Faux Falls above Ken’s Lake.  Shane Brewer photo
Faux Falls above Ken’s Lake. Shane Brewer photo
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Hole In The Rock Foundation seeking to buy Bluff Transfer Station from County
Apr 18, 2017 | 614 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Zak Podmore Less than one month after the operating hours at the Bluff Transfer Station were cut in half, the San Juan County Commission is considering a proposal that could shut it down completely. At a public hearing on April 4, Lynn Stevens, former county commissioner and government-relations director for the Hole in the Rock Foundation (HIRF), requested that San Juan County sell the two-acre parcel where the transfer station is located to the foundation. HIRF is a nonprofit foundation that seeks to preserve and share the history of Mormon pioneers who arrived in Bluff in 1880 after completing the grueling Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition. The foundation operates the Bluff Fort, a collection of historic replica buildings, and leads excursions on nearby public lands. In 2007, HIRF purchased an eight-acre property several miles west of Bluff and directly north of the Bluff Transfer Station, a garbage collecting facility which services Bluff and nearby communities on the Navajo Nation. The foundation has since built a campground on the lot, which, according to Stevens, is intended to host Mormon and non-Mormon youth groups. Stevens said the campground could see up to 600 visitors this year. But the campground’s proximity to the county-managed transfer station, which holds refuse in open containers before it’s trucked to the White Mesa Landfill 13 miles away, has been an issue for the foundation since the campground was constructed. Stevens said a six-stall restroom was built partly on the county property after HIRF erroneously assumed that the fence line around the transfer station marked the property line. In 2015, HIRF proposed a land swap with the county that would have moved the transfer station to within a mile of its current location, but the individuals who own property adjacent to the proposed site, objected. A public notice on the April 4 meeting announced there would be “a public hearing to receive input from the public with respect to a land exchange in Bluff, Utah, involving property owned by the county and a non-profit entity.” At the hearing, however, Stevens proposed to buy the property outright from the county at whatever the assessed value is. Stevens said it would be up to the county whether or not they want to rebuild the transfer station elsewhere at HIRF’s expense. Stevens noted that the station is “losing money every time it opened its gates.” Earlier this month, the operating hours at the Bluff Transfer Station were reduced from four to two days per week in an effort to save county funds. Transfer stations can be found at a number of locations throughout the sprawling county, and operating the facilities can be costly. In addition to the changes in Bluff, operating hours were recently cut for the transfer station in La Sal. County records show the transfer station near Bluff is seeing an average of only four to six customers per day, depending on the month. It is now open from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Wes Shook, a member of the Bluff Service Area Board since 2015, said he thought the cut in operating hours is justified, but he objects to any plan that would close it for good. Shook notes that the White Mesa Landfill, which is the main landfill for the county, is closed on Saturday, which limits the options for people who work during the week. The county keeps no record of where transfer station customers come from to dump their trash, but Shook believes the Bluff transfer station is used by residents of White Rocks, Little Mexican Water, Five Points, Aneth, and Montezuma Creek, in addition to Bluff. He’s requesting the county conduct a study of where the transfer station customers come from. At the public hearing, Stevens suggested it would only add four miles for residents of Bluff to dump at the White Mesa Landfill instead of at the transfer station. From the geographic center of Bluff, it is just over two miles to the transfer station. The landfill is 11 miles away. For anyone who lives east or south of Bluff, a trip to the landfill instead of the current transfer station would add 26 miles round-trip compared to the current location of the transfer station. Shook adds that the HIRF knew the transfer station was there when they purchased the property in question and constructed the campground. “If I was a private citizen, and I built a KOA campground next to a transfer station, do you think the county would sell me the property if there were flies in my campground and all that?” Shook asks. But Stevens said the HIRF’s “master plan” for the campground makes use of the transfer station parcel, including plans to build a storage building on the county property and an activities center for youth. “We have a big expansion plan that would definitely benefit from having the county’s two acres,” Stevens told the commissioners. At the end of the meeting, Stevens also mentioned plans for “a huge event at the campground that that additional space will be helpful for. It’s state-sponsored, a big activity,” he said. San Juan County Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pehrson said any outright sale of county property would need to be conducted through an open-bid process. The HIRF initiated a similar sale of SITLA property last year when they proposed to purchase a 380-acre parcel on Comb Ridge. The parcel went to auction in October and several entities submitted bids. HIRF and a conservation group were outbid by Lyman Family Farms. HIRF may face less competition for the transfer station parcel since it likely contains hazardous waste. The property was used as a landfill prior to the construction of the transfer station. Stevens said HIRF would pay for clean-up of the transfer station site. Shook asked if the foundation would consider subsidizing a trash pick-up service for the residents of Bluff if the transfer station is sold and shut down. Stevens was frank in his reply. “The answer is absolutely not,” he said. “The Hole in the Rock Foundation is under no obligation to accommodate the people of Bluff and where they haul their garbage.” There are currently no garbage collection services in Bluff. If a current proposal to incorporate the community is approved, it is assumed that garbage collection services would be considered.
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Monticello Council sells bulk plant property
Apr 18, 2017 | 718 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Eric Niven The sale of land at the old Woody’s Bulk Plant was the first order of business at the April 11 meeting of the Monticello City Council. The meeting opened with a hearing of the city Municipal Building Authority on the possible sale of land at 696 North Main Street. The 2.09 acre property was deeded to the city in 2016. Commonly know as Woody’s Bulk Plant, the property has sat idle for about 30 years and has been for sale for at least ten years. Two proposals were received, each offering $25,000 for the property. The proposal the Council members focused upon was proposed by Sonderegger, Inc. which intends to clear the land and build an office building for possible lease to the engineering firm, Jones and Demille. Questions in the hearing include the assessed value of the property as opposed to the offered price of $25,000, how the sale would benefit the city, and why the city would sell the property now. City Manager Ty Bailey said the selling price is below the tax assessment but said there is risk for the new owner, including a possible contaminant clean up bill of up to $40,000. Bailey said developing the property will bring in tax revenue as well as eliminating idle property. Councilman Blaine Nekeber asked where money from the sale would go. Bailey said the funds will count as revenue and go to the Monticello Municipal Building Authority budget. There are no stipulations in the sale designating when construction would commence. The hearing was closed and the Council voted unanimously to accept the Sonderegger bid. The payment of bills is the next order of business. Recent damage to a police car was discussed. The car struck a tree and was declared a total loss by the City insurance carrier. Another public hearing discussed renewing the City designation as an Enterprise Zone. This is a designation by the Utah Office of Economic Development which offers tax advantages to new and expanding businesses. The Council concluded there is no disadvantage other than increased paperwork and approved the renewal. Bailey said this designation, as well as the Business Development Incentives already offered by the City, should encourage business development. Councilman Steve Duke suggested it would be a good idea to broadcast these incentives to encourage potential businesses. The Council went into closed session to discuss personnel issues and the sale of property. Following the session, the Council unanimously approved a new contract for the City Manager. In wrap-up, Bailey informed the Council that organizing the Pioneer Day celebration is going well. The Council was also informed of a sanctioned rodeo at the fair grounds in June and was encouraged to take advantage of the event to promote the City. A survey to determine the possible expanded use of the city swimming pool is still underway. Copies of the survey are available in the City Office and residents are encouraged to complete them. Manager Bailey informed the Council that the May 1 meeting will include an update of the city purchasing policy and a public hearing on the new city budget.
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Blanding discusses ongoing wellness center issues
Apr 18, 2017 | 501 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Kara Laws Upkeep and funding of the San Juan Wellness Center in Blanding is an ongoing issue. The topic was discussed at the April 11 meeting of the Blanding City Council. A drinking fountain at the bustling facility was recently damaged beyond repair. And while the mayor and city council urge Recreation Director David Palmer to replace it and keep the building in good condition, Palmer insists that the city does not give him enough funds to take care of issues like this immediately. Palmer encouraged the council to increase the funding for repairs at the Wellness Center. Council told Palmer they wanted the drinking fountain to be replaced and discussed that they would find the funds. However, no increase to the recreation department was approved at that time. Mayor Calvin Balch expressed how important it is to him that visitors do not see Blanding City as a place that is falling apart and not taken care of. He is adamant that the issues be addressed as soon as possible. Councilwoman Kd Perkins asked about security cameras at the wellness center. The council briefly discussed if there is a better and cheaper solution to some of the problems with upkeep and damage at the Wellness Center. The San Juan Wellness Center is a common source of heated discussion among many of the residents of Blanding. Many want it improved, and others are hopeful for the construction of an indoor pool. Finding the funds to construct and operate a large facility is always a challenge for a smaller community. The current focus of David Palmer and the city council is to increase revenue and use of the facility and keep the building in good repair. During a public budget request portion of the meeting, no residents made any requests, so the budget will proceed as planned. Mayor Balch asked City Manager Jeremy Redd what the city does to advertise the budget request. Redd replied they simply put it in the agenda. Mayor Balch insisted that he would like to hear from the citizens and requested that more effort be put behind informing them of hearings in the future. In the shortest council meeting in the last six months, the council also officially passed the new annexation plan, and the City of Blanding Police Department Policy Manual.
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The Monticello High School golf team is working hard and improving each week with a good group of underclassmen.  Team members include: (top row, left to right) Coach Nathan Chamberlain, Britton Brewer, Wyatt Fullmer, Jared Wells, Justin Cecil and Coach Shane Brewer. Bottom row: Bridger Stonebrink, Kyle Leavitt, Bowden Hunter, Evan Rowley, Jason Thomason.  Courtesy photo
The Monticello High School golf team is working hard and improving each week with a good group of underclassmen. Team members include: (top row, left to right) Coach Nathan Chamberlain, Britton Brewer, Wyatt Fullmer, Jared Wells, Justin Cecil and Coach Shane Brewer. Bottom row: Bridger Stonebrink, Kyle Leavitt, Bowden Hunter, Evan Rowley, Jason Thomason. Courtesy photo
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