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Road construction, volunteerism dominate mayor’s first town hall

Mar 12, 2018 05:14PM ● Published by Carl Fauver

Newly elected Mayor Kristie Overson opens her first town hall meeting. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

When newly elected Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson asked the audience at her first town hall meeting how they learned it was taking place, she got one unexpected answer.

“My grandpa told me,” Gabriel Lyon, 7, proudly exclaimed.

The youngster went on to ask a few more questions during the meeting. And afterward, Overson rewarded him with a Taylorsville City pin.

Later, the Vista Elementary School second-grader said, “I’ve never met a mayor before, so I had to come.”

Then he and grandpa, Jeff Barneck, went off to find their house on the city map at the back of the room.

Not everyone was there simply to meet a mayor, however. Mary and Les Nelson came to measure just how much clout Overson may have with the Utah Department of Transportation.

“We live on the east side of Bangerter Highway at 5400 South,” Mary Nelson said. “The UDOT work (on a new freeway-style on and off ramp) has filled our house with dust. And now their construction zone fencing has shifted into our neighborhood street to the point that it’s dangerous to get in and out.”

Overson admitted she’s not sure when the interchange construction will be completed, though UDOT has promised by the end of the summer. In the meantime, she put the Nelsons in touch with City Administrator John Taylor to help facilitate a meeting with the transportation department to address their concerns.

Another issue that dominated the conversation was the growing problem of homeless encampments, particularly along the Jordan River from 3900 to 4500 South.

“It’s a continuing problem that police expect to get worse before it gets better,” Overson said. “I know our mild winter has added to the problem (because the homeless have not been forced indoors as much as in normal winters).”

Overson and Unified Police Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant promised the town hall gathering that officers will continue to patrol the area and will relocate anyone camping along the river.

Then Overson returned to her most overriding theme of the night: volunteerism.

“This is another area where we need your help,” she said. “If you’re walking in that area and see people — or signs of a new encampment — we need you to report it to police so they can take action.”   

Throughout her first town hall meeting, Overson returned to the premise that community volunteerism has been on the decline, and she hopes to turn that around.

“Something has kind of shifted (away from volunteerism),” Overson said. “And I want it to shift back — we need more volunteers.”

Overson then read through a long list of Taylorsville City volunteer committees, saying they are nearly all shorthanded.

“These volunteer committees save all of us tax money,” she added. “It also gives us a chance to show the younger folk the value of being involved. We’re not just a community on our phones. We interact, we mingle.”

Overson added, if there’s not a particular committee people want to serve on, they can also help to create a community council or neighborhood watch group.

“I’m not going to lock the door and force you to do this,” she said. “But by coming here tonight, you’ve taken the leap. You’ve demonstrated how important our city is to you. Now we need you to take the next step.”

Taylorsville town hall meetings will continue in months that have five Tuesdays, occurring on the final Tuesday of the month. The remaining 2018 town hall meetings will be May 29, July 31 and Oct. 30, each starting at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers.

Overson also announced weekly open office hours.

“I have been incredibly busy during this first month in office,” she said. “I’ve not said no to attending any meetings, and I’m worn out. But it looks like Thursday afternoon is my most free time. So I’m making a pledge to be in my office from 2 to 4 on Thursdays. You can walk in, without an appointment, to discuss anything. And if we need more time, I’ll schedule another meeting with you.”   

Four of the five Taylorsville City Council members also attended the meeting and spoke briefly. Councilwoman Meredith Harker seconded the mayor’s call for more volunteerism, while Councilmen Ernest Burgess, Curt Cochran and Chairman Brad Christopherson spoke primarily about the efforts being made regarding the homeless problem.

“I want everyone to know the council is well aware of this and is keeping in contact with Chief Wyant and his department to see if there is more we can do to help,” Christopherson said.

Overson said the one missing councilman, Dan Armstrong, had a Boy Scouts commitment.

“He’s been volunteering with the Scouts for years, so he’s excused,” she said.

As he left. Gabriel Lyon said, “She’s the best mayor I ever met.”  

Then grandpa pointed out, Overson is the only mayor his 7-year-old grandson has met “so far.” 

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