FAIRVIEW—Standing next to Walker’s service station, U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens of the 4th Congressional District addressed a small turnout of constituents as part of a visit to Mt. Pleasant and its surrounding communities last Friday.
Mayor Brad Welch and other Fairview officials greeted Owens, as well as representatives from businesses, as he reported on his activities as the county’s representative in Congress.
Owens conveyed optimism about the upcoming general election. “I think Republicans are well-positioned to take back the House,” he said. While GOP candidates only need to take five seats to regain control, he believes the party will actually take between 30 and 35 seats, which would give Republicans a historic majority.
Owens conducted the meeting next to the Walker’s sign showing the current gas prices, which were around $4.40 per gallon at the time. It seemed to foreshadow a discussion about Utah’s fuel prices, which are holding steady in the $4-$5 range, while many other parts of the country are down below $4.
That topic never really came up, as several telecommunications workers attended the meeting, which prompted many questions about America’s communications infrastructure.
Welch, who is also the chief operating officer of CentraCom Interactive in Fairview, said that during COVID, children were forced out of schools and onto the internet. “We didn’t have a problem with service availability,” Welch said. “We have coverage to nearly every address in the country. What we had a problem with was affordability. Many people just plain couldn’t afford internet service.”
He said the company ended up giving away dozens of free subscriptions just so children in power households could go to school.
Welch explained that CentraCom’s prices on the telephone side of its business are set by the federal government, not the company, and wondered what could be done to give the company more control to deal with services during extraordinary circumstances such aS the COVID pandemic?
Owens put the blame for the issue entirely on “the left,” saying that most of the problems stem from the fact that “the left” wants absolute control over absolutely everything.
“One thing you have to understand,” Owens said, “is that the left is the enemy of business and the only tool they have to control business is power. That’s why you see such nonsensical stuff being pulled. It’s not about business or making sense, it’s about their power and how they can hang on to it.”
Owens agreed with Welch that there needs to be more flexibility in the system that can account for some of the extraordinary circumstances. He said that the country will be able to work toward just that after the election.
There was considerable discussion about education. Owens said he is in favor of having education dollars follow the student, no matter which school the child attends.
Lynne Yocom, director of UDOT’s fiber optic facilities, who is also a teacher, disputed the idea. She said she thought Utah’s teachers did an extraordinary job of shepherding children through the pandemic. She thought that having the money follow the child would lead to inequalities in education.
“If all the good students leave what do you do with the marginal students who are left behind,” she questioned.
Owens said that studies have shown that when the child gets school choice, the entire school system benefits.
From Fairview, Owens traveled to Mt. Pleasant to visit Skyline Pharmacy, where he talked with pharmacist David Blackham about prescription drug prices.
Blackham said the biggest problem independent pharmacies have is dealing with the benefits-management companies who act as middle men between drug manufacturers and the pharmacy. He said the middle-man companies get the bulk of the money from each perspiration sale.
He also said many times doctors done understand the drugs they are prescribing and won’t listen to the pharmacist when their error is caught.
Owens said that he believes the next congress will have a much better atmosphere in which to deal with such problems. From the pharmacy, Owens traveled down the street to a luncheon with county commissioners and Mt. Pleasant Mayor Mike Olsen at Coffee Depot, the restored train station-turned restaurant near the entrance to the city.
After lunch, Owens visited the Track 89 Hotel, located next to the Mt. Pleasant City Park, where railroad cars have been remodeled into hotel rooms. He also visited the newly unveiled Chief Arapeen statue, located nearby.
Owens then traveled to the Jorgensen and Mickel sheep operations to discuss issues facing agriculture.
The next visit was to Terrel’s Grocery store in Mt. Pleasant where Scott Hymas, chief executive officer of the Terrel’s chain of four grocery stores, along with several customers, talked about the challenges of high food costs. Owens concluded his visit at Mt. Pleasant City Hall where he was briefed on the accomplishments of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area.
Currently, Owens represents the north part of the county only. But because of redistricting, if he is elected, he will represent the whole county beginning in 2023.
He promised to visit Sanpete often during his campaign. “I truly appreciate the strong support people in Sanpete County have shown me,” he said.