The Monticello City Council has said goodbye to several employees recently, but will not be saying goodbye to the local deer that have taken up residence in the city.
At the December 12 Council meeting, Councilman Blen Freestone and Councilwoman Cassie Boyle were honored for their service at their last official meeting as council members. The council also received the resignation of public works manager Nathan Langston, who resigned after 10 years working for the city. This comes only a few weeks after the departure of Assistant City Manager Greg Martin.
The council voted to not send a letter to the Division of Wildlife Resources concerning the removal of deer in the city. After a motion by Councilwoman Boyle, and a second by Councilman Walter Bird, to write a letter asking for a depredation hunt, they were the only two to vote in favor of the removal letter. Councilmen Jeremy Hoggard and Brad Randall voted against the letter. In the absence of Councilman Blen Freestone, Mayor Doug Allen broke the tie, voting against the letter of removal, stating that the issue can be addressed by a new council, but he personally did not feel this would solve the problem, as he feels it is bigger than a few deer in town.
During the discussion on the issue, City Manager Trent Schafer reported that he had spoken with local DWR official Guy Wallace, who had concerns over removing deer in town regarding the safety, as the only method is to shoot the animals.
Schafer said they try to kill the deer on the outskirts of town, so they are unsure if that would take care of the deer in the neighborhoods. Boyle told the council that they cannot expect everyone in town to build a compound around their house to deal with the deer problem. She also pointed out that she has been told of deer mating right in town so there is no need for the DWR to worry about them being able to “multiply and replenish,” said Boyle.
Boyle told the council that she likes the deer too, but there can be too many and questioned the DWR, stating “They manage the cattle on the mountain, why can’t they manage the herds of deer?”
Randall said that when everything that surrounds town is more or less a private hunting unit it makes for less hunters in the area around town, and thus more deer coming into town.
Mayor Allen questioned how the increase in the town herd corresponds to the time when hunting changed to “buck only”. Allen said he thinks it is a statewide problem that needs to be dealt with beyond Monticello.
Boyle pointed out that people may think there are more important issues to deal with than deer, but that if people are calling her to complain, then it is her job as a public servant to speak out about it.
“This isn’t two or three people, this is a lot of people,” said Boyle. Councilman Bird said that killing deer on the outskirts of town won’t make a noticeabe change, but he believes that three or four years down the road there will be a huge problem.
Bird said he is concerned because the deer have found out that it is safe in town, and there is enough food to sustain them now, “but there is going to come to a point where they are going to eat themselves out of house and home and you are going to have deer dying in peoples yards in the winter and that’s not going to be a nice sight either.”
The council unanimously passed an ordinance regulating the use of portable storage containers in the city limits. The regulation was specifically meant to address the use of shipping containers and unregistered semi trailers as storage units.
The regulations call for the containers to be painted similarly to the other structures on the property and follow zoning ordinances as far as placement. It also addresses the use of single wide trailers as storage facilities, which will have to be removed by October 1, 2009. Camper shells used for storage are also included in the 2009 removal regulation.
Janet Ross presented the council with an update on the Canyon Country Discovery Center. Ross reports that in May, she talked with potential donors trying to find out if the goal of raising $12.5 million was feasible, and found that $7.5 million was the feasible amount to seek in donations.
Because of this, Ross told the council the size of the proposed building has been reduced to get a more efficient design, and delayed hiring some staff in order to cut back on costs.
The new estimates call for $4.5 million for the 14,000 square foot building and $3 million for the first two years of program operations. Ross says so far they have raised $825,000 in pledges, and are trying to raise money through the state legislature.
The Discovery Center is listed for a $1.3 million appropriation in the proposed buget recently released by the Governor. The final budget will be finalized by the legislature in March.
Ross pointed out that in her estimation, there will be approximately a $1.5 million return annually to the City of Monticello from the project. The indirect benefit, or social return on investment, is harder to calculate, according to Ross, because it is hard to track the value of education.
Using a formula she developed, Ross estimates $9.8 million annually as the social return on the investment. Ross came up with the figure based on costs for local teachers and students to get the value of the classes taught at the Discovery Center if they had to travel elsewhere for a similar science center experience.
Ross also told the council they are still struggling with a location for the center. Originally they were looking at the DOE property on the East side of highway south of town, but were unable to get a commitment, and started looking at private property. Recently, the DOE has told the City the original property is a possibility and the City is trying to get something in writing.
In other business, City Manager Schafer reports the City will interview four applicants for the Assistant City Manager job.