Blanding Council considers art project, CARES
by David Boyle
The Blanding City Council received a proposal for an art installation project at the city park located near 200 South and Main Street.
The proposed art piece would feature a stone base with metal wagon wheels and antler sheds on top, a few options are being considered ranging in size.
At the September 8 meeting, Kara Laws presented the benefits of the project, including community pride, a representation of history and culture, and the economic benefit of having a piece that brings tourists to town.
Most of the material for the project has been donated and no financial contribution is asked of the city other than permission to install the piece on city property.
Upkeep on the project would be to replace the antlers over time. The sheds at art pieces in Jackson Hole and Afton, WY have to be replaced every 30-50 years, but the antlers may last longer in the dry Blanding air.
The art piece would be dedicated to three Blanding residents Cameron Palmer, Kyle Bailey, and Parker Palmer, who all died in a tragic car accident on July 1.
City Council members expressed support of the art piece but were more hesitant to signify at the September 8 meeting that they would allow the installation to be placed on city property.
Council members expressed concerns about what doors may open if the city accepts a private art piece onto public property.
Implications of accepting the piece include whether the city would have to accept all future art installations.
Another implication relates to memorials remembering city residents. Accepting one memorial could beg the question as to why some have a memorial on city property and others do not.
The council asked city staff to look into potential policies the city could enact before accepting art installations on city property.
The council also weighed in on the start of the girls basketball league. Recreation Director David Palmer shared with the council that the girls basketball league is the first indoor rec league to start since the coronavirus reached San Juan County. Palmer asked the council if they wanted to require masks of those who attend games.
The council decided not to mandate masks for spectators at games. They directed Palmer to have signs up in the gym as people go in asking them to wear a mask and social distance.
Additionally, the rec department will open up several gym doors at the end of games to avoid bottlenecks at a single entrance/exit point as participants come and go.
The council also discussed spending of CARES funds the city received. The money the city receives must be spent between March 1 and December 30.
Restrictions exist on how and what the city can spend the money on. For example, they cannot replace revenue or simply give all city residents a check or credit on a utility bill.
Of the $215,000, the city has already spent about half, including about $35,000 on direct health expenses and about $72,000 on payroll that can be identified as directly related to coronavirus response. An example is the hours police officers have spent responding to COVID-19-related issues.
With another $24,000 earmarked for remaining health expenses and payroll, the city will have about $80,000 left to spend.
City Manager Jeremy Redd recommended the city spend some of the money on marketing tourism in the area.
“Some of the businesses that have been hit the hardest in our community are the tourism-related businesses, the restaurants, the hotels,” Redd said. “So you can use some of that to help get that tourism economy moving again.
“They do want to see a focus on something in the advertising that talks about cleanliness or social distancing.”
Redd also pointed out that with a lack of transient room tax funds, the city has already had to cut back a lot on marketing.
The Blanding council gave approval to spend $30,000 on marketing and asked staff to look into other options where the city could use the money.
Some ideas mentioned at the meeting included using funds for mental health care in the city or city sanitation costs.
Blanding has had a recent issue of illegal dumping at city parks. In order to address the issue, the council plans to educate the community on options including getting a second bin, recycling, or participating in future free dump days.