ALBION — Newly appointed Albion Mayor Isaac Loveland is working to heal a community division that erupted during last year’s mayor recall election — and he plans to forge ahead to secure grants to help the town upgrade its infrastructure.
“My goal is to get more involved and form better communication with the residents and the city,” Loveland said. “I really want to bridge that gap. It was really sad to see everyone so divided like that. Everyone has the right to have a discussion but it has to be done in a professional manner.”
Loveland, who was the city council president, was originally appointed to the council and served three years of an elected four-year-term before he was appointed to the office of mayor on Nov. 13, after former mayor Sharon Wilmot lost her seat with a 70 to 46 vote.
Citizens in the town, population 269, began filing the petitions last spring for the election, claiming the mayor did not have the knowledge to run the city adequately or fairly, abused the mayor’s office and utility bills, increased the council’s salary, and bullied or belittled people at meetings. The complaints also noted a city maintenance employee resigned and the city no longer had a full-time maintenance person.
“It got heated and in my opinion it went too far,” Loveland said.
As the executive branch of the government, the mayor supervises employees, breaks council tie votes and serves as the figurehead for the city.
The council does not set electric rates or the council’s salary.
Albion Clerk Mary Yeaman said things at the office have really “settled down.”
“We were having a lot of people coming in all the time and yelling,” Yeaman said.
Under the law, the council had the option of either appointing the council president to serve as mayor or appointing someone else in the community.
Dallan Carlson was appointed to fill the remaining year on Loveland’s council term.
With only 150 registered voters, the town sometimes struggles to find people willing to take on such civic duties, which are part-time positions.
The mayor’s office pays $500 per month and a council seat $300.
“We want people who are willing to help but we have to compensate them for their time,” Loveland said.
Immediately after he was appointed, he held his breath, concerned the discontent would continue.
“I was worried they would just throw the next guy on the fire,” Loveland said. “But that hasn’t been the case. Everything is really going well and I have received a favorable reception.”
Infrastructure in need of repair
Albion’s future looks bright. The town just paid off water and sewer bonds and is in good shape financially, Loveland said.
“The city is debt free,” he said.
Although it is in good financial shape, some of the town’s infrastructure needs repairs, including the roads and the sewer system, which are difficult to fund with $27,000 in yearly tax revenues, Loveland said.
“If we don’t start doing some of it we’re going to be in trouble,” he said.
Loveland intends to pursue grant funds for road repairs along with putting in a dump station and maybe an RV park eventually.
Because the city can only afford to pave small sections of road at a time, it can be difficult to get contractors to take on the projects.
“I really think Albion is in a transition phase,” he said.
There are about a half dozen new homes being built in town and in the Albion Valley. It’s not many, but percentage wise it’s a considerable increase.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I think it has changed more in the last five or 10 years than in the last 50,” he said. “It’s a balancing act with the old and the new. We kind of have a foot in both worlds.”
The city needs a clear vision of where it wants to go in the future, he said, but what that looks like is hard to nail down.
“Most people move here because it’s not the big city. They want to have that cow,” Loveland said.
In fact, after some residents complained about a flock of wild turkeys that made the town its year-round home, a petition was circulated calling for removal of the birds.
“It came back 59 to six in favor of the turkeys staying,” Loveland said.
Albion also has resident deer.
Loveland, whose grandfather Glen Loveland was Heyburn’s mayor in the 1990s and great grandfather Chester Loveland was the first Brigham City, Utah, mayor in the 1860s, said he hasn’t decided whether he will run for the office when it opens next fall.