Group asks county to place health subsidy on ballot
by Anna Thayn
Mar 28, 2012 | 1601 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“This issue, if not resolved now by allowing the citizens to have a voice in it, will continue to be the source of unnecessary conflict in the county. ...We need harmony in our county,” is the closing statement in a letter to the San Juan County Commission from John Hunt regarding the tax subsidy received by San Juan Health Services District. 

Commissioner Phil Lyman read the letter during the weekly Commission meeting on March 26.

Hunt serves as the chairman of a group of residents who formed to look at the issue of taxation for the county health service district.

A property tax approved by voters in 1990 generated approximately $1 million last year for the health care district. The district operates the San Juan Hospital in Monticello, as well as clinics in Monticello, Blanding, Dove Creek and Spanish Valley.

The letter asks that the tax subsidy issue be placed on the November ballot to give citizens a vote on whether to continue a tax which they believe was not meant to last forever.

The group believes that the district has demonstrated the ability to “hold its own under the excellent management of CEO Phil Lowe and Chief Financial Officer Lyman Duncan.”

They cite examples of the improved financial situation of the district. The letter states that the hospital receives large sums of money from the Community Impact Board and no longer needs the support of the tax payers.

They also question the fairness of a tax subsidized entity  competing with private enterprise and urged the commission to reduce taxes by placing the issue on the ballot. The group expressed a belief that eliminating the tax subsidy could help bring harmony to the county.

The Commission asked County Clerk Norman Johnson to research the issue and what it takes to have such an issue included on the ballot.

Anthony Hall, Senior project manager for Eco-Power Windfarms, approached the commission to discuss the future of wind generated power in the area.

Hall said his company has purchased the leases from Redco, a company that had planned a wind farm north of Monticello.

Hall said his company owns 17 wind generation sites across Wyoming and Utah. The project near Monticello will be completed in three phases and will include 35 wind turbines in each phase.

Hall expressed a desire to expand the capabilities in the area as much as possible. Hall said his company intends to move forward on the project as quickly as possible and hopes that by spring of 2013 there will be turbines producing wind power on the site.

Hall discussed the economic impact the project may have, stating that the construction phase will bring large crews to fill motel rooms. Hall added that the first phase will bring approximately 10 employees to manage and maintain the site.

Commissioner Bruce Adams mentioned necessary discussions related to Sage Grouse in the area, but expressed support for the project. Adams encouraged Hall to use San Juan County residents and services whenever possible for the project.

The Commission signed a letter to the Bureau of Land Management regarding the recent dispute over the exactness of roads based on GPS mapping technology.

According to a March 5 letter from the BLM, the county was authorized to complete road maintenance on the county road D0570 in the Indian Creek area. The commission is concerned over a restriction that county maintenance is confined to the exact route of the road approved in the 2008 BLM Resource Management Plan. 

The county disagrees with this restriction because of problems using map-grade GPS lines to identify exact route alignments on the ground.

The county writes that map-grade GPS data can be off by several or more feet from the actual travel route that the county intended to preserve during the mapping of roads.

The county said the roads were mapped by traveling the route that was considered to be the route used by the public, but the line created is not always exactly where the road was driven and therefore cannot be used to pinpoint a center line of the road on the ground.

The letter adds that the county has been maintaining “D” roads for years and has always maintained the standard of staying within the disturbed area of the travel route. They assert that they must be allowed to maintain roads on the actual route on the ground, regardless of where the GPS centerline of the road may be. They will continue to discuss the issue during an April 16 coordination meeting with the BLM.

The commission also signed a letter to the BLM regarding the Devils Canyon fuels reduction and vegetation restoration project, which is in the planning process. The county expressed support for fuel reduction projects and the project in general. They asked that the BLM consider including State of Utah School Institutional Trust Lands in the project planning.

Maxine Deeter and Tom Heinlen from the Monticello BLM Office presented the Commission with a recreation and public purposes act patent for land in Mexican Hat. The patent is essentially the deed to 2.5 acres of property in Mexican Hat where the fire station and other offices are located.

County Clerk Norman Johnson presented the commission with early tax sale information. Johnson said 16 letters were sent to property owners, which is twice as many as in a typical year.

Johnson also asked permission to work with the county attorneys to update the county GRAMMA ordinance. It has not been changed since it was established in 1992.
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