Blanding City is considering a fee to mail the monthly paper statements to utility customers

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the Blanding City Council discussed a possible fee for receiving paper utility bills, approved the new general plan and received an update on economic activity at the latest meeting.
Members of the Blanding City Council discussed implementing a fee for utility customers who receive paper statements at their February 27 meeting.
The Blanding City Council ultimately moved to table the discussion to have a fee amount to consider and to also have the discussion coincide with conversations about a centralized fee schedule document.
The proposed paper statement fee would apply to Blanding utility customers who receive a mailed paper copy of their statements in an effort to reduce paper usage and offset administrative costs including printing, mailing and time associated with providing paper statements.
The move would incentivize customers to opt for electronic billing statements, which are delivered via email and accessible online, through the city’s utilities website.
The fee for paper statements would be added to customer utility bills with the fee itemized on the customer’s utility bill.
City staff estimated there are about 900 customers who still receive their utility bills by mail, but also noted that many of those 900 also receive their statements via-email.
Council member Erik Grover spoke against the proposal, saying
“I’m opposed to raising taxes on ourselves. That’s all this is a tax on people.”
Mayor Logan Monson said the proposal would be aimed at covering costs.
“We’re not (...) making money on this we’re asking to cover the costs of those things, and lots of places do that,”
Members of the council agreed to table the item to have more information about what the fee might be, and also to have that conversation linked with an overall conversation about creating a single fee schedule document for the city.
Council also received an update on the proposal for a single document to hold fee schedules.
The proposal would have all city fees found in one location, which would allow the city to evaluate those fees regularly and raise, lower or get rid of fees according to city needs. City staff also hope the document would help with transparency around fees.
Members of the Blanding City Council also approved a policy to provide guidelines for enrolling utility customers in the Equal Pay program for those outside the radius where automatic reading capabilities for utility meters are not available.
City Manager Trent Herring explained the city is getting meters that are read digitally, but the range on those digital readers is not unlimited.
Herring explained for those outside the range the city is working to get them registered in a program aimed at annual readings.
“We have meters that go pretty much all the way to Monticello, just based on the gas line that was put in. So for those that are that far away instead of sending someone to manually read them, we’re wanting people to get set-up on equal pay.”
Utility lines are and will continue to be checked quarterly, but the policy will cut down on monthly readings by city employees, by utilizing the equal pay program that is already in place.
“As we get the digital readers, there’s less and less need for manual labor to read these meters. to send someone once a month 20 miles away to us was just not the best use of resources when we have a program set up to do this.”
The city will work with those utility users outside of the digital reader limits to get set-up with the equal pay program.
The city Equal Pay program sets up a fixed monthly amount for utility users to pay based on historical usage patterns. The billing is based on historical usage data averaged over time, typically twelve months.
Variations in the usage or billing will be reconciled annually. Meaning customers may receive a credit or be charged additionally as necessary.
City staff and council clarified the city utility company will work with those impacted to make the change.
Members of the Blanding City council also received a report from Economic Development and Visitor Services Manager Ben Muhlestein at the February 27 meeting. 
Muhlestein reported on visitation numbers at the Blanding Visitor Center with reports of 28,388 visitors in 2023, the highest numbers since 2018.
Additionally the visitor center gift shop saw record revenue for August and November, and while not a record total gift shop revenue was $55,556 in 2023.
Muhlestein also reported on a variety of upcoming events including preparations underway for the Independence Day celebration held on July 4th, including the news that Blanding City fire department will be in charge of the fireworks show in 2024.
Other events planned for the year include the fall festival, the Bears Ears Marathon, and a Christmas Light Parade.
Members of the council passed an updated General Plan at the February 27 meeting. The council had reviewed the plan at the February 13 meeting but asked for more time to review it, with no changes made the council unanimously passed the plan.
City General Plans are typically updated every decade and are meant to be a framework to guide a municipality’s future growth, development, and land use policies. Blanding received a grant to complete the updated General Plan.

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