I read with interest the article on the disincorporation of Ophir in the Sept. 22, 2016 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. As a former Ophir Town Council member with strong ties to Ophir, I feel the public and readers should have some additional information.
As with many small towns, it’s difficult to get those living full time in the community to step up and serve on the town council. Why? Because small towns often have controversial issues, sometimes involving neighbors. I was elected to the Ophir Town Council about seven years ago, filled a four-year term and was re-elected. During that time, the Ophir Land Use Code was developed, public hearings were held and the code was passed by the town council.
I should mention the code was developed by a combination of Ophir residents and “out-of-towners.” As with any land use code or ordinance, it contained provisions some individuals might consider restrictive.
As a council member, I supported the code and had a responsibility to monitor its enforcement and compliance. I hope Tooele County, as it assumes management of Ophir, will continue to recognize and enforce those provisions.
I guess I am one of those “out-of-town” people referred to in the article who had their nose into everything. Two other council members, the treasurer, and at one time the mayor, also fell into the “out-of-town” category. The reason we served on the council was because no full-time Ophir residents filed to fill the positions.
Earlier this year, I, and other individuals who had been voting in the Ophir Precinct, were challenged about our eligibility to vote. The challenge was based on the contention that we were not residents, not eligible to vote, hence not eligible to hold office.
Based on the election code, the Tooele County Clerk/Auditor supported the challenge and notified us of our ineligibility. Earlier in the year at an Ophir Town Council meeting, we told those in attendance, including other council members, the reason we were serving was because no other full-time residents had been willing to do so. We said if there were other full-time Ophir residents willing to serve, we would step down.
We were assured there were Ophir residents who were willing to fill the positions. In fact, two residents had filed applications for mayor. Both were interviewed by the town council. Based on the claim there were other full-time residents willing to fill the positions, two other council members and I vacated our council positions.
Guess what? The positions were not filled even though they could have been. When told by the county clerk/auditor that those who were willing to serve should draw straws, because more applied than positions were available, the offer was refused. So much for wanting to be legal! The same process of drawing straws or pulling names out of a hat had been used before in the election process. Instead of filling the council positions, and having the town governed by those living there, a petition was filed for dissolution of the town. The petition was successful. So now the town will be governed by Tooele County. Go figure — more outsiders!
As for the town’s finances, they are always a challenge and the auditing requirements keep increasing. Nonetheless, the financial stability of Ophir, and funds available at the end of February 2016, were 37 percent more than at the end of June 2008. All bills and financial commitments were being met.
Also, the legacy of the Ophir Historic District and the Town Park belongs to many. Numerous persons, many if not most being “out-of-towners,” volunteered to man the historic district on weekends. The same individuals ensured the success of Ophir Days.
So to those of you claiming to be Ophir residents, who complain about the influence of “out-of-towners,” remember those same individuals manned and did upkeep on the historic district; volunteered and helped put together Ophir Days; showed up for town cleanup; donated money and equipment use to the town; cleaned snow off the streets in winter; cleaned trees off streets knocked over by the wind; and tracked finances and prepared budgets for the Town of Ophir. The list could go on and on.
Thanks to “out-of-towners” for all you have done, and to Ophir residents who stepped up to help and make a difference. Maybe some of those who consider themselves Ophir residents are really the “outsiders.”
Scott Degelbeck is a resident of Tooele City and has a second home in Ophir. He lived in Ophir from infancy until he was 24 years old.