Primary candidates pitch platforms at forums - Millard County Chronicle Progress

2022-06-15 17:13:45 By : Mr. Frank Shen

The Intermountain Power Agency and property taxes. The new Fillmore road barn and water resources.

All were prominent subjects addressed by Millard County commission candidates at last week’s primary election forums held in Delta and Fillmore 

The events were sponsored by the Chronicle Progress and Delta Area Chamber of Commerce. The events were meant to offer local voters a bird’s eye view of some of the issues at stake in the upcoming June 28 Republican primary election. 

The primary will decide the contest for one commission seat outright. Millard County, like the rest of the state, is dominated by Republican Party politics, meaning the primary election is often the most important contest during election season. 

Bridger Bolinder, Dist. 29 House Rep. candidate  Mark Huntsman, Dist. 29 House Rep. candidate

While a number of candidates spoke at the recent forums—including state Sen. Evan Vickers, the Utah Senate majority leader and new Delta-area senator, as well as two GOP candidates for the Utah House District 29 seat—the two county commission races were featured with a longer, discussion style format, allowing the candidates to address the most prominent issues facing the county. 

Longtime Utah television personality Chad Booth moderated the discussions. 

Intermountain Power Agency and its ongoing— and costly—tax dispute with the county ranked highest among topics during the conversations. 

Incumbent commissioners Evelyn Warnick and Dean Draper are each facing GOP challengers who both work full-time jobs at IPA’s Intermountain Power Plant outside Delta, Vicki Lyman and Trevor Johnson, respectively. 

Both Johnson and Lyman used the incumbents’ support of recent legislation eliminating certain statutory privileges IPA previously enjoyed to set themselves apart for voters. 

Trevor Johnson, left, and Dean Draper, right, are both running for County Commission Seat B.

Johnson, who is running against Draper, curiously admitted he thought SB2002, which was passed overwhelmingly in November during a special session, was a good piece of legislation and good for the county. 

What he took issue with was how the legislation was passed. 

“It was an excellent bill for the county. It was good. But the way it was done, I believe was, maybe, unprofessional, non-transparent to the citizens of Millard County. And not fair to a local business,” he said. 

Draper responded to the comment by noting that Johnson was attacking the “form” of the issue, but not the “substance.” 

Draper also used the opportunity to share how SB2002 came about—many residents angered by the bill had believed it originated within the county commission, when in reality it stemmed from efforts made by state Sen. Derrin Owens, who championed the legislation. 

“The work with Senate Bill 2002 came about because there was a visit to one of the senators, our senator, Sen. (Derrin) Owens, from people saying we want to correct the rural myths and legends associated with what’s happening with the power plant in Millard County,” Draper said. “That sparked a call to the county commission to find out what our side of the quote rural myths and legends were. That resulted in state code being looked at that governs that area.” 

Draper said numerous times during the forum that he believed IPP was a giant asset for the county and that it indeed changed the fortunes of the area. He also touted the transition project and the future prospect of massive energy developments one day surrounding IPP and further enhancing the county’s fortunes. 

Johnson responded to those comments by saying that commissioners did not deserve credit for any new business developments coming in thanks to IPP’s transition project. 

“None of our commissioners brought any of that in. These businesses coming in, it has not been brought in by our commissioners. If it wasn’t for IPA, none of this would come in. And they have been sandbagging IPA for two or three months, years, saying how bad they are,” Johnson said, in perhaps the most notable attack by him on Draper during the forums. 

But Johnson also raised some eyebrows with some of his responses to other questions related to IPA and IPP. 

For example, during the Delta forum the political newcomer was asked if he would recuse himself from any commission decisions related to IPA or IPP if he won Draper’s seat. 

He said he would not. 

“No, I will not. I’m going to be honest and fair. If I’m going to do it for the county, I’m going to do it for the county,” he said. 

In another curious statement Johnson said he would take IPA to court in order to resolve the county’s tax dispute with the agency should he win election. But the county is already in District Court, still fighting over IPA’s 2014 Utah Tax Commission assessment. 

“I’m not afraid of IPA. I’m the lowest man on the totem pole out there. In two years I may not have a job out there,” he said. “I have no direct ties to IPA…to do things for IPA is nonsense, I am here for the county.” 

The subject also figured prominently in the discussions between incumbent Warnick and her challenger Lyman. 

In fact, Lyman said part of the reason she decided to run for commissioner was because of what she thought was misinformation communicated by commissioners regarding IPA and the legislation that targeted it this past year. 

“Either our commissioners didn’t know some of the things that they needed to know, or they knew them and they wouldn’t say anything,” she said, referring by way of example to a January town hall meeting in Delta hosted by Owens and another legislator that in many ways devolved into a dispute over water. “I decided, you know what, I am going to get involved.” 

Warnick mainly stayed above the fray when it came to IPA. 

She said during the discussion that before she supported any of the legislation passed over the past eight months she conferred with the county attorney’s office, concerned about the impact the numerous bills could have on IPP’s transition project. 

Warnick was most forceful in attempting to tell voters that she was committed to spending “100-percent” of her time on county issues, seeming to suggest her opponent couldn’t do the same given her other job. 

“I don’t have another employer,” Warnick said at one point. 

If Lyman showed any defensiveness at all it was over concerns regarding whether she could dedicate the time needed to do the work of commissioner and still work for IPP. 

Lyman made a point multiple times to explain that she has a “very flexible work schedule” and can set her hours in order to accommodate county business, she said. 

“My boss out there said that if I need to make calls or receive calls, I’m good to do that. Whatever I need to do. They are willing to work with me,” she said. 

As far as making decisions involving IPA, Lyman said she understood she was representing the county first. 

“I am very honest and I will do what’s right for Millard County,” she said. “I am not representing the power plant. I am representing the county and will do what’s right for Millard County.” 

Vicki Lyman, left, and Evelyn Warnick, right, are both candidates for County Commission Seat A.


Beyond the questions about IPA, one subject that also hung in the air throughout both discussions was the Fillmore road barn, a new building near completion that caused some consternation and a policy change after cost overruns related to the structure’s roofing. 

Johnson said he understood the need for the road barn, but wasn’t sure why the county decided to switch from a cheaper metal building to a costlier brick structure. 

“I don’t think we needed a brick building. We could have sufficed with a metal one,” Johnson said, adding that the west side’s road barn is a metal building that has been in place “a long, long time.” 

“To spend as much as we did, I think was a little bit of a mistake, especially where we are worried about our tax income right now. Maybe we should have held off on it a little longer,” he said. 

Draper seemed repeatedly perplexed why the road barn was a campaign issue at all—he noted the project got unanimous votes multiple times from commissioners, that the spending was spread over multiple years, and that funding the project came not from property taxes, but from Class B road monies and landfill fees. 

“People are trying to campaign on the road barn. I don’t know why anybody begrudges the road maintenance people having a safe environment to work in and a marvelous building that would cost five to six times as much to build now. That was necessary,” he said. 

Draper illustrated his point further at the Delta forum by asking the audience how many people ever milk cows. He asked whether that was a fun chore when temperatures fall below freezing. 

“Well, it’s no fun repairing a snow plow at 20 below, when you can’t move it inside to be taken care of. That (the new road barn) was a good investment for Millard County,” he said. 

Lyman also brought up the road barn as being an example of unnecessary spending. But Warnick seemed to have moved on from the subject, merely noting that a legal opinion obtained from the county attorney noted nothing malfeasant whatsoever about the project or its funding. 

Both challengers and incumbents addressed other issues, from economic development to volunteerism to their personal histories and backgrounds. 

The conversations were mostly cordial with few exceptions. 

If there were odd moments, among the challengers they included Johnson becoming near-instantly emotional when the subject of veterans came up during the Fillmore forum. For Lyman, it was her closing statement in Fillmore, when she seemed to attack Draper, who she would inevitably work closely with if she won her election and he his. 

Lyman actually praised Warnick during both forums, calling her a friend regardless of the election’s outcome. But during the second forum, Lyman suggested Warnick was too nice a person. 

“Evelyn is a great person. She is so friendly to everybody. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like her…But that might be a downfall in situations,” she said, before offering some barbed comments about Draper. “There seems like there is one county commissioner who kind of dominates everything. And I think it has happened in the past. I think it still happens. He can be very convincing. There needs to be somebody who challenges him.” 

Both incumbents, as would be expected, were more polished and prepared, having served for a number of years already— Draper seven and Warnick three. 

Draper at times was almost professorial in his answers to questions, with Johnson at one point acknowledging Draper’s command of the material being discussed. 

Warnick played it mostly safe during the discussions. In one revealing moment she explained why she wanted to continue in her role. She said she originally went into the job of commissioner with one idea only to find out it was much different, more complex than she thought. She said she felt after three years she was more confident and better prepared to help steer the county toward a better future. 

Videos from the Delta discussions can be accessed through the Chronicle Progress via Facebook and YouTube. Audio issues with the videos taken of the Fillmore discussions make them difficult to watch; those will not be posted online. Nonetheless, interested voters who would like a copy of the discussions filmed in Fillmore can still request a copy through the newspaper. 

The primary election will decide Lyman and Warnick’s race. The winner of Draper and Johnson’s primary contest will face third-party challenger Jonathan Munoz, a United Utah candidate, in the November general election. 

Ballots are set to be mailed out by the county clerk’s office 21 days before the election. 

Registered Republicans—the primary is closed to any other affiliations—who don’t receive their ballots by June 14 are urged to contact the clerk’s office at 435-743-6223 or 435-864-2440. 

Local News, Weather, Events & More! Read the news online & stay up-to-date with the latest from our Utah community.

Address: 40 N 300 W, Delta, UT 84624