Over the course of the summer, SILVER WORLD has received several letters to the editor, both pro and con, regarding the recently passed town ordinance allowing OHVs and ATVs on town and county streets and alleys.
Lake City resident Diane Salzman wrote a letter that was published in the August 18 issue of WORLD encouraging anyone wanting to express their thoughts and feelings about the issue to write to her personally so that she could gather evidence enough to champion the cause. Salzman attended the September 6 Town of Lake City board of trustees meeting to report that she had received several letters, and asked to read them to the board during the correspondence received portion of the meeting.
The meeting was attended by Mayor Bruce Vierheller, Town Manager Carolyn Mitchell and Town Clerk Jamie Turrentine, as well as trustees Jeff Heaton, Steve Ryals, Richard Moore, Jud Hollingsworth and Henry Woods. Trustee Marty Priest was absent.
Mayor Vierheller told Salzmann, “I think everyone’s read your letter [to the editor]. Did you want to add anything to that, any comments?”
Salzmann replied “These are other letters that I’d like to share with you. I asked for letters to be sent to me personally because people don’t want to sign their names to anything. I’m keeping identifying information left out of these, but I think they’re pretty important to hear.”
Trustee Woods said, “We don’t usually respond to anonymous letters.”
Salzmann began reading the first letter: “We’ve been here since 1999, though I first visited here in HS to climb the fourteeners. The ATV issue has been simmering for many years but only got heated two years ago when the Chamber of Commerce pushed the town council into the vote to help our poor businesses and grant ATV access to the entire town.
I personally spoke to many of the current trustees and compared the economic impact of seasonal resident vs ATV crowd that supports only gas and a cheeseburger economy. The difference is huge as you know but the most vocal components were the gas, ATV and cheeseburger business owners who have the ear of the trustees and the sheriff.
The silent majority was ignored. Years ago permanent and seasonal residents started to question this vision and the editorials [letters to the editor] in today’s paper were very telling. Nobody wants to prevent our local businesses from scratching out a living over a short summer season, and so we closed our ears, noses and sensibilities and looked the other way.
It finally came to the point where need to be heard and demand that the trustees and businesses make a choice. Yes, we need to vote with our wallets and withhold spending to the businesses that support the short term benefits ATVers provide while destroying the very reason most of us moved here and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, we need to legally challenge the sheriff for not upholding the state law and allowing ATVs on state highways.”
When Salzmann had finished reading, trustee Moore said, “I’m sorry, this person’s demanding that they be heard, but they’re not willing to come and speak and let us even know who they are?”
To which Salzmann replied, “They want to be heard by somebody.”
“Well then they can come and speak to us,” Moore said. Why would we listen to someone who is unwilling to come to this meeting and make themselves known?”
“Because the sheriff is not doing his job,” Salzmann replied. “You guys are supporting the sheriff not doing his job. People are not going to speak out against corrupt law authority.”
“We need to hear from the person. We want to hear them but they need to come and speak,” said Moore.
Salzmann said, “If you want to disregard all these people, you’re going to lose. You’re choosing ATVs over the people.”
“I’m not saying I’m disregarding those people,” Moore said. “I’m saying they need to come and speak.”
“Or sign their letters,” agreed trustee Woods.
Mayor Vierheller intervened, saying, “If all the letters say about the same thing, you don’t have to repeat them. But we’d like to hear a couple more. We usually give about 3 – 5 minutes per person with correspondence received, so – if you want to continue with a couple other letters, please do so.”
Salzmann agreed, and began reading a second letter: “Your letter from a Georgia resident in the August 18 Silver World [stating his visit to Lake City was disappointing because of OHVs and had swayed him not to invest in Lake City property] made me feel I wasn’t alone. Lake City has been my paradise for many years, first as a young girl with pioneer relatives living there and now as an 80-year-old with my own summer home, which has always been a dream of mine. Now I have children and grandchildren that love my paradise as I always have.
The peace, beauty and solitude that I have cherished has been taken from us. This summer I have seen and heard an unbelievable increase in the dust, noise, and devil-may-care attitude of these people bringing their OHVs and ATVs into this wonderful town. Since I have no say so in decisions made by the registered voters, I was stunned when the ordinance was voted in after being defeated three other times.
Financial gain? Let’s compare the wear and tear on our city streets and county roads to what the happy camper spends on a weekend. Can we put a price on what the present and future property owners are losing when we can no longer sit on our porches or grill in the back yard or go for a drive? Thanks for giving me a chance to speak. If there is any way this ridiculous idea can be turned around, I am so on board.”
Trustee Woods addressed Salzmann, saying, “Diane I hope you know we all appreciate you attending our meetings, but it is our policy to not respond to anonymous letters and I hope you’ll ask every one of those people to send a letter to the town and sign their name to it, please. I hope you understand.”
Hollingsworth agreed, saying, “I do know for example in the SILVER WORLD, if there is no record of who it is, they will not publish it. It needs to be signed or represented by that person.”
Trustee Ryals joined the discussion saying, “The fact of the matter remains that it was voted on by the majority of the people who are registered voters in this town. I understand you cannot please everyone, no matter how hard we try, but the letters all basically say the same thing. They don’t care what the voters said, they want [ATVs] gone. Well, the voters spoke. Our ordinance states its okay to ride within the streets and the alleys of this town. It went to a vote, if it went to a vote again and it got reversed, we would live with that. It would be unfair for the people who voted for it to yank it out from under them when its what the majority voted for. That’s not how America is supposed to work.”
“The way America is supposed to work,” Salzmann retorted, “is when you set a law or an ordinance or whatever, you’re supposed to follow it.”
“It’s going to be a moot point anyways,” said trustee Heaton, “because the state legislature is eventually going to license all these vehicles. It’s going happen. You just need to accept it. The revenues the state is going to make – they’ve been losing out for years on this. It’s going to happen eventually. I’m sorry.”
Mayor Vierheller told Salzmann that an option for her cause would be to spearhead a citizens initiative to get the issue back onto an upcoming ballot, explaining that the first step would involve gathering citizen signatures.
“If Grant [Houston, editor of SILVER WORLD] is not going to publish unsigned letters,” Vierheller said, “we can’t accept them either. All we can do is hear about it, and know there are concerned citizens out there that don’t agree with OHVs.”
“You don’t realize how many people are just going to quietly exit this town,” Salzmann said.
“We want to hear everybodys opinion,” Vierheller replied.
Trustee Woods said, “Please tell them to sign their letters and send them to us.”
Vierheller asked for one final comment before moving on, and it came from Lake City resident Roger Von Riesen. He said, “I support what Diane is saying and I think we should have another election. We had all these elections and then finally it passes and now we’re saying, oh well, we had an election. Let’s have another one. I think what Diane is doing is great.”
The Mayor and the Trustees thanked Salzmann for attending the meeting and encouraged her to return.
“That’s one of the most important things you can do,” said Moore. “Keep coming and be visible. I promise you we are listening.”