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Debate Recap: Questions and Answers from Mayoral Candidates

Debate Recap: Questions and Answers from Mayoral Candidates
June 24
10:56 2022

The mayoral and City Council candidate debate took place in Page last night. The event was sponsored by the City of Page and the Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce. Two mayoral candidates and four candidates for City Council were available to answer questions asked by moderators. Here is a list of the questions asked of the mayoral candidates, as well as a condensed summary of their answers. These are not direct quotes. The summary of questions and answers from the City Council candidates can be found here.

Mayoral Candidates:

Bill Diak

Rick Yanke

 

What do you think is the greatest problem facing Page now, and what actions will you take if you are elected mayor to help mitigate it?

Diak – Our critical water situations; not only the low water in the lake but our straw. Access to the lake is problematic for a lot of businesses and if we don’t get it fixed, we’ll start losing businesses in town which is not acceptable. The other issue is our water system which is 60 years old; the City has been working on the issue since 2004 but lack of funding hasn’t allowed projects to mature. The Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) came up with a cross-connect workaround that will be in place this fall that will allow us to access water at a much lower level. Keeping active within state and county is important so northern Arizona doesn’t “end at Flagstaff”, and I think I excel at bringing ourselves to the table.

Yanke – I agree that the second straw is an issue. I was on the Utility Board in 2012 when the City gave the Water and Sewer Departments to the Utility to run as a business, a great job has been done with that. Funds are not being diverted into the general fund to be spent elsewhere; they’re being put back into those utilities so they can stay viable and useful. As soon as the BoR has solid numbers on the cost to replace the straw, it will be sent to Council for approval. Whether it be jobs or housing, if there’s nothing here for its citizens, the people will leave and you can’t keep a city viable without people in it. The city is also currently researching costs for a water feature in Page.

 

One of the primary challenges in Page is the ability to hire employees; and one of the biggest hurdles for employees is finding affordable housing. What role can the City play in overcoming that hurdle?

Yanke – There is a developer from Kanab who is planning to develop approximately 200 homes; Council and City Staff are working with them and they will hopefully be moving dirt by the end of the year. The City is reaching out wherever they can to get developers to come to Page. There have been several people that have come to town to develop, and for one reason or another it didn’t work out for them to be able to build in Page and make money.

Diak – The City is very aggressively looking for people to build housing. There are 4 projects in the works at this time, 2 of which are not currently moving forward because of COVID, lack of funding, and lenders being leery about lending money for those projects. Council approved last night and asked staff to bring forward another project and keep working on it with another developer that was bringing in more housing. Page has always been problematic because we’re remote. Housing has been a top priority for the city for several years and some of that is now coming through in vision.

 

Access to daycare in Page has been an obstacle. Can the City play a role in creating a daycare facility and in what ways?

Diak – Daycare is an issue just like trying to find employees; we don’t have anyone here who wants to start a daycare business. The City is not in the business of daycare, nor do we start businesses – it’s a private enterprise. There isn’t a lot of money in childcare and I don’t know what we can do to incentivize that. Maybe look into the zoning and permitting process and allow that to be done in more areas. It all takes money. In 2012 we were in a recession year and had no money. Since that time under my watch, we’ve become financially stable. We do have an agency in town at the college that will help people get started with starting a business; all we have to do is have people apply.

Yanke – Like Diak said, the City can’t give away the City’s money to people to start businesses; that’s illegal. I worked for Encompass for 17 years and there used to be a daycare there; but licensing through the state and required continuing training and education made it financially impossible to continue and unless a daycare has a huge number of clients, it can’t stay solvent. I don’t know what the City can do; Diak mentioned zoning but nobody has approached the City asking about placing a daycare anywhere I’m aware of. If somebody wants to put their money forward, the city will be happy to help in any way that is reasonable.

 

The Bureau of Reclamation is lowering the levels of water intake and there are talks of putting in a 2nd straw. There is also a possible scenario where Lake Powell falls below levels for the city’s drinking water. If that happens before a second straw is in place, what is the City’s plan to provide citizens with clean drinking water?

Yanke – If the cross-connect is done, then at that point in time we’ll be taking water from the same level as water going through the river. If water levels got that low, a second straw wouldn’t give us additional water anyways. The Bureau of Reclamation, by an act of Congress, is required to provide us with water, so we would have to work with them to see how it would work out. I don’t perceive that ever being a problem, but it would have to be a partnership with the BoR to figure out how to get water from the river up to Page.

Diak – That cross-connect we talked about earlier is actually as absolutely low as you can go in the river flow area, so if we weren’t able to get any water through cross-connect or river flow tubes, we’d be in dire straits because that would mean the Colorado wasn’t flowing. Once that cross-connection is made, chances of losing the ability to get water to town are very very low. The 2nd straw is another issue that we’re working on replacing because even getting water from the lowest possible level, the water still has to travel through the 60-year-old system.

 

Building a pool and/or splash pad gets brought up a lot. Are you in favor of the City getting involved, and how would you mitigate potential conflict with our water situation in regards to possible restrictions?

Diak – I support a pool and splash pad; and the thing is that everything we’ve talked about takes money. In 2012 I had to take 8 positions away from our city, directors and managers, because we didn’t have any money. We had made poor judgments many years before by taking out loans without a payback program. We’ve been building since that time in 2012. We’re now financially solvent with 30 million in the bank. We’re re-building roads, building programs like little league and soccer and t-ball, and it all takes money. We had to start by building the bank, now we’re going to reap the benefits. That’s how we build those pools. The City Manager believes in going out and getting numbers, then finding out what it’ll cost us, then we build it. We have money saved so we can start doing these projects; we couldn’t say that 8 years ago. I’m not taking credit for that, the City Council has been behind that. We’ve got good things going on and I believe we’ll be seeing that pool within the next 2-3 years. It takes time to plan, design, decide where, and money. We’re putting those things together.

Yanke – I support a pool and splash pad as long as it doesn’t drain the city coffers. Avondale just spent $25 million building a pool and is looking at $1.1 million a year to maintain it. Our city can’t afford that; it has to be something much more within our budget. As far as mitigating water usage, we have a Congressional allocation for a specific amount of water to use as a consumptive allocation. We have not hit our limit ever as to how much water we can use. I don’t think that we will hit that at this point in time, and a splash pad would be nice. We’ll see if the City can afford it.

 

What is a City project or cause you want to champion or promote?

Yanke – My big vision for Page is to see people come here to stay and live. I’d like to see schools improve, and one way is to get affordable housing so teachers can stay here. I’d like to see medical facilities improved here in town – I see a number of senior citizens in the audience tonight and they all have to leave town to see the doctor. If there was housing and other things for families to do here, maybe we could get some doctors to stay and build a better community for everybody.

Diak – I’d like to champion and promote my community. I moved here 42 years ago; I loved it then and that love has never left me. I’d like to see Page being what the citizens want it to be; vibrant, safe for kids and families, as well as a place where we can get the type of care that we need. Some of the things that Rick was saying, those are some of the things I’ve been working on. I’ve been working with the hospital and Canyonlands about having more visitor doctors. We’ve gotten the City financially stable, we’re taking care of our roads, we’re working on a pool – whatever that vision may turn out to be -, working on the downtown streetscape. A lot of the questions that have been asked tonight have already been happening – I don’t know if we’re not doing a good job telling about it, but they are happening.

There were closing comments made at the debate, but unfortunately the audio on the live stream cut out and LakePowellLife wasn’t able to hear some of the candidates’ closing comments; so in the name of equal representation, none of the closing comments will be shared at this time.

 

Debate Recap: Questions and Answers from Mayoral Candidates - overview

Summary: Mayoral Debate Recap: Questions and Answers from Mayoral Candidates

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