The orange barrels have disappeared and the months of road construction appear to be behind the City of Monticello for now, but controversy over the project continues as is evident by comments and concerns brought up at the November 24 meeting of the Monticello City Council.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, business owner Scott Pehrson approached the council regarding what he feels is a lack of involvement in the recent highway construction project by the City Administration and governing body.
Mayor Doug Allen said the City helped to facilitate relations between citizens, business community, UDOT and the construction company. He told Pehrson that the things that were brought to the attention of the City were dealt with, but agreed that they could have done better in some areas.
Pehrson said the new street lights are not where he was originally told they would be placed, due to the decision of the city to install the decorative lights.
Pehrson is also concerned that the road/parking lot project by the hospital took valuable time of the construction company while businesses waited for the highway access to be completed.
Mayor Allen said that the project was put out to bid, and the construction company doing the highway project was the low bidder. Allen said that the City did not tell the construction company when to do the project, but he didn’t feel that it had a bearing on the Main Street project.
“I think the City was abysmal in the fact that they lived through this whole project... saw businesses with driveways completely closed off... and it seemed liked the City didn’t care,” said Pehrson.
Mayor Allen said that while he responded to anything that came to his attention, “Things that didn’t come to my attention I can’t respond to.”
In other public comment, Stuart Gorrie presented questions from the Senior Citizens.
It was reported that in January, 2008, the city decided to upgrade to decorative lighting at a cost of approximately $80,000 to the city and over $200,000 to the State of Utah. The city portion was paid for by Class C Road funds, which are dedicated for road projects and cannot be used for anything else.
Regarding concerns about the new pool remaining a seasonal facility, City Manager Myron Lee reported that the pool does have a heat exchanger, but is not operational when the weather drops below 40 degrees. The city reports that operation and management costs would more than double to keep it open year round and it was something the city could not afford.
Assistant City Manager Ruth Skouson reported on updating the FEMA flood plane map for the city. Skouson reported that the Moab updated their map at a great cost. It took a few engineering firms, ten’s of thousands of dollars, and several years of infrastructure improvements to reduce where flooding could occur.
Skouson found that a state office has a modernization program to update the FEMA maps throughout the state. The two to three year program identifies the needs of the city, gets FEMA approval and updates the mapping. Skouson is determining if there is time to make infrastucture changes before the mapping is done.
The state is prioritizing projects, which should be set by early 2010. At that time, Skouson plans to find out where Monticello falls on the priority list.
She said it may help the city move up the priority list if they have something to offer the program, such as a recently completed arial survey that was part of a storm drain study.
The issue was brought to the attention of the City by residents who have to carry costly flood insurance because their homes are in a FEMA flood plane.
Skouson also presented a report on the Southeast Utah Welcome Center. Skouson reported that the 13,029 visitors to the Welcome Center so far this year have come from all over the world. A summary showed a nine percent drop in visitation through October compared to 2008, which saw the highest numbers since 2004.
The largest change was from August through October, which could be attributed to impact from road construction. Skouson gave a sampling of comments from visitors passing through the center. Many dealt with the friendliness and knowledge of the staff, and praised the beauty and warmth of the community as a whole. Many said they planned to return or had already done so.
Skouson also discussed the progress of the recycling program. She stated that after two months of collection, the newspaper bin has been emptied twice and mixed metals and plastics have both been emptied once.
A group of volunteers monitor the bins to be sure they only contain the proper items. The biggest problem to date is regarding the wrong types of plastic being placed in the #1 plastics bin, which is generally for soda bottles and water bottles.
The issues may be solved with education. The council suggested new signs at the recycling station. City staff are tracking costs associated with the program to measure its cost effectiveness.
The Council discussed city employee Christmas bonuses in what was termed a “delicate issue in tight economic times.”
The council was split on the issue, with two votes in favor and two opposed to Scott Shakespeare’s motion to give a $25 bonus and a turkey or ham to all city employees.
The suggestion was a change from the traditional $100 bonus for full time employees and $50 bonus for the Fire Chief and Assistant Brad Randall said it is a disservice to the employees to cut their bonus.
Jeremy Hoggard agreed that a $25 bonus is insufficient. Hoggard also agreed with Shakespeare that it is time that cuts be made, but “penny pinching” should occur somewhere other than at the expense of the 16 employees.
Hoggard and Randall voted against the motion. Walter Bird said the City needs to show appreciation to employees, but may need to be flexible on the amount of the bonus. Bird and Shakespeare voted in favor of the motion.
Faced with a tie, Mayor Doug Allen voted against the motion. Randall followed with a motion to continue with the $100 bonus for full time employees and $50 for the Fire Chief and Assistant Chief. Randall, Hoggard and Bird voted in favor and the motion passed. The total cost to the city is $1,800.
City Manager Myron Lee approached the council regarding the viewing stand along highway 491 that was removed during the road construction project. Lee said he would like to put the viewer back in, as it helps visitors locate the Horsehead on the mountain, but it is in serious disrepair. Shakespeare suggested that the Monticello FFA could remake the sign and viewer.
Lee also asked the Council to approve an expenditure of $1,000 to pay a consultant to update the City website. Mayor Allen suggested that if they could post agendas and minutes of meetings, it would be well worth the money spent. Lee said the update will allow the city staff to add items to the website.
Barbra Pipkin was reappointed to a five year term on the Victims of Mill Tailings Exposure committee.