Thirty meters off Highway 95.  Jan Noirot photo
Thirty meters off Highway 95. Jan Noirot photo
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The White Mesa Mill, south of Blanding, is the only conventional uranium mill in the United States that is licensed to operate.  Mill owners Energy Fuels is hopeful that Congress will implement a proposal in the Trump budget that would create a uranium reserve and help the struggling domestic uranium industry.  Energy Fuels photo
The White Mesa Mill, south of Blanding, is the only conventional uranium mill in the United States that is licensed to operate. Mill owners Energy Fuels is hopeful that Congress will implement a proposal in the Trump budget that would create a uranium reserve and help the struggling domestic uranium industry. Energy Fuels photo
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Trump budget adds $150 million to create uranium reserve, Energy Fuels hopeful
Feb 18, 2020 | 496 views | 0 0 comments | 95 95 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The White Mesa Mill, south of Blanding, is the only conventional uranium mill in the United States that is licensed to operate.  Mill owners Energy Fuels is hopeful that Congress will implement a proposal in the Trump budget that would create a uranium reserve and help the struggling domestic uranium industry.  Energy Fuels photo
The White Mesa Mill, south of Blanding, is the only conventional uranium mill in the United States that is licensed to operate. Mill owners Energy Fuels is hopeful that Congress will implement a proposal in the Trump budget that would create a uranium reserve and help the struggling domestic uranium industry. Energy Fuels photo
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Energy Fuels, the owner of the White Mesa Mill and mining properties in San Juan County, is hopeful that a new proposal in the federal budget may be a lifeline to the struggling uranium industry. The budget proposal submitted by President Trump includes $150 million for the creation of a uranium reserve. While this is just the first step in the long budget process, it does represent a significant step in the right direction for the struggling domestic producers of uranium. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the uranium used in the United States comes from foreign sources, including Khazakstan, Russia, and China. Domestic producers, such as Energy Fuels, state that the foreign products are being dumped on the U.S. market. They say these actions threaten the domestic producers of an item of critical strategic importance to the country. President Trump apparently agrees, submitting a budget proposal that would establish a reserve that “provides assurance of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption.” According to a Reuters article by Timothy Gardner, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters in a teleconference that the budget represents a push by Trump to challenge the global expansion of nuclear power development by Chinese and Russian companies. Trump “has decided that we’re going to meet them anywhere that they go around the world, and this...is the very first step that we will take to put the United States back into this competitive game,” Brouillette said. Mark Chalmers, CEO of Energy Fuels, said establishing a reserve would “preserve our strategic capacity to produce uranium for national security purposes.” The Trump Administration had studied the issue in depth, and it was anticipated that a recommendation for a reserve of some type would be included in the new budget. Energy Fuels is one of the largest private employers in San Juan County. The company recently laid off approximately one-third of its local work force, including workers in its mines and at the White Mesa mill.
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Monticello discusses police staffing issues and a $100,000 drop in sales tax collections
Feb 18, 2020 | 311 views | 0 0 comments | 95 95 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Alene Laney Police staffing issues were the chief concern at the February 11 meeting of the Monticello City Council. The police department has three police officers, making time off and 24-hour staffing throughout the week an issue. Officers report frequent burnout.   With one officer leaving the department, the city will face a serious shortage. During the time a new officer will complete Police Officer Standards and Training (POST), the city will have only two officers for nearly six months, unless a lateral officer is hired.  Mayor Tim Young expressed frustration that the issue is at hand again and seeks a more permanent solution. Councilmembers expressed a desire to keep the police department and to add a fourth officer, but budget constraints don’t make it feasible to add a fourth officer.  The council discussed other solutions, including a possible contract with the county for police service or funding a fourth officer through a property tax increase.  Councilmember Bayley Hedglin emphasized the need to seek feedback from city residents regarding the matter. City Manager Doug Wright also discussed an audit of city finances. Of particular note are four accounts that overspent and a $100,000 drop in sales tax collections from 2018. Councilmembers were surprised at the sales tax drop. Following the city council meeting, Wright reviewed the figures to determine where the “loss” occurred.  In an email to the San Juan Record, Wright wrote, “The difference stems from the way the county has changed its sharing of Transient Room Tax (TRT) funds. “In the recent past, the County provided $70,000 to Monticello and Blanding from TRT collections to support our marketing efforts.  “With the incorporation of Bluff, the county changed its practice and now requires a marketing plan from each incorporated city in the county. “With an approved plan, it will provide funds up to the amount collected by the cities in their city TRT, which effectively cut the county allocation to Monticello in half. “This year we received our county TRT after the end of the fiscal year, so it does not show in the FY2019 audit. “It was roughly $34,500. We will receive additional TRT this fiscal year, so it will appear to be a double dose in FY2020. “Thus, the city collected approximately $66,425 less in sales and franchise taxes in FY19 than it did in FY18.  If the county had continued its practice of giving $70,000, we would have collected more than in FY18. “If the city had received the county TRT before June 30, then the loss would have only been around $35,000.” At the meeting, Wright updated councilmembers on recent maintenance issues in the city. Maintenance issues at the Welcome Center are being addressed, and Emery Telecom is running fiber into the city buildings that didn’t have it already. The new fiber lines should fix the phone issues the city has been having.  In other business, the council heard a report from new Parks and Recreation Director Shane Christensen. Christensen has been working to get more involvement in youth sports by improving communication in the schools. Four more boys and 14 more girls enrolled in basketball this year compared with last year as a result of better recruiting through the school. There was also discussion with councilmembers on how to improve communication and participation in recreation programs. A community member in attendance expressed frustration with communication between the recreation department and residents of the city, particularly those who do not receive communication through the schools. Currently, many parents are not aware of programs being offered. Christensen acknowledged the department could improve and is working to do so.  Christensen is focused on not only maintaining programs, but building programs back up and getting the whole community involved with more adult sports.   The city concession stand at the ballpark was also discussed with the potential departure of a longtime vendor.  The city offered support for Christensen’s efforts and praised his work to build recreational programs. The council canceled council meetings on March 10 and April 14. The April 14 meeting is rescheduled for April 9 and the March 24 work meeting is changed to a regular council meeting.  Public comment was made by a resident regarding snow removal. Of particular concern is the blocked pedestrian walkways on the corner of Main and Center streets. Two of the corners are currently unoccupied and the tenants would normally be responsible for clearing the snow. 
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Capital projects listed in Blanding
Feb 18, 2020 | 328 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Alene Laney Improvements at Gooseneck State Park were discussed at length at the February 12 meeting of the Blanding City Council. The Council also discussed a 10-year capital projects plan. A letter from the City to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) addresses proposed improvements at Goosenecks State Park, including possible hiking and biking trails and new campsites. The city supports improvements to the park that benefit the local economy such as the hiking and biking trails. The letter expressed concern that other improvements may hurt private businesses, such as RV parks and campgrounds.  Chris Hanson, Park Manager for Goosenecks State Park, discussed what improvements could be made and the reasoning behind it. Currently, there are six campsites at the state park and a bevy of dispersed campsites on adjacent BLM land. The proposed solution includes 14 new campsites at the State Park, with dispersed campsites on BLM land closed off. The campsites would remain primitive, with a pit toilet as the only amenity.  Councilmember Cheryl Bowers said local business owners fear that improvements to the state park would take business away from them. Hanson said the number of campsites will actually be reduced because dispersed camping would no longer be an option and campers would need to go elsewhere to find a campsite. Hanson reiterated the goal of the project is to improve the experience for visitors and has been needed for a long time.  Councilmembers discussed and approved a 10-year capital projects plan. Projects slated for the future include water and sewer upgrades, street improvements, and recreation projects. A splash pad was discussed at length after cost estimates came back high. While a splash pad is a popular recreation capital improvement, councilmembers were hesitant to justify the $250,000 price tag. Mayor Joe Lyman expressed concern that a free amenity could take business from the city pool, which does generate revenue. Councilmembers wondered if putting the splash pad inside the pool area makes sense.  Councilmembers said the $150,000 price tag for shade structures at the ballpark is high, especially with $100,000 estimated just for installation. City Manager Jeremy Redd said the estimate is based on contractors coming from Salt Lake City. Redd speculated that a local contractor could do it for a better price.  Improvements at Recapture Reservoir were also discussed. The hope for improvements has gained traction after talks with the BLM and San Juan County.  Ultimately, councilmembers reduced the price tag to $75,000 for the shade structure and to $125,000 for a possible splash pad before approving the plan. These projects are slated for construction in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Changes can be made, but an approved plan allows the city to start saving.  Councilmembers also approved an ordinance and resolution to clarify the process and fee schedule for records access management.  In his water report, City Engineer Terry Ekker pointed out there’s more snow on the mountain at this time of year than there was last year. “We’re looking pretty dang good,” said Ekker. Police Chief J.J. Bradford reported on criminal activity in the city. A case involving four major assaults has taken up much time. Also of note is a fingerprint match for a museum robbery in October. A warrant was served on the individual and a portion of the stolen items was recovered.  City Recreation Director David Palmer reported 80 girls have signed up for volleyball with another influx expected as kids talk about it. Boys basketball has finished, and the department is starting to get the parks ready for warmer weather. Councilmember Cheryl Bowers complimented Palmer on the basketball program. “The referees, the crews on the sidelines, everything is so well run,” she said, “You have great coaches, too.”
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