Frosts have taken the beautiful flowers north of Monticello.  Elisa Rogers photo
Frosts have taken the beautiful flowers north of Monticello. Elisa Rogers photo
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Questions raised about the accuracy of feasibility study for Bluff Incorporation
Oct 17, 2017 | 170 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Bill Boyle Voters in the Bluff area will head to the polls for the November 7 general election in order to decide whether or not to incorporate as the newest municipality in San Juan County. The San Juan Record plans to address the issue in depth in coming weeks. However, questions are being raised about key elements of a feasibility study that investigated the proposal. In an effort to provide the information as soon as possible, the San Juan Record decided to discuss the feasibility study this week. Bonneville Research completed the feasibility study in June, 2017. It states: “The results of this study indicate that incorporation is feasible for the Bluff Study Area…. “An analysis of the fiscal, demographic and economic issues suggests that the Study Area could become a viable and sustainable Town.” The results of the study indicate that Bluff could incorporate without increasing property taxes paid by area residents. However, San Juan County Administrator Kelly Pehrson questions if the study is accurate or if the conclusions are correct. Pehrson questions the expenditure estimates in a number of areas, including the cost of maintaining roads, landfill expenses, fire, emergency services, salaries, liability insurance and building inspection. Pehrson writes, “if Bluff incorporates, we would treat them the exact same that we treat Monticello or Blanding. That being said, there are some major issues that I think the Feasibility Study does not show.” The Bonneville Research study looked at demographic trends, household incomes, and growth estimates. The study states, “The proposed new Town of Bluff will be at breakeven for anticipated expenses and revenues in the first year (2018) at current service levels and five years into the future. “Not including start-up costs and revenue lags, the ratio of revenues to expenditures in Bluff’s budget in 2018 is 100 percent if the community contracts for essential services including police, solid waste, and roads. “Those property tax revenues, along with the estimated sales and use taxes and the Class C Road Funds from the State of Utah, appear to be sufficient to maintain the current levels of services to the Town of Bluff.” Pehrson questions the estimated cost to provide many of these services. Regarding roads, Pehrson said the feasibility study budgeted $25,000 to maintain roads within Bluff City limit. However, Pehrson said there is a huge need for reconstruction of roads, and the budget is just for maintenance. He added, “The county could contract for $25,000 of work, but it would roughly be a half a block!” Regarding law enforcement, the feasibility study budgeted $30,000. However, Pehrson said the Sheriff’s Department currently spends roughly $56,000 a year for a part time deputy in Bluff. Pehrson added, “Not sure how that will work when the budget is less than half of the cost of a part time deputy.”  Regarding the landfill, Pehrson said Bluff would “need to find their own land and provide their own transfer bin.” The service costs Blanding roughly $25,000 a year, which is partially offset by $8,738 in revenue.  The feasibility study does not list start up costs for fire or emergency equipment. Pehrson said, “All the equipment and building in Bluff is currently San Juan County’s equipment. We do not provide any equipment or buildings in Monticello or Blanding. So they either will need to purchase their own equipment and building or buy ours.” Pehrson questions the feasibility study estimate that shows $30,000 in annual wages. He added that it costs around $45,000 a year for an employee earning just $10 an hour because benefits are required for any employee working more than 29 hours a week.  Pehrson said the cities need general liability and workers compensation insurance and there is no line item in the feasibility study for this.  Finally, Pehrson said the feasibility study did not include a line item for building inspections, which are provided by the county. The study stated that if incorporation is approved, the Bluff Special Service District would close, and the new Town of Bluff would need to adopt a tax rate equal to the current Certified Rate for the Service District. “This action will allow the new Town of Bluff to maintain current service and budget levels while keeping property taxes at their current level without reducing levels of service,” according to the study. It adds, “The heart of this incorporation analysis is assessing the cost of the County providing municipal law enforcement and road maintenance services to the newly incorporated Town at similar quality and level of service.” According to the study, the proposed town of Bluff would comprise 24,350 acres or 38 square miles. Of the proposed incorporation area, SITLA and BLM lands comprise 16.5 square miles. In contrast, Blanding is roughly eleven square miles, while Monticello is about 4.5 square miles. The proposed incorporated Town of Bluff would have an initial population of 265 persons and 25 current businesses employing 167 persons. Anticipated Bluff future population growth is based on historic trends and an estimate of approximate 2-3 new residential/commercial building permits per year. Currently, the Bluff special service district generates about $19,500 a year in property tax revenues. By comparison, property taxes generate about $260,000 per year in Blanding and $265,000 per year in Monticello. Compared to the rate currently paid by property owners in Bluff, the rate property owners pay is approximately 12.3 percent higher in Blanding and 13.8 percent higher in Monticello. As a result, the property taxes for a $150,000 property (not a primary residence) would be $2,483.40 in Monticello and $2,450.25 in Blanding. Under the current rates paid by property owners in the Bluff Service District, the taxes for the same property in Bluff would be $2,181. The study estimated approximately $80,000 a year in general sales tax revenues for the first year. Blanding and Monticello both charge a sales tax of 6.6 percent. The study estimated $72,000 in annual collections if Bluff were to institute a resort sales tax. This is authorized for communities that meet a certain threshold of motel-related revenues. A number of smaller communities institute a resort sales tax, including Boulder, Escalante and Tropic. The study also estimates that Bluff could generate approximately $20,000 a year in Transient Room Tax (TRT). The study did not include TRT revenues. The study also looked at surrounding communities and similar communities in other areas of the state, including Castle Valley, Torrey, Tropic, Dutch John and Boulder. A copy of the study and the email in which Pehrson outlines his concerns can be downloaded at the San Juan Record website at www.sjrnews.com.
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Arguments for Blanding alcohol sales
Oct 17, 2017 | 93 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Kara Laws As the 2017 election draws closer, the debate over alcohol sales continues. Blanding is one of the nine dry cities in Utah as of 2015. It is one of more than 60 dry cities and municipalities within “wet” counties throughout the United States. Blanding shares that dry standard with more than 140 dry counties. This year however, the Blanding City Council has voted to once again allow the citizens of Blanding to choose. The citizens will vote, by mail, if they would like the no-alcohol ban to remain intact or if they would like the ban to be lifted. There are heated feelings on both sides of the debate. In this issue of the San Juan Record, we will look at reasons why the ban should be lifted. Of many reasons, there seems be two that are most prominent. First is the freedom of choice. Many feel the ban an alcohol sales infringes on their rights. It should be their choice, they say. “Let me decide for myself… This should be our individual right. We, as a community are pretty much telling people that if they want to buy [alcohol] within city limits that they are not welcome,” said Blanding resident Trent Herring. Herring, like many others, said that allowing the ban to continue is a way of allowing local government to make personal decisions. Supporters of lifting the ban say Blanding citizens and visitors should be allowed to have a beer with dinner. They say that each citizen should have the right to choose for themselves instead of other’s beliefs being forced upon them. Many believe it is not fair to the different viewpoints of people who live in the community to be forced into what some believe. This is what some say is a “Mormon standard”. Many who advocate lifting the ban insist they do not drink themselves, but think it should be up to businesses and their patrons on what beverages are consumed on their property. It is more about the freedom of choice than anything. “I know the question is about alcohol sales,” Herring said, “but it comes down to government overreach, and either you are for it or against it. I personally am against government overreach.” The second most stated reason to lift the ban is the potential for increased sales and taxes. Another solid reason for wanting the ban lifted goes hand-in-hand with the talks of economic development within the city over the past several months. Many insist that lifting the alcohol ban will improve business. It will be good for businesses and will help the city, which collects sales taxes from each sale, they say. “I hope it gets lifted,” said Jordan Bayles, who works in the service industry. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how much money the town has lost because people can’t have a beer or glass of wine with their dinner. “I know that people have gotten up and left restaurants in town because they could not have a beer or glass of wine with their meals. It may not be a tremendous amount of money, but even if it’s only $5,000 per year, over the last 20 years that is $100k that the city has missed out on.” Many others echo her sentiments, including Sharon Guymon, owner of Homestead Steakhouse. Guymon spoke to city council about the issues and read several reviews left for her restaurant that complained about the lack of alcohol in town. Others shared anecdotes online about their experiences with customers walking out on a full cart of groceries or meals once they learned there would be no alcohol. “It is probably not disputable that the economic impact would be positive,” wrote Jeremy Lyman. “Many tour buses and tourists in general bypass Blanding’s restaurants, hotels, and retail stores because they would rather stop somewhere where they can buy alcohol. Not to mention that many Blanding residents purchase alcohol themselves, and obviously they currently purchase their alcohol somewhere else.” Tyler Bailey also listed the benefits for local businesses, “The economic benefits would definitely help generate more revenue for businesses, and do the taxes from those purchases not benefit our community as a whole? “Alcohol alone may not create vast amounts of revenue, but many tourists may like to have a beer or other type of drink with their meal. Those meals, products, and/or services provided in those establishments create tax revenue.” Some suggest that Moab and Bluff benefit from Blanding being a dry town because the tourists pass on through to places with the drinks they enjoy. No one is debating that alcohol abuse and addiction, drunk driving, and underage drinking happens in the community and surrounding communities. However, those in favor of lifting the ban insist that allowing the sale of beer and wine in Blanding will not negatively impact those issues. Instead, they hope it will help keep drunk drivers off the road because their alcohol will often be within walking distance. Others hope the tax revenues that come into the city can help fund programs such as rehabilitation for those struggling with addictions. They hope the increase in taxes can help be a part of the solution. “Selling alcohol in town is not what creates alcoholic/drunk issues in the healthcare system. Breakdown of families and communities, lack of education, poverty, lack of resources, and boredom do that. “Isn’t it possible to use the funds gained from selling [alcohol] to try and help fund resources for these people?” asked a local healthcare employee and EMT. “I would much rather have people walking a few blocks to get more alcohol than driving three and/or 20 miles for more.” She suggests the focus on drunk drivers is not the biggest risk to children and mentioned that a bigger concern should be cell phone use and speeding. She adds, “Most of the arguments I hear against it are based in fear. Alcohol and the problems that come from it are not going to go away by not selling it in town. “I am of the opinion that the responsible thing to do is try to financially gain from it and help the community who has a huge need for rehabilitative services.” Many local residents agreed with her sentiments and insist the City of Blanding can turn the sale of alcohol into a positive thing. The Center for Disease Control said that reducing underage drinking is a community effort. Many of those in favor of lifting the Blanding alcohol ban hope to use the sale of alcohol to improve the local economy, increase tourism, fund programs to help youth and addicts, and above all, allow the people who live in Blanding to make decisions for themselves. The debate will surely continue until, and perhaps even after, the polls are reported. This is an important topic to many citizens and will continue in the October 25 issue of the San Juan Record.
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Cory Raisor
Oct 17, 2017 | 8 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hello, my name is Cory Raisor, I am running for Blanding City Council. I would love your vote and to serve the people of Blanding in this capacity. As most people in Blanding, I hope Bears Ears is shrunken to near nothing (or best case rescinded) but regardless Blanding is now on the map. As a result, we will see more tourism. I hope to help lead Blanding into these waters and come out of the rapids a better place, and just as wonderful a people. I love this country, state and county. I got that love in an unexpected way. I met a 92-year-old disable veteran in Illinois who had nearly no possessions. Almost everything he did own, was a reminder of his service in World War II. I asked him about his service, a question that changed my life forever and instilled a level of patriotism in me so deep that three years later it still burns brightly. He told me how he had lived through D-day in Africa, then D-day in Italy and finally D-day at Normandy; tears filled our eyes. His filled by remembering his service and the friends he lost, mine, because I finally knew what it meant to serve. From that moment on I have desired to serve Blanding in a greater capacity. City council is the vehicle I have chosen to do so. I hope you will choose me too. Together, we will keep improving Blanding.
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Logan Shumway
Oct 17, 2017 | 9 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
My name is Logan Shumway and have lived in San Juan County nearly my entire life. San Juan County and Blanding are special places to me. I have chosen to raise my family here because of what this area and the people that live here represent. I attended BYU and graduated with a Chemical Engineering as well as a Chemistry degree. I currently work for Energy Fuels at the White Mesa Mill as a process engineer and recently as the Mill Manager. I have been very fortunate to be able to use my education so close to home and have been able to gain experience working with people and budgets among other things. Over the past several years I have attended many city council meetings. I learned that a lot of important decisions are made in these meetings that have long term effects for the residents of Blanding as well as the surrounding area. I have observed many people on the city council and in other important local positions that have put a lot of effort into ensuring that this area continues to be a great place to live and I hope to add to their efforts. I describe my political views as conservative and believe that government should not be bigger than the people it represents. I believe in being financially conservative and that one of the duties of a good government is to limit the financial burdens placed on citizens and businesses. For things that cannot be handled by individuals or private entities government becomes necessary.
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