Ephraim resident: ‘I don’t want this for the city that I live in’
Editor’s Note: Gailynne Schroeder spent her career as an accountant in California. As she was getting ready to retire, she was invited to a wedding in Utah. After touring several areas of the state, she decided to retire in Ephraim. where she now owns a home. Following is a statement she made to the Ephraim City Council prior to a council discussion of Main Street blight and citywide code enforcement.
I own a home that happens to be very close, within sight, of the rundown trailers (at about 200 North and 200 West). I’m not going to dignify it by calling it a trailer park. I have not seen anything quite as bad even on visits to Mexico. I think the shanties in Mexico are better built than those trailers.
I know personally of people who can’t sell their homes because they’re close to the trailers. I would rather have a tent city there than what we have.
Then driving to and from Ephraim and seeing the motel (at the north end of Main Street) got me thinking. Last week, I took a camera with a friend, and we went through the motel open rooms. There are mattresses in there, and bedding materials. Because the plumbing isn’t working, there are areas where people have relieved themselves. I don’t want this for the city that I live in.
A young family recently moved in to the ward I belong to. They’re renting right now and I asked, “Are you going to buy?” And they said, “Not here. We’re going to go down to Manti.” Four children, a father with a job, a nice mom—they would be a great addition to Ephraim. But they looked around and saw the way we allow our city to be blighted, one residence, one building at a time, that we haven’t done anything about, and decided they didn’t want that in their home town.
That sort of raised my hackles, so my friend and I went around and took pictures of the homes that are beginning to be blights to various neighborhoods. We saw couches and old furniture and broken down cars and doors hanging off the hinges and grass waist high. This isn’t the Ephraim that I understand was here before I came.
We have (semi-truck) trailers parked in the street and not for 24 hours or 48 hours. A year, two years, three years. They just sit there. They impede the workers who try to keep the streets clear from snow. They make the traffic lanes smaller. Frequently they are unlicensed. We also have unlicensed cars parked in front of homes with flat tires, and not from the slashing (a reference to a tire-slashing vandal who has hit Ephraim recently). They’re flat because they’ve been sitting there so long.
I couldn’t sell my home if I wanted to. Yet, I’m a little way away from the trailer park. But I’m on the west side. And there is now a stigma to living on the west side because many of the homes that have this problem, where people have four, five or six cars, and instead of finding room for them on their properties, they park them all over the street—many of those homes are on the west side. And we’re not talking about cars you’d want to own. They’re derelict vehicles that hardly run. They’re just parked on the street and left there.
I have talked with the police. They’re very much in tune to this problem, but they say unless the city decides to enforce the ordinances we have on the books, they can’t do anything. There are ordinances about having those trailers on the street for more than 24 or 48 hours. There are ordinances that say we’re not supposed to have unlicensed vehicles on the street, but we let people do it. It’s a bad image for our city.
We do all we can downtown for beautification. But if you’re a prospective resident, as you drive in to town, and as you leave town, and if you drive up and down the streets, and you see the way we’ve allowed various home owners to keep their properties, why would you want to live here? Wouldn’t you rather go up to Mt. Pleasant, which is a little nicer, or Manti, which is a lot nicer? They enforce their ordinances. And I think we could do it too.
I know it takes manpower. People always say, “Money, money, money, money.” I say, we have a lot of workers for the city who can operate heavy equipment. We also have a lot of farmers and residents who have big equipment who would be happy to volunteer their time. I bet we could have that motel down in an instant.
I’ve only been here a few years, so I’m considered a newcomer. But I have to say, if, when I was thinking of moving here, I knew about this town what I know today, I might have moved to Manti.
I want to be close to the temple, which is 7 miles, and to me, that’s close. We have a college, which is a great draw factor. We have a lovely library. We’re not too big.
We have a lot of things really going for us, except for the fact that we’re turning our city into inner-city Detroit, inner-city Chicago. This is the way those areas started. You let one or two homes in a block start looking badly, and homeowners start moving. The people who come in, because the houses are lower priced, they don’t care, they don’t keep their properties up. Or they’re renters. And some renters don’t care.
I think we can do something about this as a city. All it really takes is the initiative and a few people to get behind you guys (the city council).
Note: Following Schroeder’s statement, Mayor Richard Squire said, “It would not take long to bring (the motel) down. And you’re absolutely right. Our officers can’t do anything code-enforcement-wise without our (the city council’s) backing. But last week, the council voted to start taking a hard line on these situations to clean up our town because we realize it has gotten out of hand…So we appreciate your comments.”