SALT LAKE CITY – Voters in a tiny Utah town have struck down a measure that would have dissolved their town government, rejecting a proposal that some said would have led to annexation by a nearby polygamist community.
Preliminary results showed Apple Valley residents voting 167 to 115 against disbanding the town government, town clerk Nathan Bronemann said Tuesday night.
Apple Valley became a town in 2004, and some residents said officials haven't adequately provided basic services.
"We're not anti-government. We're anti-Apple Valley government," resident Debi Groves said Tuesday, adding that she had little faith in town leaders. "It's an oligarchy. You cannot break into it."
Groves discounted fears that neighboring Hildale — a town controlled by jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs — could stage a municipal takeover if Apple Valley were to abolish itself.
"They have no interest in having us in their town," Groves said. "They're neighborly and help out in emergencies, but otherwise don't want anything to do with us."
Jeff's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has amassed lands in the southern part of Apple Valley and, in theory, could petition to be annexed by Hildale. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges, but he is said to still maintain control of the FLDS border towns in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.
Hildale Mayor Philip Barlow didn't return a phone message Tuesday from the AP.
Longtime resident, Marie McGowan, said Apple Valley was organized as a town "because of fear" that polygamists could seize an opportunity to widen their municipal borders and "swallow us up."
Apple Valley Mayor Richard Moser says no resident wants that.
"There's a lot of — how do you put it nicely — stigma," Moser told The Associated Press in April.
More than 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, and of the 300 total votes, 18 provisional ballots haven't been counted, Bronemann said. The county will decide whether or not to count those votes, but those wouldn't change the outcome of the vote.
Disincorporation supporters have said that town government has failed to provide even basic services like the ability to fight house fires; Hildale provides that service for Apple Valley. They fault Apple Valley for having an unreliable water system — the town paid $2.8 million for a private water district in April to improve water service.
Apple Valley also lacks sewers; the 295 houses use septic tanks.
Residents also complain that a fussy code-enforcement officer is too eager to crack down on weeds, junk cars and "for sale" signs.
Opponents say disincorporation was pushed by a minority of fiercely independent residents who chafe under any rules, even for dog licensing.
"They never wanted a town from the beginning," Jan Quintanilla, manager of the Chevron Little Creek Station, told The Spectrum of St. George.
If Apple Valley had dissolved, it would have reverted to the jurisdiction of Washington County, which provides few municipal services. Its residents would feel pressure to contract for services or form more special service districts — or incorporate their town all over again, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox has said.
An earlier disincorporation effort failed, 185-79, six years ago.