The Republican candidates for Tooele County Commission faced off against each other in two debates held at Excelsior Academy in Erda on Thursday night.
The debates were sponsored by the Tooele County Republican Party. The first debate featured Tom Tripp and Mitch Hall, Republican candidates for commission seat A. They were followed by Kendall Thomas and Brenda Faddis, the party’s candidates for commission seat B.
Questions for the debates were submitted online prior to and in writing during the debates. They were also submitted through Facebook live.
Tripp works as an engineer for US Magnesium. He has served on the Grantsville City Council for 10 years.
Hall served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years as an intelligence officer. He currently owns and operates a self storage business with his family in Grantsville. Hall is a firefighter and emergency medical technician for the North Tooele County Fire Department. He currently serves as a trustee for the Lake Point Improvement District.
Both Tripp and Hall acknowledged the need for economic development to keep residential property taxes from increasing.
“My experience in government is residential property tax is not sufficient to have a healthy budget,” Tripp said. “We need to make sure we have balanced growth with some commercial growth and industrial growth and push that to make our budget healthy. One of the dangers that our county is facing is becoming a bedroom community for Salt Lake, where we live here and work and shop somewhere else and that affects our community negatively.”
Hall agreed that the increase in property tax from residential growth does not keep pace with the increase in services.
“Residential property values do not sustain our budget,” Hall said. “We have to have commercial growth and economic growth in our county. Unfortunately, if we don’t have that growth, I’m afraid we will have tax increases and like everybody else, I don’t like tax increases.”
Tripp and Hall also responded to a question about high density residential development.
“High density should be planned ahead of time and have it carefully staged where everyone agrees it can be,” Tripp said. “I would like more regional planning. We used to have an Erda township and I thought that was good. Lake Point and Stansbury should also have their own planning.”
Hall said the county needs more affordable housing, which often means higher density housing, but it should be well thought out.
“We need more affordable housing for our kids and younger families, so they can stay here,” Hall said. “Planning should take a holistic look and not just plop a high density development down in one place and commercial in another.”
Thomas is a retired maintenance project manager from URS. He is the program director for the Tooele Education Foundation. Thomas has served on the Tooele County School Board and the Stockton Town Council.
Faddis works in a managerial position for United Parcel Service. She was in a three-way primary race for the Republican nomination for the Tooele County Commission in 2016. For the last year, Faddis has served on the Tooele County Form of Government Study Committee.
When asked about a county recreation facility for families, Thomas and Faddis disagreed on the role of county government.
“There is a need for more services for our kids,” Thomas said. “We need to provide them an opportunity to stay out of trouble. To help our kids, we need to work together as a community — city, county, parents, the schools — it’s going to take a collaborative effort. It’s also important to economic development that when businesses and people look at coming here they feel like there are good services here. The county should not do it by itself, but it should partner together and make our tax dollars stretch.”
Faddis said that recreation is not the county’s mission.
“I don’t believe that government is in the entertainment business,” Faddis said. “We have gyms and trails, bike paths, and things for kids to do that we don’t have to pay for. There is Junior Jazz, Little League, and softball leagues. I look at recreational buildings and things that other cities have built — I look at West Valley, it’s No. 1 — it’s sucking money from them.”
In response to a question about financial priorities, Thomas commended the county commission on building a rainy day fund that nears $15 million.
Faddis, however, was critical of amassing a large rainy day fund.
“You don’t need a $25 million rainy day fund,” Faddis said. “To me that’s my money, that’s my tax money, it’s not yours. You can have a rainy day fund for just in case incidentals, but don’t take my money and put it into a rainy day fund because you think, as a government, that maybe something might happen. It’s my tax money; it should come to me.”
The full debate can be seen on the Tooele County Republican Party Facebook page.
The winner of the Republican primary for County Commission Seat A will face three third-party opponents in the general election. Those opponents are: Justin Bake from the Libertarian Party, Jonathan Garrard from the Constitution Party, and Brendan Phillips representing the Green Party.
The winner of the Republican primary for County Commission Seat B will face Democrat Brenda Spearman in the general election.