From Village to Modern City
LaVerkin graduated from being a mere ward of Washington County known as the LaVerkin Precinct to incorporation as “LaVerkin Town” in 1927. The petition for incorporation dated November 14, 1927 specified boundaries that includes all, or parts of four survey sections, with the middle of the Virgin River channel constituting the southern boundary. It stated that there were upwards of two hundred people in the community, as required by law; that the number of names in the official precinct Register in LaVerkin was seventy-four, and that the majority of tax payers and electors had signed the petition. Officers of the new town were named as Henry Gubler, President, Board of Trustees; John A Judd, Joseph Edward Gubler, George L. Hinton, and LaVerna Graff as Board members.
The term “town president” was used at first; “mayor” came into use later. All the mayors who have served are listed below. Some dates cannot be verified.
Henry Gubler 1927 - 1935
Edward Gubler 1936 - 1943
Moroni Sanders 1944 - 1952
Jack Eves 1952 - 1954
Loren Squire 1955 - 1962
Vernon Church 1963 - 1970
Max Richins 1971 - 1972
Wayne Jones 1972 - 1974 (Completed Max Richins’ term)
Carl Davis 1974 - 1975 (Served fourteen months, resigned)
Reed Wilson 1975 - 1975
(Served eight months of Davis’ term)
Moroni Sanders 1976 - 1977
(Completed Davis’ term)
Rolfe Griffiths 1978 - Sept.,1982 (Resigned)
Jack Hallahan 1982 - 1985
Donworth Gubler 1986 - July, 1987 (Resigned)
Terry West Aug.1987 - 1990
Kerry Gubler 1990 - 1993
Raymond Eves 1994 - 1997
Douglas Wilson 1998- March 2000 (Resigned to become city manager)
Dan Howard 2000-
A record book in the Mayor’s office contains minutes of each Board meeting from November 1927 to November 14, 1949. The meetings, with one or two exceptions, were held in the President’s home. A recurring theme from these records is that of culinary water.
Actions were taken to obtain additional water from Toquerville, to repair or replace wood pipe, to extend water lines, to raise bond money to pay for pipes, and to fix consumer rates.
Concern about a school begins to show up about 1940. All LaVerkin students were being bused to Hurricane from 1937 on, and there was a strong desire to have the younger children attend school at home.
The Great Depression is hinted at by proposals to utilize Depression Era, Federal PWA funds for such projects as putting a ditch around the playing field.
In the December 1927 meeting, John Judd was elected Secretary and Treasurer. Joseph Gubler was elected as town constable; Loren D. Squire as Justice of the Peace and Mary A. Gubler was appointed as health officer at the May 17, 1928 meeting. Constabulary duties didn’t suit Joseph, and in June, Arthur Woodbury was appointed in his stead.
City taxes had their birth during the June 1928 meeting. Salaries for city servants were instituted in December. The president and clerk were to recrive fifty dollars a year. Trustees were allotted fifteen dollars a year, with a dollar deducted any time a meeting was missed.
Sometime in the 1920's, silent movies began being shown every Saturday at the church building. In June 1929, a movie license fee of fifty cents per month was invoked.
A pound, or jail, for stray livestock was also authorized, with Joseph Gubler as pound keeper. Retrieving an animal cost the owner fifty cents, half going to Joseph, and half to the city.
The problem of licensing beer sales was confronted in 1948.
Dogs got their due the same year. Dog taxes were assessed as follows: male dog, three dollars; “Female dog which has been operated upon and had the sex organs removed”, three dollars; other female dogs, ten dollars. The town marshall was directed to enforce the law. He was to keep one dollar for each dog that was taxed. Punishment for ignoring the law would provoke a fine of not less than ten dollars, and not more than twenty-five. An alternative punishment was “imprisonment at hard labor, one day for each two dollars assessed”. Fifty-nine dollars in dog license fees were collected in 1949, making them a far better source of revenue than merchant license fees which yielded just twenty dollars.
Board meeting records were consistently kept, but records for the years 1950 through 1981 are missing. They were damaged by water from a broken pipe and were apparently sent to the dump. Information from meeting minutes beginning in 1982 will be presented in a later section.
Utah’s centennial year, 1947, was observed with enthusiasm all over Utah, and no less so in LaVerkin. Alice Gubler was appointed chairman of the LaVerkin Town Centennial Committee at the December 19, 1946, board meeting. She intended to exert aggressive leadership and accepted the job only after board members assured her of their full backing.
Many beautification and commemorative activities were planned and carried out. One surefire way to motivate attendance at these was to have homemade ice cream and soda crackers as the payoff. Two of the actions were controversial at the time. One had to do with the Lombardy and Carolina poplar trees that had been planted along ditch banks and around public squares in all the local towns. In addition to shade, they created an atmosphere of peace and beauty that has rarely been duplicated. By 1947 though, the trees around the square had become old and unsightly, and Alice declared that they had to go. When she so informed the town Board, Reed Wilson warned, “Nobody’s going to like you.” That didn’t stop Alice of course and the big day came when the reluctant demolition crew got ready to eliminate the nineteen trees on the playing field’s perimeter. The grumbling stopped when the first tree fell. Only the outer layers contained healthy wood; the entire core was rotten. People sitting under them might have been killed if a strong wind had come up. The remaining trees were quickly dispatched, the wood cut up for fuel, and the branches hauled away for burning.
The second controversial action had nothing to do with Utah’s Centennial, but was a good idea. As indicated earlier, various of the original country lanes were closed when the town was new, to gain ground for cultivation. After the new bridge and highway were opened up in 1936, the town’s center of gravity suddenly shifted to the west and the closed lanes now needed to be opened. Since there was no street, when people who lived, near the white chapel wanted to visit Bishop Vernon Church, they would hike across private property to do so. Alice, who lived in the line of fire, noticed that some weren’t averse to dallying in her watermelon patch on their way through. When she announced the plan to open a street, the board president scoffed that the only one who would profit from the new road would be Alice herself. That didn’t stop Alice, of course. Neighboring property owners generously donated land and First South was born. It wasn’t long until clouds of dust engulfed Alice’s home; the board president’s truck drivers had discovered First South to be the ideal access route to his turkey sheds.
LaVerkin had grown to approximately 1,200 people by 1980, and was LaVerkin was eligible to move from a Class II to a Class I city. There are financial advantages to being a first class city and Rolfe Griffiths became both the last mayor of the old designation and the first mayor of the new.
Some of the recollected developments in the city are given randomly below:
Probably the first major section of concrete sidewalk was installed along Main Street in 1953.
A radiation-proof housing development was started, and aborted, in the early 1980’s. A February 1981 Wall Street Journal article stated that as protection against impending Russian missile strikes, 266 windowless residences, buried under eight inches of reinforced concrete, and three and one-half feet of earth were to be built. One home and an administration building were completed before funds ran out. (Or did sanity set in?) A conventional home was later built on top of the underground house and the administration building eventually became part of Cross Creek Manor.
Planning, upgrading and paying for a functional culinary water system occupied almost every administration. Finally a million-gallon tank that currently serves the city was constructed. A standpipe had been installed along the main water line north of town some years earlier, for ease of filling water trucks used in the construction process. As time went on, stockmen from the Arizona Strip and elsewhere, found it a convenient place to fill their tanks. Mayor Max Richins became wroth when apprised of this practice at a board meeting. The next day he went out himself and capped it off. No eyebrows were raised at seeing the mayor in the mud. Regardless of the emergency, the mayor and board members typically jumped in and got the job done.
LaVerkin’s cemetery, like those of its neighbors, had no provision for irrigated lawns. For years, only desert plants grew there. In true LaVerkin fashion though, practically the entire population came out and cleared weeds twice a year, once just prior to Memorial Day.
It was quite common in the early days and through The Depression to just use a wooden grave marker. But when Burt Pace became sexton, he was able to make an accurate accounting of all the gravesites, but his work was nearly wrecked by the computer age. The city manager wanted all such data transferred to the computer. After going through the agony of lost, or mangled, computer files and one re-burial, the system eventually became operational. Finally, after an irrigation system was installed and lawn was planted, the cemetery became fully modern.
Burt also headed the first planning and zoning commission in the early 1970’s. They had little to go on. At that time, no one foresaw that businesses would line the highway and that the population center would shift from along Main Street to west of the highway.
The LDS Church originally owned the Square, or playing field, but deeded it to the city in 1986.
Sometime along in the sixties, the city acquired a laundromat and converted it into a city office. For some reason, citizens found board meetings interesting at this time. The little room could only accommodate a small audience, and it wasn’t unusual for groups of people to be clustered about the open windows.
One of the greatest blows to LaVerkin’s status as a chummy little village, came with the advent of street names and house numbers. Many residents didn’t want them, but the telephone and power companies kept insisting. At first, a favorite late-night youth activity was to steal the signs, but by the late seventies everybody had an official address.
The Modern City
Unofficial census data for 1996 indicates LaVerkin’s population as being 3,000. The city had made startling growth from the period twenty years earlier, when just one LDS ward sufficed. Why did such dramatic growth take place? When LaVerkin’s growth is compared with that of Washington County as a whole, similar patterns emerge. By exploring the causes for the County’s growth, we may get insights into that of LaVerkin’s.
The following are population figures for both entities:
Year LaVerkin Washington County
1930 --- 296 --- 7,420
1940 --- 349 --- 9,269
1950 --- 387 --- 9,836
1960 --- 360 --- 10,271
1970 --- 463 --- 14,000
1980 --- 1,174 --- 26,065
1990 --- 1,740 --- 48,560
1996 --- 3,000 --- 73,161
In A History of Washington County, Alder and Brooks advance a number of reasons to explain the County’s explosive growth that began about 1970. Two natural conditions having the potential for attracting settlement are warm climate and beautiful scenery. By 1970, air conditioning had become common enough in Dixie’s homes and buildings that the climate’s warmth beckoned rather than repelled as it had previously done.
In the mid 1960’s, St. George businessmen had established their city as a winter Mecca by developing the first of the area’s many golf courses. Completion of the freeway, removed the travel bottlenecks imposed by the Black Ridge to the north and the Utah Hill heading south. The way was now opened for greater tourist travel into the area and for the establishment of more kinds of businesses. Also, there are many thousands of at least modestly, affluent retirees who can live where they choose; retirees seek the sun.
As the census data above indicates, both LaVerkin City and Washington County had approximately ten times the population in 1996 as they did in 1930. Lacking golf courses and motels, LaVerkin is not a tourist destination point, nor is it positioned to directly profit from freeway traffic. However, freeways do funnel in a steady flow of traffic headed for the parks. LaVerkin offers the same climate and scenic attractions as the rest of the county. The highways and the freeway provide easy access to Cedar City, Hurricane, St. George, or to parks and recreational facilities. Land costs and startup fees are an additional factor in growth. Building lots have been somewhat less expensive in LaVerkin than in Hurricane or Toquerville. Building codes here are just as stringent as in other parts of the County, but impact fees are lower, and there appears to be less bureaucratic interference.
The efforts of mayors and councilmen, struggling to provide necessary community services on extremely limited budgets, make up much of LaVerkin’s recent history. It is tedious, mostly thankless work, with frequent censure for events beyond their control, and infrequent thanks for projects completed. City revenues are meager, coming primarily from water fees.
The city once had the opportunity to own its own electrical system. It would have meant floating some bonds; but in the long run, as Washington City has learned, it would have been an excellent revenue source. If residents could have foreseen future growth, there is no doubt, they would have supported the measure. Note that between 1940 and 1960 the population increased by just eleven people. Prudence seemed to dictate that the city avoid further indebtedness.
Fire and police protection have been recurring problems that needed far more money than was available. Fire control has been a joint effort with Hurricane. Policing has been a more difficult problem. Cooperative plans, with both Hurricane and the County, have been tried, but none were fully satisfactory.
City Council meeting minutes available from 1981 to the present indicate the kinds of problems being faced. Themes that consistently reoccur are police and fire protection, culinary water problems, irrigation water problems, and non-compliance with city ordinances by homeowners or businesses. The minutes do not contain the resolutions, ordinances, et cetera that were finally passed, making it necessary to utilize other sources for information regarding major council decisions. A few highlights and sometimes whimsical tidbits are presented below that give insight into the kind of activities or problems taking place in the community. For example, the very first item indicates that drugs were now part of the LaVerkin crime scene.
The Council refused to pay for a homeowner’s door smashed in during a drug bust.
Plans for the elementary school, that opened in 1983, were announced.
Mention was made that no work had been done for over a year on the underground housing development. (Just one unit was ever completed)
Report of a policeman being accused of using unspecified naughty language.
Wayne Wilson advised that the Council consider putting in a pressurized irrigation system.
Pros and cons of LaVerkin owning its own electrical power system were discussed.
The L.D.S. Church gave the ballpark property to the City with the stipulation that it will be available for Church activities one night a week.
The Cross Creek Manor began operation with facilities for twenty-four girls.
Chums began manufacturing its products in LaVerkin.
The pressurized irrigation system was installed
Permit granted for Cross Creek Manor to utilize the Plaza building at 591 North State and to allow expansion of the school from twenty-four to forty girls.
There were frequent verbal attacks on the mayor by one of the citizens.
Changes in the mayor-council relationship were discussed that would give the mayor veto power that could be over-ridden by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. At one point the mayor stated, “It’s useless to pay the mayor four thousand dollars a year just to kiss babies and attend functions.” (The Mayor-Council-City Manager system was maintained. The mayor votes only in case of a tie.)
References were made to a lawsuit the mayor was bringing against the citizen who had been verbally attacking him.
Use permit was granted for the new post office located at 25 N. State.
LaVerkin combined with Hurricane and Virgin for Fourth of July evening festivities.
Debate continued over the need for a police force stationed in LaVerkin.
For Christmas, a new Santa suit used the entire budget. Council members each donated a case of oranges for the Christmas Eve program.
Possibility of buying the White Chapel from the LDS Church was discussed.
Conflicts in boundary lines between LaVerkin and Toquerville were discussed.
Cemetery beautification; the addition of sprinkler systems was reported.
LaVerkin’s seed display won “Most Attractive County Booth” at the State Fair.
High rating received in study of most efficient city governments.
LaVerkin Centennial celebrated November 23. (1891 was when water first came onto the land) A video was produced and Lolene Gifford, daughter of Alice Stratton, wrote the official song: “LaVerkin, LaVerkin My Own Desert Home”
There appeared to be a strong upsurge in the number of business license requests. There was also far more discussion of issues relating to subdivisions.
Prayer at council meetings has come under fire from the ACLU, the aggressive defender of free speech.
Strong community opposition was expressed to closing the old Virgin River Bridge to all traffic as Ken Anderson proposed to do. (It is currently closed)
Road improvements and dust abatement on existing dirt roads was discussed. There was never sufficient money to fully address any of these problems.
White Chapel was acquired by the City.
The new post office opened.
Annexation of all land east of LaVerkin extending to Virgin City’s boundaries was discussed late in 1993. It is now finalized.
LaVerkin was identified as the fastest growing municipality in the County.
There was considerable discussion about waste disposal problems.
Long-range planning--- how LaVerkin will look in a hundred years.
Boundary problems with Toquerville were resolved. The LaVerkin Creek forms the boundary where ever applicable.
Many issues concerning subdivisions were addressed.
Building regulations were modified and clarified.
Many items concerning subdivisions, and business license request were handled.
Drug Free Zone established. (Penalties for illegal drug use are doubled)
Procedures for fostering water conservation were discussed.
Potbellied pigs were designated as agricultural animals, not pets.
Possible need for buying additional culinary water from the Washington County Conservancy District was discussed.
Irrigation water lines, avoiding the loss of irrigation water allotment, Police protection, and road upgrading were frequent items.
Question of what to do with a piano donated to the City by the Ervil Sanders family. (It was eventually sold and the money given to Mrs. Sanders)
Two acres north of City Park were purchased for $110,000.00.
A citizen complained bitterly because her dog was killed just because it attacked and bit the animal control officer. Speaking of dogs, a comparison of two sets of figures, one from 1949 the other from 1998, dramatically illustrate the growth that LaVerkin had experienced. Dog license revenue grew from $59.00 to a respectable $2,250.00. Business licenses revenue, though, leaped from just $20.00 to an astounding $9,800.00!
Reading through Council minutes is tedious, but one develops a profound respect for the public servants who have served LaVerkin for so little recompense and so little thanks. Some City services that have evolved through Council decisions are following: police protection is provided by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. One deputy resides in LaVerkin and is primarily assigned to deal with local problems. The Hurricane Fire Department currently receives $2,333.00 per month to provide fire protection. A fire truck is maintained in LaVerkin and LaVerkin citizens serve as volunteer firefighters. Washington City’s animal pound is utilized and LaVerkin has an animal control officer.
Installation of a pressurized irrigation system took place in 1987. Prior to that, irrigation water flowed through surface canals and ditches, in which at least two children lost their lives. Wayne Wilson had proposed a pressurized system ten years earlier but it wasn’t until the Quail Creek Project was completed that adequate support for piped water was gained. LaVerkin had a larger allotment of secondary or irrigation water than it could ever use. Because of ever increasing demands on available water, it was just a question of time until the surplus water would be taken away.
Fortunately, the Washington County Water Conservancy District needed all the water it could get. The LaVerkin Bench Canal Company was able to trade some of its surplus to the District in exchange for piping water up from the main pipe; and to sell additional water for most of the approximately $450,000.00 it cost for installing the pressurized system. LaVerkin residents are therefore able to enjoy the benefits of piped-in irrigation water at lower rates than Hurricane residents pay. The Canal Company collects the hookup fee and the city collects the monthly fee. It keeps five percent and sends the rest to the Canal Company. Water is in the pipes nine months a year. Mud from summer storms is the biggest obstacle to maintaining normal flow. Filters in the main line must be changed as often as twice a day when the river is muddy.
LaVerkin’s economic base has changed in fifty years from that of farming, to a complex structure that is beyond this book’s scope to fully describe, and probably beyond the writer’s ability to comprehend. What are the sources of revenue that provide income for the city’s people? Many citizens are retired and receive pensions; others commute each day to their jobs in other communities; tourists purchase food, fuel, and shelter; and the need for new housing provides employment and generates an infusion of capital.
There are also three companies that bring significant revenue to the community:
Chums produces high quality clothing in the building that began life serving the needs of turkey growers.
Cross Creek Manor provides a residential treatment program for girls. All needs, including education, are served in the company’s two facilities. As many as 240 young women are enrolled at one time. Enrollments vary from six to eighteen months. A total of one hundred twenty people are employed, with seventy working full-time. LaVerkin’s rural setting and proximity to outdoor attractions makes it a desirable location for such a facility.
R.M. Precision Swiss, Inc. is a highly automated producer of precision metal components for various applications from hiking boots to space shuttles, bears testimony to the wondrous flexibility available to modern industry.
There are no geographical or adjacent natural resource factors in LaVerkin such as those that, say, made Utah Valley the favored site for Geneva Steel. Neither are there any reasons not to locate a precision manufacturing facility here. Along about 1986, Roy Mendoza of Boulder City, NV became involved in a LaVerkin business venture that went sour. Illustrating the adage, “If life deals you lemons, open a lemonade stand,” Mr. Mendoza rented a repossessed building that the bank was happy to let for a modest fee, and went into business for himself. Switzerland, once known for fine watches, now produces high quality machine tools, and that’s where Roy obtains his equipment. He can deliver metal components machined to two hundred millionth of an inch tolerance. Automation means a large capital investment--the company spent over four million dollars for new equipment in 1998--but it doesn’t mean loss of jobs. There were sixteen employees just a few years ago; now there are forty-three. The manufacturing section operates twenty-four hours a day, five days a week.
The foregoing examples graphically illustrate the surprising economic complexity of a small modern town. The one forecast the writer is willing to make for LaVerkin is that twenty or thirty years hence, a study of the city will yield even greater surprises.