Prayers, Maughans and careful planning -- must be Wellsville
WELLSVILLE -- A woman walked into the Wellsville City Office Building with a look of confusion just before a planning and zoning meeting Jan. 23.
She was new to Wellsville and its particular flavor of small-town Americana. She also had a question about her water bill. Lee Maughan, a longtime Wellsville resident, introduced himself and explained it was too late in the day to ask about the water bill, but she was welcome to stick around for the planning and zoning meeting held every other Wednesday.
"It's one of the best planned cities in America," said Maughan when the woman said she was surprised to hear they met so often for such a small town.
Wellsville has a population of just under 3,000. It's obvious it's a small town when Maughan describes where he lives. He has an address just like most everybody else in Utah -- neatly and numerically designated on a Cartesian road plan. However, nobody seems to use numbers or addresses. Instead, Maughan and others will say something like, "I live in Harry Maughan's old house."
There are no pizza delivery franchises in Wellsville yet, but it should be interesting when one finally pops up.
New pizza places are not the concern of the meeting tonight. There is only one item on the agenda and the meeting begins promptly at 7. It starts out with something very rare.
John Spence, a planning and zoning committee member, stands up when asked by Loyal Green, the committee chairman, to provide an opening prayer. The large man with a burly goatee folds his arms and begins to pray.
"Guide us and direct us in the way a city should be run," says Spence. Nobody seems offended in the slightest by these words. A wonder that can only be found in a small town.
"We're just rednecks out here," says Don Hartle, the city manager, with a smile. Getting more serious he leans forward and says, "It is our policy to start with a short prayer. I know there are some people out there that are opposed to it. There are claims and questions to whether you can or you can't."
Hartle says they try to warn people in the meetings so they may excuse themselves if the feel compelled to. Hartle takes on an almost Buddhist tone when he speaks of not offending the living, but above all not offending the ancestors.
"The founding fathers of Wellsville would roll in their graves if there couldn't be prayer in public meetings," Hartle says.
Perhaps one of the founding fathers Hartle spoke of was Peter Maughan. Sent on a mission to colonize by Brigham Young, he settled Maughan's Fort Sept. 15, 1850 on the green side of Cache Valley. It was later called Wellsville and its first mayor was William Harrison Maughan, who served four terms for a total of 15 years in office. One can't help but notice that in Wellsville there are a lot of Maughans.
"Eighty percent of Wellsville are either named Maughan or related to the Maugahns," Hartle says with a chuckle.
Lee Maughan, attending the meeting with his boys, requests that the acre lots by his home be turned into half-acre lots. He argues that this would help the marketability of the property. But before he says any of this, he takes time to introduce his two sons, Kliff, age 15, and Tom, age 12. They say they came to show support for their dad.
The filial lobbying seems to work and the planning commission votes unanimously to have a hearing on it at the next City Council meeting.
The meeting that started at 7 p.m. ends at 7:40 p.m. Only in a small town.