Deep Roots Harvest, Mesquite’s only production and retail marijuana business, received city council approval to build a greenhouse grow facility between the two buildings it now uses. A hallway through the greenhouse connecting the existing buildings will meet state requirements and allow Deep Roots to move its dispensary from its existing location in the north building to the south building providing a bigger retail space and better entrance as shown in the photo below.
In a strongly worded opposition, Mesquite City Councilman Brian Wursten was the lone dissent when the council introduced a resolution to remove a residency requirement for city employees at its meeting March 26.
While just an introduction with a formal vote on its adoption set for April 9, all the council members weighed in on their intentions regarding its passage.
The city council passed a resolution in 2013 that requires all city employees and managers to “maintain a principal place of residence within a fifteen (15) mile radius of the city of Mesquite. Such residency shall be, without exception, full time.”
At the time, some first responders within the police and fire departments did not live in Mesquite but rather in St. George, Utah, or the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The council said all employees, especially police and fire, should reside within close proximity of the city in case of emergencies and because they should live where they are employed.
According to City Attorney Robert Sweetin, the change is being made in conjunction with current bargaining sessions with employee unions. “It looks like there has been a move away from residency with some of our bargaining units,” he said. “It allows for more broader bargaining with the unions by council. It doesn’t mean the residency requirement will necessarily go away. It can still be bargained for, but this bill removes the ordinance that requires residency.”
It’s not clear if the residency removal will apply to managers, which has been a source of contention in the past.
Opening up the discussion, Wursten said “I am really against this. I think we’re making a big mistake. Deciding to ship city jobs outside the city and the resources that go along with it to St. George and other areas is wrong. We’ve had the safest city while this requirement has been in place.
‘I have a really hard time with the idea of allowing us, the city council, to give city jobs to people outside of this city. I think it’s a big mistake and I am way against doing that. Those who live in the city have a bigger stake in the city. It doesn’t send a very good message for us to send jobs outside because we think our people are not up to the job.”
After saying she agreed with everything Wursten had said, Councilwoman Annie Black added that she strongly supports removing the residency requirement. She said that while she would love for “Mesquite to be a breeding ground” for qualified employees in primarily the police and fire departments, “unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. We have a very low number of people who test and very few people make it through the process. I’ve heard the arguments in favor of keeping the residency – loyalty to our community, keeping tax money local, and being prepared in case of emergency.
“Taking all of those arguments into account, there are also arguments working against residency. The requirement has not been strictly enforced except in the case of new recruits. That has prevented us from getting qualified applicants. Our community is best served when our appointing authority can choose from a large pool of qualified candidates. Our community is unique because it extends beyond our boundaries. Generally, when employees are given a choice to live elsewhere, they will choose to live near their place of employment.”
She suggested that perhaps the city could offer those employees who choose to live in Mesquite a “hometown bonus.”
Black also explained that some police officers feel threatened of themselves and their families by living in the same small community as those people they may have arrested or supervised in the local jail.
“I also believe that lifting the residency requirement will somewhat relieve the good ol’ boy network. At the most fundamental level, I disagree with the government telling you where you have to live,” Black said.
The only remaining council member from the 2013 passage is Councilman George Rapson, who said that while he fully agreed with the requirement back then, he has since changed his mind.
“I was a strong advocate of the residency requirement in the past years. After discussing this with the police and fire chiefs, I’ve changed my mind for many of the reasons that Ms. Black iterated. Pros [of removing the requirement] outweigh the cons.”
Rapson said that someone living 40 miles away would obviously have a slower reaction time than those who live in Mesquite. “That was one of my principle arguments back then. However, public safety is also best served by having the most qualified individual you can get for the position.
“We have had some issues recruiting qualified people. I’m not saying the employees we have are not qualified. But the applicants we get are not necessarily qualified. That changes the dynamics of the selection process.”
Rapson said that of those who were either grandfathered in or received a waiver to the residency requirement and live elsewhere have not affected the ability of the police and fire departments to respond to emergencies. “Until it does, that’s simply a theory.”
He added that the ability to recruit a “lateral” hire from outside the city in either police or fire services who is already trained and qualified would save the city money. Currently, when the city hires a new recruit in either department it often takes a year or more of school and on-the-job training before the employee can be fully utilized. The city must pay the full salary of the trainee during that time.
“If we get a lateral transfer from either St. George or Las Vegas, they’re trained, qualified, capable, and ready to rock,” Rapson said. “That saves a year and a half of training time. You cannot keep drawing from the same gene pool and get quality help at the end of the day. I have to support this which is contrary to where I’ve been for the last six years.”
The introduction of the resolution was approved on a 4-1 vote with Wursten being the only no vote.