Will Walker is the new Blanding Justice Court Judge. Walker’s appointment was approved by the Blanding City Council at its November 27 meeting.
“I am very humbled and honored to be selected,” said Walker. “I will put my best effort forth and hopefully do justice to the citizens of this city.”
Walker takes the place of longtime judge James Harris, who will retire on December 31. He is a Battalion Operations NCO at the Utah National Guard Armory in Blanding.
The US Forest Service has approved a Blanding City project to replace an aging water line, but restrictions on the project may make it difficult to complete.
The city wants to replace approximately 13 miles of pipeline that brings water from the Indian Creek tunnel to Blanding. The project in the forest would replace several miles of the aging eight-inch line water transmission line with a 12-inch buried pipeline.
City officials hope to move forward on the $3 million project, with bids sought in coming months and construction this coming summer.
Forest Service personnel have identified a potential goshawk nesting area and an archaeological site that must be protected. If goshawks nest in the area in the spring, it could restrict the project for an unknown length of time in the summer.
The City is now left to decide whether to move forward on a project that could be put on hold by nesting goshawks. Goshawk is a raptor that is considered a sensitive species.
“If this bird sets up house, the project is postponed until the construction season is over,” said Councilman Joe B Lyman. “In effect, they (Forest Service) have denied the project. If that is their intent, just deny it and we will move on from there and not have our whole community held hostage by a bird.”
While the goshawk nesting area is in a half-mile area, it could restrict access to nearly two miles of the pipeline project.
In other matters, the Council discussed a proposed new two-year contract with the Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA) to provide merchandise for the Blanding Visitor Center.
CNHA, which operates visitor centers throughout southeast Utah, stocks the sales area at the visitor center and the City gets a percentage of the sales.
In the past, the city has earned 22.5 percent of each sale. The proposal would decrease the percentage to 20 percent.
City Manager Jeremy Redd explained that the Visitor Center, and CNHA, has experienced decreasing sales and decreasing profit margins in recent years.
Visitation is down 20 percent and income is down 27 percent.
Visitor Center manager Harold Lyman said that the Visitor Center hosted 32,637 visitors in 2009, 28,113 in 2010 and 26,000 in 2011.
While visitation has dropped, Lyman said that revenue per visitor has grown and remains above industry standards. Lyman said the standard is $1.20 in revenue per visitor and the Blanding Visitor Center approaches $1.80 per visitor.
CNHA made several suggestions to address the decreasing sales, including better signage on the highway and keeping the Visitor Center open on Sunday.
Lyman explained that he and his staff would rather not work on Sunday, but it is a peak travel day.
He said that because just about everything is closed on Sunday in Blanding, the options he suggests are to hike in nearby scenic areas or enjoy the water at Recapture Reservoir.
“We tell them to take a hike or go jump in a lake,” joked Lyman.
The Council approved the transfer of frontage property on 800 South to Recapture Real Estate. Recapture is considering the construction of a new building to house San Juan Credit Union. The property is south of the Dinosaur Museum.
The property transferred totals .54 acres, including a 14-foot wide strip on the north end of the property and a 40-foot strip on the south side of the property.
Access to the new building is from the east, on 200 West. As a result, 800 South could still be used occasionally as a landing area for life flight helicopters transporting patients from Blue Mountain Hospital.
The Council addressed challenges related to the big cleanup day the city sponsors each spring.
It was noted that the cleanup day started as a good idea, but many residents just save all their trash and overwhelm the system on the “free-dumping” day. City crews then spend the next week trying to clean up the mess.
In addition, the National Guard equipment that was critical to the cleanup effort is no longer located in Blanding.
Joe B. Lyman discussed a proposal to put a one-time “free-dumping” voucher in the city utility bill. This would spread out the impact of the cleanup day.
A variety of other ideas were also mentioned.
A former employee said he was overpaid by the city 40 years ago and wants to return the overpayment. Councilman Kelly Laws presented $100 to the city from the former employee, who wants to remain anonymous.
Laws explained that in the 1970s, the then teen-age city employee was overpaid by $75.The city resident repaid the money, with a little interest.