taxiway expansion. Our priority is to provide a safe operating environment for planes landing in Heber, and the Master Plan enables us to achieve that goal. These changes won’t happen overnight. For example, the runway project won’t be underway for another 15 to 20 years because there are numerous tasks to complete beforehand.


I’d like to clarify a point raised by the Mayor during the voting process. She mentioned the potential need for the City to acquire property in Daniel. It’s true that the southwest airport safety zone extends into properties in Daniel, and we’d like to have the option to purchase this land if there is ever an opportunity. However, none of us support any action resembling eminent domain unless it becomes necessary due to FAA requirements. We’re committed to being good neighbors to Daniel, and I’m personally willing to explore other avenues to assist them in generating sales tax revenue by promoting commercial property within their city limits. Our goal here is to foster a cooperative relationship.


The vote on this matter resulted in a 4-1 majority. We have invested so much time and energy into this topic over the last two years, so it’s a great feeling to see it come to a resolution. This was not an easy assignment, but I’m glad we were able to affect change that matters, and I genuinely believe that we are representing the wishes of the people we serve.


Duke Property

Lastly, a word concerning the Duke property.


I wasn’t aware of any specific plans or the desires of the family to preserve the property as open space until they brought it to our attention. While there had been some mention of a park, no decisions had been made and we debated other ideas as well. There was no ill intent in our previous meetings regarding the property. At the time, my understanding was that the City owned the land, and we were exploring the best possible use for it.


Having learned of the family’s intention to sell the property with the expectation that it remains open space, I believe we need to respect those wishes. A 17-acre park is a little too large, but I know we can come to a compromise regarding the size, while still accommodating the need for housing for City, School District, and County employees.


I really appreciate the family coming forward to set the record straight. It is my sincere hope that we can find a solution that honors the family’s desires and meets the needs of the community.


Sincerely,

D. Scott Phillips

Heber City Council

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