Blanding City hires new attorneys, discusses Recapture Reservoir dock

by Katie Boyle
Staff writer
At their latest meeting, members of the Blanding City Council approved new legal representation, discussed a new dock at Recapture Reservoir, and appointed new members to the planning commission.
At their January 25 meeting, the Blanding City Council finalized contracts with their new city attorneys. 
The council voted and unanimously passed a motion to approve contracts with Blaisdell Church and Johnson, and Infiniteam Legal Solutions. The city contracted Blaisdell Church and Johnson to cover civil matters, and Infiniteam will cover criminal prosecution for the city. 
The rates in the contracts match the rates presented at a previous council meeting. Blaisdell Church and Johnson will be paid $150 an hour for legal services. 
Aaron Nielson, attorney from Infiniteam, will be paid $100 an hour, with an additional $350 travel reimbursement and a $450 pre diem for each day spent in San Juan County. 
Talking about the additional fees from Infiniteam, David Johnson wanted to “note that staff is still cautious about the fee structure of this contract.” 
Council member Erik Grover inquired about the possibility of ending the contracts if it becomes too expensive. Johnson explained that there is a 30-day notice clause that allows either party to terminate the contract. 
The previous city attorney, Kendall Laws, submitted his resignation and ended his services at the end of 2021.
Laws cited the reasons for his resignation include the city council decision to not increase his monthly salary, the fact that prospective clients are willing to pay more in less time, and his personal best interest.
Laws’ contract was $19,750 a year, including $1,750 for training and up to 240 hours of annual labor at a rate of $75 an hour. Any hours worked over 240 were billed at $125 an hour.
In a city staff report, the city says that from July to December 2021, Laws provided 81 hours of labor. Assuming Laws worked the same amount of hours in the second half of the fiscal year, the hourly fee would be closer to $111. 
The staff report notes that Law’s role as the San Juan County attorney has been a conflict of interest at times, with the city hiring outside counsel at a rate of $250 per hour in those instances.
The staff report also mentioned that other cities in the state report paying between $150 and $200 an hour, before additional fees.
At the January 25 meeting, the council considered a resolution approving an agreement with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to maintain and manage a new dock on the east side of Recapture Reservoir.
The resolution was ultimately deferred to the next meeting due to a lack of majority support.
City Economic Development Specialist Pratt Redd presented the item to the council. 
The city and the Utah DWR entered into a verbal agreement to work together on the design and budget of creating the dock. 
The city used their already-budgeted Recreation Master Plan as a match with the DWR to help design and create the 40-foot long aluminum dock.
Redd reports the dock is paid and delivered and will be ready for use this Spring. The 3 by 40-foot long dock should accommodate one standard ski boat or two fishing boats at a time.
The agreement lists expected roles of each entity. According to the agreement, the DWR will manage and stock fish populations including coordinating with city staff to determine appropriate dates for stocking, enforce state fishing rules and regulations and purchase the boat dock for the reservoir.
The city will install the dock, and be responsible for operations and maintenance of the dock. This includes moving the dock as water levels change.
Grover expressed concern over the language in the agreement, saying, “I believe the state is trying to project more onto us than just maintaining it.” 
Redd said that the agreement is “a give and take partnership between two public entities” and the staff does recommend it.
Councilmembers Kellen Nielson and Len Gasser voted in favor of signing the agreement while Grover abstained. Council members Cheryl Bowers and KD Perkins were both absent from the meeting. 
The motion to approve the DWR agreement received two votes in favor and one abstention. New city attorney Eric Johnson explained that there must be a majority of the entire council to pass a motion. The motion did not carry but will be revisited a future meeting. 
During public comment, school board member Merri Shumway discussed exchanges for School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA) in the county.
SITLA proposes to exchange 135,000 acres of trust land checkered throughout Bears Ears National Monument for BLM acreage in other areas of the state. 
SITLA is making this move to acquire more profitable land than the isolated Bears Ears properties. Designated for preservation and recreation, SITLA land in Bears Ears can be leased only for grazing. 
Shumway implored that the council, along with other local governments, oppose the exchange. Mayor Logan Monson validated Shumway’s concerns but noted “we can’t do anything about this tonight.”
During public comment, the council also heard from Tiffany Dalton of the San Juan Chapter of Sportsmen Fish and Wildlife.
The organization hosts an annual banquet at the Wellness Center, but due to liability issues due to a lack of a fire-suppression sprinkler system, the city is forced to reduce capacity at the Wellness Center.
The city liability limits capacity in the Wellness Center to 299, while the banquet last year had more than 500 participants.
While the city is working to address the needed sprinkler system, Johnson reports the city is waiting on a cost estimate from Johnson Controls to install the needed sprinklers. The council is holding off until they can receive more details.
At the meeting, the council appointed Paul Murdock and Byron Clarke to the Blanding Planning Commission.

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