Blanding Council discusses July 4, substandard sewers, airport FBO

At the June 9 Blanding City Council meeting, the Council discussed the events being planned by private residents for Independence Day Celebration. An events policy was approved for the city years ago and serves as a guideline for what groups can do. 

Many of the policies work within the guidelines for celebrations held during the pandemic. Mayor Joe B. Lyman said, “We want to support anything to the maximum we possibly can.”

In other matters, most of the meeting was spent in discussion about substandard sewer lines in Blanding. 

City Engineer Terry Ekker described the problem and asked the council to discuss what needs to happen to move forward.

The issue is that some sections of sewer line are four-inch pipe and code specifies it needs to be at least eight inches. This is a problem when backups or sanitary overflows occur on the four-inch lines.

There are also not enough manholes to ensure blockages are cleared correctly. 

The issue is not unique to Blanding, which has some infrastructure that was installed more than 70 years ago. The estimate to fix every problem exceeds $2.4 million, or about $4 or $5 per customer. It could be fixed in sections with upcoming projects rather than doing it all at once. 

City Manager Jeremy Redd does not recommend fixing it all at once at this time. Mayor Joe B. Lyman said this is the reason the city has standards. 

Lyman said, “We need to manage it so it works for 50 or 100 years and not just for the guy building a house today.”

The council agreed to discuss this further in future meetings. 

In other business, the council reviewed two proposals for Fixed Base Operator (FBO) contracts for the city airport. The council responded positively to both proposals and expressed a desire to interview the operators. 

“I can see the right business improving that entrance to our city so that people do want to come into our town,” said Councilmember Cheryl Bowers.  “This could have really positive benefits.” 

City Manager Redd said, “The exciting thing about an FBO is there is a profit motivation for them to do more and to make it more, and that’s going to be exciting to watch.”

KD Perkins added, “I would love for that airport to highlight how great Blanding is.” 

The council agreed to discuss more in detail at the next council meeting in two weeks. 

Councilmembers also discussed municipal disconnections and fees. City Finance Director Kim Palmer asked about residents who fail to pay their bills. Even as assistance has come in, some residents are not paying utility bills. 

Palmer said, “We’re getting to a point now where we’re not helping. People are now compounding the debt.”

She proposed going back to the regular system in the next month and turning off utilities for those who don’t pay. 

City Manager Redd said, “Some people will not pay until the lights go off... We’re talking about a few people who are hoping we would never charge them.”

The Council approved the idea. 

The Council also approved a letter from Mayor Lyman to the Forest Service regarding a gate restricting access near Camp Jackson. Residents report the Forest Service tells them access is restricted to protect Blanding’s watershed. 

The letter reads, “To my knowledge, Blanding did not request a gate. I don’t believe the use of the road endangers the watershed.

“When the gate is closed, it is more difficult for Blanding to access our water infrastructure. We favor having the gate open or removed entirely if the reason for the gate is watershed protection.” 

The Council expressed a desire to be clear that Blanding City did not request restricted access. 

The Council discussed renewing the contract with City Attorney Kendall Laws. City Manager Redd recommended reducing Laws’s work hours to 180 hours per month instead of the allotted 240, while keeping the fee the same. Councilmembers want to review the hours before approving the contract. 

A resolution authorizes the city to “pick up” the employee portion of the tier two public safety retirement system 2020 enhancements.

Public safety employees had retirement programs gutted in 2011 during a tight budget year, and that makes it difficult to attract candidates to law enforcement positions.

The additional amount the city will fund is 2.27 percent and includes three employees totaling $2,842 per year. 

Chief Bradford reported for the police department. Officer Cole Palmer recently finished POST training and will help out the department.

Officer Most is leaving the department, and a new recruit from the prior hiring list should be able to start the police academy in August. 

An increase in domestic violence and driving under the influence was reported. There were several accidents involving underage drivers.

Overall, Chief Bradford says the department is avoiding some of the turmoil seen in the rest of the country. 

City Recreation Director David Palmer reports, “The pool is open and going, and we are going like gangbusters down there!” 

Baseball and softball games will start the week of June 15, though Palmer notes competition with teams from Moab and Monticello is unlikely. 

The Blanding City May Water Report indicates dry conditions. Mountain runoff exceeds what the city is using, but the lack of precipitation for the year has pulled numbers below average.

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