Blanding City approves budget and receives an update on Westwater

At their latest meeting, the Blanding City Council adopted its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, gave input on the formation of the airport advisory committee, and received an update on the project to bring water to Westwater.
At their June 14 meeting, Blanding City Council approved the adoption of a nearly $15 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2022/2023.
The city of Blanding's budget is divided into General City and Enterprise departments.
The General City departments relate to services such as police, parks and recreation, administration, and other city services.
The Enterprise department relates to utility departments such as sewer, electric, and water.
City Finance Director Kim Palmer explained that the approved budget was a bit more than last year due in part to grants the city received for infrastructure projects at Westwater.
“General fund revenues are almost $5.7 million, enterprise funds are $9.2 million in those enterprise funds that includes capital projects including Westwater stuff that’s happening for a total city budget of $14,986,701”
The city council approved the upcoming fiscal year budget and approved final changes to the expiring fiscal year budget.
The city saw no increases in the funds spent in the expiring budget but Palmer did explain they needed to move some funds around to cover departments that were at or near their budget for the year. 
Staff recommended that $25,500 of unused funds be taken from the city police department to the justice court, city attorney, and airport for different reasons.
Palmer explained the Justice Court had IT issues that required the purchase of new equipment, the December change with the city attorney also cost more than budgeted for last year and some funds were spent at the airport to fix fuel tanks.
There were also reported leftover funds in departments enough for the council to transfer $383,000 for capital projects in the future.
Palmer said she checked the numbers several times and determined the city had a very good year.
“The reason why there was so much leftover was we have been very frugal in our spending in the general fund this year, even though we’re over in a couple of departments, the other departments did a good job of keeping their expenditures under control, and also the increase in sales tax was a bonus to that.”
At the meeting, the council also approved the annual fee schedule with no changes and adopted the tax rate for the year.
City Manager David Johnson also presented an update on the city's continued involvement in the project to bring running water to Westwater.
Blanding City has indicated they could provide the water to the Westwater community if additional water was brought into the city through a deep well project.
The state granted the city approximately $500,000 to update its water plan and do preliminary engineering and design for the well.
In May the Blanding City Council received an estimate of $3.8 million to dig the well. The State of Utah has $1.65 million appropriated for the well, leaving a shortfall of $2.15 million.
At the June 14 city council meeting, Johnson reported that plans are underway to meet that shortfall.
“The state was going to provide $1.65 million to Blanding for the project through ARPA fund and $1.85 million to Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has approached the state and Blanding and said that they have other sources of funding that they can use to cover their side of the project.”
As a result, the Nation would like to see the funds redirected from the state to Blanding. Redirecting the $1.85 million from the state to Blanding would total $3.5 million for the project.
The city is waiting on the finalization of the additional monies via paperwork, and Johnson reports there’s another party that could fill in the remaining $350,000 needed for the project.
“The church has spoken with me about wanting to help fill some of the gaps that's there. They contributed half a million to the power project. It looks promising on the financial side but it remains to be seen.”
An updated memorandum of understanding between the state and the city is scheduled to appear before the council for approval at their June 28 meeting.
Westwater is located on land owned by the Navajo Nation just outside of Blanding City limits. Partners such as the State of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have all made financial contributions to bring utilities to Westwater.
The project to bring utilities such as electricity and running water to the Westwater community has seen some significant advancements over the past few years.
At the meeting council also received an update on efforts to form an airport advisory committee that will assist in the creation of policies and rates for the Blanding city airport.
Johnson reported researching airport advisory committees in other communities to help Blanding create theirs. The recommended committee would have seven seats appointed by the Mayor with input from the council.
Two seats would be occupied by aviation businesses that operate at the airport, two would be occupied by hangar tenants with no other Blanding City Airport affiliations, two seats for at-large representation such as business owners or residents, and one seat for the airports Fixed Base Operator.
Johnson said there was some hesitation about how to include the airport’s Fixed Base Operator, the commercial operator of services at the airport.
The hangup was related to how the committee might go about exploring or selecting a new contracted FBO if the city decides to do so in the future.
Johnson clarified that the current FBO, Freedom Fuels, has done a good job since taking over operations at the airport.
“We feel like their voice is important to hear but I think it’s important for you to know that potential conflict of interest.”
The council agreed that the airport’s FBO should be on the committee but will likely be asked not to participate in discussions where conflicts of interest arise.
Additionally, at least four members of the committee must be Blanding City residents. Terms are expected to last for four years. The council is expected to adopt the policy to create the committee at their next meeting.
Blanding City Council also appointed Cheryl Bowers to act as the Mayor Pro-Tem. Bowers will run city council meetings when Mayor Logan Monson is not present.

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