Emergency preparedness the focus of municipal elected officials’ St. George conference
Jun 24, 2019 03:34PM
By Carl Fauver
Three Taylorsville elected officials were among the hundreds at this year’s Utah League of Cities and Towns annual St. George midyear conference. (ulct.org)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Three Taylorsville elected officials — and the city’s top administrator — all traveled to St. George earlier this year to try to pick up some helpful tips for their jobs.
Mayor Kristie Overson, Council Chairman Dan Armstrong and Councilman Ernest Burgess all attended the Utah League of Cities and Towns annual midyear conference. And earlier in the same week, Taylorsville City Administrator John Taylor attended the Utah City/County Management Association conference.
“I try to get to the UCMA conference every year because they cover a lot of important, current issues,” Taylor said. “The conference is always held the same week as the (ULCT) midyear conference. I attended them both one year. But for what I do, the managers’ conference is more pertinent.”
Taylor said much of his conference was focused on impacts this year’s state legislative session may have on municipal operations. He also added that attendance was strong.
“I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of conference attendees in the years I’ve gone,” he said. “Larger crowds typically lead to better information. It’s always beneficial to hear about issues other cities are dealing with, which we could also face someday.”
As soon as the UCMA conference cleared out of the Dixie Convention Center, it was time for the ULCT to move in.
“I think the most valuable session I attended was one where the presenter asked, ‘Who here has earthquake insurance?’ and almost no hands went up,” Burgess said of the ULCT conference. “Then he went on to say, ‘FEMA might come along after an earthquake and offer people $4,500 to rebuild. If we don’t have earthquake insurance, that’s all the assistance we’ll get. That’s a pretty scary thought.”
Emergency preparedness has long been one of Burgess’ top priorities. Just a few weeks before the St. George conference, he also attended a local disaster preparedness workshop, presented by the city’s emergency response coordinator, Donny Gasu.
“I thought Donny’s conference was valuable, and I also plan to talk with him about some new things I learned in St. George,” Burgess said. “I have also asked staff to review how much earthquake insurance we have as a city. It could really be devastating if we aren’t adequately covered. No one knows when an earthquake will hit, but we do know one is coming someday.”
“The conference was our highest-attended midyear event ever, with 469 attendees,” ULCT spokeswoman Susan Wood said. “Council members, mayors, managers and other department heads from 123 of Utah’s 248 cities and towns attended. Former FEMA Administrator Brock Long was our keynote speaker. We had educational workshops about wildfire management, emergency resources and crisis communication.”
“I am on our city public safety committee, and I thought the emergency management information was very helpful,” Armstrong said. “As a city, we have emergency response funds put away. But, I think we also need an agreement, with cities around us, pledging to assist one another in a disaster.”
Armstrong also agrees with Gasu: A more concerted effort needs to be made to encourage Taylorsville residents to undergo certified emergency response training.
“The city has done it before, but that was 20 years ago,” Armstrong said.
Mayor Kristie Overson said these are important sessions she has never missed since becoming an elected official.
“I have attended every (ULCT midyear conference), since first being elected to the city council (in 2012),” Overson said. “It’s helpful to me because I get to meet with elected officials from cities similar to Taylorsville (in population and key issues). I think the most interesting thing during this year’s conference was a review of the state legislative session and how new laws may effect cities.”
Overson was also pleased to hear lawmakers are continuing to grapple with how best to enact tax reform in our state.
“I think there needs to be a change,” she said. “I like the idea that they are going to take more time to explore options.”
In addition to its annual midyear conference in St. George, the ULCT also hosts its primary annual convention each fall in Salt Lake. This year’s event will be Sept. 11–13.