Blanding Council appoints Justice Court Judge, tables raw water policy discussion, talks mental health

By David Boyle
News Director
Members of the Blanding City Council ratified the Mayor’s nomination for justice court judge, tabled the raw water discussion and talked about suicide prevention at their latest meeting.
At the February 15 meeting Mayor Logan Monson nominated Kelly Laws to serve as the new Blanding Justice Court Judge, that nomination was unanimously ratified by the city council but not before deliberation beforehand. Laws will complete a required state training that is available in April.
Ahead of his nomination, Monson shared that there had been three candidates interviewed for the position including two Blanding residents Laws, Trent Herring, and Grand County resident Danalee Welch-O’Donnal. 
Herring later informed the Mayor he did not have the time to fulfill the duties of the judge, effectively bowing out of the decision. 
The process to appoint a judge began in October 2022 and would need to be ratified by March 4 in order to avoid starting the process over again.
At the meeting, Monson shared that he was limited about what he could share about the candidates including not being able to share their applications or information from the hiring committee interviews.
While some information couldn’t be shared regarding the process city administrator David Johnson did share some information about the candidates.
“It’s already public knowledge that Mr. Laws had been a former council member and served in the community for a long time and Mrs. Welch-O’Donnal is a current judge right now and wouldn’t have to go through the certification process.”
At the meeting, two Blanding residents shared their support of the nomination of a Blanding resident to be the next judge. Resident Nicole Perkins shared her perspective.
“We have a valid candidate from our community who will serve us well who may not be perfect but has common sense who has served well in our community, who has been in our community who has been elected into office multiple times.”
Council members unanimously approved Laws nomination. Justice Court Judge terms are for six-years. The appointment comes after the announced retirement of Blanding justice court judge Lyon Hazelton. Hazelton will continue to serve as the Monticello and San Juan County Justice Court judge.
At the meeting council members also approved a motion to table discussion on a raw water sales policy. 
City staff presented an updated proposal to create a policy for raw water sales from the city. While the school district, churches, and Blanding city’s park and recreation pay 75-percent of the culinary rate for raw water the Blanding Cemetary District pays a flat rate of $175 per acre-foot. The other raw water users from the city’s upper ditches pay around $500-$740 per acre-foot.
The proposed policy would have the cemetery district pay the same rate but Johnson explained the council could consider an annual contribution to the cemetery district to ease the increase in their expected budget as a result of standardizing raw water sales.
The city of Blanding also sells raw water to the Energy Fuels White Mesa Mill from Recapture reservoir. The mill is the only entity to purchase raw water from the city direct from the reservoir and maintain its own pipeline from the reservoir to its mill.
The mill currently can purchase up to 150-acre feet from the mill at a cost of $75 per acre-foot when water is available for the city to sell. Staff recommended moving away from the flat rate for water and towards a cost of 20 percent of the culinary rate per acre-foot, which would more than double the rate to $168 per-acre foot. 
Although not in attendance representatives from the mill communicated a request that the council table the decision to consider a policy that allowed for negotiation on a case-by-case basis and also asked for time to bring a proposed contract to the city.
Members of the council tabled the decision to allow for more discussion with the mill.
At the meeting city council also heard from Niki Olsen a Mental Health professional with Utah Navajo Health Systems, who also runs the county zero suicide coalition.
Olsen shared that one of their efforts is to train throughout the county including two main training offerings. One is a three-hour offering called safe talk. The training is for suicide alertness, so individuals can learn how to listen for invitations that a person is giving to you about their thoughts of suicide and how to connect them with someone who can intervene.
The second training offered is a two-day assist training to become an intervention person to assess risk levels and keep the person safe. Completing the training will allow the trainee to create safety plans and get them connected to professional help.
Monson brought the discussion to the council to highlight the need of suicide prevention efforts in the community and suggest the city encourage the training among its employees.
Members of the Blanding City Council also heard a presentation from city economic development director Pratt Redd. Redd reported the city has been exploring a new event to increase visitation in the slower season. 
The city is exploring hosting a professional Boston Marathon qualifying race in November, primarily funded by transient room tax funds and sponsorships. 
Redd shared that the event would likely be from Blanding to Bluff and could do well with faster times for runners headed downhill, and at a time when runners who missed qualifying in the late summer can attempt again. Redd shared that the event would be break-even with 118 participants without any sponsorship, with the event’s net profits exceeding $12,000 with 250 participants.
Members of the council also heard from the Utah State University Eastern Care about Childhood program. Presenting at the meeting was Korrin Olson of the program. Olson explained their work is focused on helping new providers become licensed childcare facilities and helping parents find licensed facilities.
The program is working to expand offerings in the county, including grants ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 as well as helping with start-up costs for childcare providers. Interested individuals can learn more by calling 435-613-5619.
At the meeting members of the council also unanimously voted to allow the annual Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife banquet to be held at the city wellness center. The event required approval from the council for the second year in a row as it has exceeded the current 299 occupancy limit at the wellness center.
While the city is retrofitting the wellness center with a fire suppression system that will increase the occupancy limit, that project is not yet completed. As a result, the event will not be covered by the city insurance and the city is assuming the risk and liability of the annual event.

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