SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Voters in the tiny Utah town of Apple Valley have struck down a measure that would have dissolved their town government, with more than 80 percent of registered voters casting their ballots.
Preliminary results showed residents voting 167 to 115 against disbanding the town government, Apple Valley clerk Nathan Bronemann said Tuesday night.
Of the 300 total votes, 18 provisional ballots haven’t been counted, Bronemann said. The county will decide whether or not to count those votes, but those wouldn’t change the outcome of the vote.
Some residents had said that Apple Valley, which became a town in 2004, hasn’t provided basic services. But others feared disincorporation would leave the town open to annexation by a nearby polygamist community.
“We’re not anti-government. We’re anti-Apple Valley government,” Debi Groves said Tuesday, adding that she had little faith in town leaders. “It’s an oligarchy. You cannot break into it.”
Groves discounted fears that neighboring Hildale — a town controlled by jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs — could stage a municipal takeover if Apple Valley were to abolish itself.
“They have no interest in having us in their town,” Groves said. “They’re neighborly and help out in emergencies, but otherwise don’t want anything to do with us.”
However, another longtime resident, Marie McGowan, said Apple Valley was organized “because of fear” that polygamists could seize an opportunity to widen their municipal borders and “swallow us up.”
Apple Valley Mayor Richard Moser says no resident wants that.
“There’s a lot of — how do you put it nicely — stigma,” Moser told The Associated Press in April.
Jeff’s Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has amassed lands in the southern part of Apple Valley and, in theory, could petition to be annexed by Hildale. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges, but he is said to still maintain control of the FLDS border towns in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.
Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow didn’t return a phone message Tuesday from the AP.
Disincorporation supporters say town government has failed to provide even basic services like the ability to fight house fires; Hildale provides that service for Apple Valley. They fault Apple Valley for having an unreliable water system — the town paid $2.8 million for a private water district in April to improve water service.
Apple Valley also lacks sewers; the 295 houses use septic tanks.
Residents also complain that a fussy code-enforcement officer is too eager to crack down on weeds, junk cars and “for sale” signs.
Opponents say disincorporation is being pushed by a minority of fiercely independent residents who chafe under any rules, even for dog licensing.
“They never wanted a town from the beginning,” Jan Quintanilla, manager of the Chevron Little Creek Station, told The Spectrum of St. George.
If Apple Valley had dissolved, it would have reverted to the jurisdiction of Washington County, which provides few municipal services. Its residents would feel pressure to contract for services or form more special service districts — or incorporate their town all over again, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox has said.
An earlier disincorporation effort failed, 185-79, six years ago.
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