Orchard City board could okay pot without a vote

By Hank Lohmeyer


During the Orchard City town meeting on marijuana and town revenues last week, Mayor Ken Volgamore noted that the town board has the ability to allow marijuana business in the town without putting the issue to a vote of the electorate. However, the mayor did not endorse doing so.

It has been stated in previous trustee discussions that the town's current moratoriums against marijuana business were adopted by board action without town residents ever voting directly on the issues. Therefore, in order to make marijuana business legal in the town, all that would be required is a town board repeal of the current moratoriums.

The town's current moratoriums were adopted following a town meeting in 2009 on medical marijuana when a dispensary had opened in town. The public strongly opposed the business. Orchard City precincts have voted against marijuana initiatives in state constitutional amendment votes. So previous past town boards felt no need for local option election on the issue because the people had expressed their will.

Following last week's public meeting where strong opposition to marijuana business again surfaced, town board members offered their own views on the marijuana and town revenue issues.

Trustee Bob Eckels said "pot is the [least favorable] of the available options." The town board has to look at the issues from a budget perspective and revenues are declining. He said that the town is looking at a lot of infrastructure expense in the water and roads funds.

Trustee Craig Fuller said, "There is no firehouse emergency. The town is not going broke." He would "never vote for any type of [marijuana business] operation in town." Doing so would exhibit a "double standard" to youth. Down trends in the town's budget numbers are an issue that needs to be addressed.

Trustee Dick Kirkpatrick who prepared the trustee report on town revenues that led to last week's meeting said, "I'm just the messenger." He said that Orchard City water is the cheapest in Delta County and maybe in the state. There has been no water rate increase in some 10 years, but operating costs have continued to increase.

Trustee Gynee Thomassen declined to offer a comment on the issues.

Trustee Tom Huerkamp said the water issue needs attention. Orchard City water rates are very low. A sales tax election "is probably a waste of time and money." He personally is a user of medical marijuana, he said.

Trustee Gary Tollefson said the town has 34 miles of two-lane asphalt road to maintain. It costs $30,000 per mile to chip and seal, and $100,000 per mile for two-inch asphalt overlay. "To keep the roads in good shape we are going to have to have more money," he said.