PROVIDENCE – Residents decided against changing its form of government Tuesday night. Proposition 2 – the ordinance that would have given the mayor’s administrative duties to a city manager – was defeated 1,160 votes to 708.
The Providence mayor has both legislative and administrative powers in its current form of government. Chad Checketts, one of the Providence residents behind the Proposition 2 push, said he wanted to provide an alternative to those who were dissatisfied with the current system. He knows the cost of hiring a city manager was likely what defeated the proposition, but said he doesn’t think residents examined the issue enough.
“I think most people in Providence are not satisfied with our current situation,” he said. “Had they vetted this they’d realize that you could hire a city manager, and that it wouldn’t cost $125,000.”
Council member John Drew, like Checketts, wanted the ordinance to pass and believes there was some misunderstanding surrounding it.
“Most people don’t like change,” he said. “And when they don’t understand it they are confused. They usually just vote against it.”
Both Checketts and Drew believe hiring a city manager could potentially save the city more than what the manager would cost. Drew said that managers often network with other city managers and are aware of what grants are available. Drew said Providence rarely pursues those things.
“Smithfield just got $64,000 in grant money to update their general fund,” he said. “We missed the deadline because nobody paid attention.”
A bigger issue than the grants is the high number of lawsuits that have been filed against the city.
“Somebody that was in office that would listen to what the people are interested in and be concerned what the people are interested in, I think would alleviate many of those lawsuits,” Checketts said.
Drew said more lawsuits have been filed against Providence than every other city in the valley.
“Some cities have not been sued at all in 15 years,” he said. “In 15 years Logan has been sued 15 times. Logan is eight times the size of Providence. In 15 years Providence has been sued 21 times.”
Many others opposed the issue. Council member Roy Sneddon said he didn’t believe the ordinance would pass, but was still relieved when he saw the results. He said he doesn’t think the cost is worth the benefits.
“Given the size of Providence and the size of its problems, they could be handled by an elected mayor and a city council with competent full-time employees,” he said. “At least for the foreseeable future.”
Drew said most Utah cities with comparable size have a city manager, but added that most didn’t have one until a crisis arose. He believes Providence will have a city manager in the future, but worries what the crisis will be that prompts it.
“We’re just as complex as Logan is,” he said. “We may not have as many employees. Nibley has a smaller population than we do. They have a city manager and Nibley does a fabulous job.”