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Front Page » April 23, 2002 » Local News » News
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Governor Leavitt and his cabinet at the Buckhorn Panel.

Governor Mike Leavitt held a town meeting on Wednesday at the Museum of the San Rafael. The meeting was well attended by county residents anxious to make the governor aware of their issues.

Governor Leavitt said, "Castle Dale has been the Capital for a Day. We have been to Castle Dale Elementary where Mrs. Leavitt read her book to the students and we listened to them sing the Olympic songs. Some of my cabinet went on separate tours to the proposed elk farm, Smart Site and the public safety complex. We went as a group to the Wedge and to the Buckhorn Panel where a discussion took place. We had lunch at Tracy's and we welcome you here tonight.

"It has been a remarkable day. We are a bit wind blown but we were not deterred from our mission. Close to my entire cabinet has been here today involved in activities related to their tasks in government. I would like to have them introduce themselves and give a brief description of their positions," said Governor Leavitt.

Cabinet members, assistants and senior staff present were: Camille Anthony-core internal support and facility management. Paul Allred- banks and credit unions. Pam Hendrickson-tax commission. Dave Winder-post Olympic opportunities. Rich Kendall, department of higher education. Wes Curtis-state planning coordinator. Dave Harmer-executive director for community and economic development. Leo Memmott-state Olympic office, responsible for making sure the Salt Lake Organizing Committee ends up with a surplus instead of a deficit. Kyle Stevens-department of agriculture and food. Sid Bayer-department of commerce, regulatory. Merwin Stuart-commissioner of insurance. Dianne Nielson-environmental quality. Phil Windley, chief information officer for the state, Robin Williams-human services. Raylene Ireland-workforce services. Ed McConkie-juvenile justice. Lee Ellertson-labor commission. Bob Morgan-executive director natural resources. Rich McKeown-chief of staff. Lynne Ward-budget. John Nord-department of transportation. Karen Okabe -human resources. Bob Flowers-public safety. Rod Betit-department of health. Natalie Gochnour- deputy for policy and communications.

Governor Leavitt said, "We have enjoyed looking at your beautiful museum and we as a cabinet would like to make a $5,000 donation to the museum. We don't have answers for everything but we would like to hear your concerns at this time."

The first citizen to speak said Utah has the worst drivers of anywhere he has been. He thought most of the problems on State Route 6 are caused by drivers going too fast. He said, "I'm just an old farmer going 65 miles an hour when I go to the city and I about get run over."

Governor Leavitt said, "I'm glad you're here to say that. Highway 6 is a concern, it is a fundamentally unsafe highway. Over the course of the next decade we will allocate $80 million for widening in spots. We will step up enforcement. It will not eliminate all accidents. Approximately one third of the accidents on the road are from deer, one-third driver error and one-third inherent in the area."

Njord explained that UDOT will be working on a section of road on the south end of the Red Narrows which will become an area with five lanes. Long term projects for the road are also being planned.

Flowers said they will have strong enforcement in the area through Col. Duncan. They will have a zero tolerance for speeders and aggressive enforcement.

Mark Justice from the audience said, "I traveled to Duchesne the other day and passed 17 cars coming the other way. Also last week I traveled into Provo and passed 392 vehicles coming south. I know this is an unscientific observation but these two roads are the same type of highway. Eighty million dollars is less than you spend on fighting the environmentalists in lawsuits. Last year I spoke at Bob Voorhees funeral, a man who was killed on SR-6. You're not spending enough on the road. We need a four lane highway all through there."

Governor Leavitt said, "The $80 million we are spending on SR-6 is more than for any other corridor except for the I-15 corridor. You can feel confident that this message is being heard."

Connie Voorhees from the audience spoke next saying they were coming back from Provo and were not speeding. They were coming down the mountain at 30 m.p.h. and they hit black ice which threw them into the path of an oncoming semi-truck who hit them head-on, then they were struck by another vehicle as well. Her husband died on impact and was thrown into the back seat on top of their daughter where he remained for the two hours it took rescue crews to rescue her daughter from the car. Mrs. Voorhees was crippled by the accident with several broken bones. "How many children and grandchildren do we have to lose on that road before something is done? A divider would have saved us from hitting the semi head-on. My quality of life is completely gone. My husband is gone and I fear for my grandchildren who have to travel that road."

Mrs. Voorhees daughter was also involved in an accident with a coal truck recently when the truck pulled out of the weigh station. The truck didn't see her car and her car was smashed into the guardrail. Her daughter said, "The amount of money spent on medical costs and lost lives is enormous."

Governor Leavitt said their story was very poignant and asked for a moment of silence in the meeting in remembrance of lives lost on the road.

Jim Nelson from the audience said he had been talking to a truck driver who told him all the differences in driving a truck and a car. They can't stop quickly when people pull out in front of them. They have blind spots and a lot of other things. He suggested a video be made and presented for people to watch when they renew their driver's licenses to make them aware of what the truckers need and help them to learn the rules to drive better.

Governor Leavitt viewed this as a good idea and an excellent way to explain truck's limitations.

One citizen wondered if there was any way some government jobs could be moved to our county which has receding jobs. Governor Leavitt described it as a satellite location to help employ people in rural Utah.

Curtis said, "The governor came up with the idea for Smart Sites about a year ago to find a way to bring technical jobs to rural Utah. Since that time 14 Smart Sites have created 325 brand new jobs and we're just getting started."

Governor Leavitt said, "We've looked at what kinds of things in our part of government could be done in a rural community as part of the project."

Glenys Sitterud from the audience spoke of her concerns with the proposed elk ranch and the possibility of the introduction of chronic wasting disease to the wild elk herds and also to the cattle population.

The spokesman for the governor said, "We are concerned. Currently no elk can come into the borders of Utah which does not come from a herd that has been disease free for five years. Most herds can't qualify. There is much research to be done to see how the disease is transmitted from wild to domestic and right now there are more questions than answers. We met with some people last week who have been testing animals that were harvested through the hunts. So far they have tested 700 animals.

"In Craig, Colo. so far they have shot 311 animals and two tested positive for chronic wasting disease. We share your concern as do the people who ranch and work with them," he said.

Kent Larsen from the Ferron City Council brought up the issue of the coal trucks on State Route 10 going through Ferron at a rate of one every two minutes. He spoke of the public meeting they held and the conversations they have had with Kleston Laws from UDOT concerning the speed limits through town being too high. "What can we do to get more control within the cities of our county?

"We also held a public hearing to address the issue of the Millsite closure. The parks board is voting on the issue tomorrow and we'd appreciate any help you can give us. We are proud taxpayers in this county and now they are thinking about closing one of our parks. Sixty percent of the golfers at Millsite are from the Wasatch Front. We appreciate you coming down," said Larsen.

Governor Leavitt said, "It will take approximately $110 million to rebuild SR-10, who pays for it? The coal companies, the consumers, the power plants. We don't know. Right now we will just keep the road patched until we figure it out."

Njord said they are concerned about safety and making sure they have safe roads which are appropriately designed with speed limits that are appropriate.

Governor Leavitt said they will arrange a meeting between the transportation commission, UDOT and Ferron City to discuss the speed limits in Ferron.

Wade Jensen from the audience spoke next saying he's spent his life dealing with animals and bureaucrats. He said he is the last sheepherder on the San Rafael. "The monument was a shock to me. It will not stop wilderness. You sent a letter to the president asking for a monument. The majority of the people are against it. Help us fight for multiple use."

Governor Leavitt said, "After seven years of discussion the idea for a monument came up. It is an idea it is not a proposal. It will not happen in a short time. We will look at the process for a year. It's something we want to do right. When the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was declared, I received a phone call in the middle of the night that said it was going to be declared the next day. The week prior to this I had been told there would be no monument. This had been worked on for months under the cover of darkness without advanced discussion.

"What we hope to accomplish is to set the standard for how public process should take place. I give the assurance this is not something coming without a long process and public support. It will take time. You'll never gain unanimous support. You've all heard the phrase there's a gorilla in the room, but no one is willing to talk about it. There are four maps at the back of the room of the transportation plan for the BLM. Whether there is a monument or not, the process on the transportation plan is going forward. The BLM is deciding the status of the roads. The gorilla is the transportation plan. Trying to represent the interests of Emery County is the challenge.

"I think the monument proposal is a good idea. If the final proposal would look as good. The transportation planning which began months ago, will be the transportation plan for a monument. Your county commissioners are working to represent Emery County's interests. They wrote a letter to the BLM requesting a 30 day extension of the travel plan. I think the monument is a good idea worthy of consideration. How we deal with transportation issues will determine access in this region," said Governor Leavitt.

One citizen said he had attended the monument meetings and it's not the will of the people, but rather has just been dropped on the state of Utah and the nation. "Just because it is done here and is grassroots doesn't make it right," he said.

Governor Leavitt said, "There is not a monument. We will define a proposal and see what happens."

The citizen said, "It's not going to solve the wilderness problem."

Governor Leavitt said, "If we do nothing they will tie up the land. What if nothing happens? Nothing isn't going to happen. We need to define how this land should be managed."

Curtis talked about the Red Rock Wilderness proposal describing it as 9.1 million acres of wilderness which now has 156 cosponsors in Congress and the number grows every year. He said we were within one vote of having a monument if Al Gore had become president the monument would have been a done deal. "The opportunity is here now to be proactive and address the issues of grazing, water and access. We need to take care of the issues now while we have the opportunity. When the opportunity is past, you might as well bar the door."

Paul Conover from the audience presented Governor Leavitt with copies of a petition and several statements from people who were frustrated with the monument process so far. He said they felt like the monument idea had just dropped out of the sky.

Governor Leavitt said when he gave his state of the state speech he said he had an idea from the Emery County Public Lands Council. I didn't dream it up on my own we are still figuring out the process. I'm grateful for the petition. In some months we will have a well defined proposal and people can be for it or against it. It will be discussed.

"We live in a remarkable state where we love our heritage legacy. A little over two months ago the world saw what a wonderful state we are. We got better as a state. The songs I heard today at the elementary talked about values and peace and courage. We were stretched as a state and with the world watching we got better. Three and one half billion people saw our snow and our mountains. They got to know the Utah brand. One of my cabinet members was standing in line at Disney World and a man told him, 'you guys did a wonderful job with the Olympics.'

"We learned we could not just compete with the world, but compete with the world and win. We learned about ourselves. The Olympics was not a landing but a launching. In the years ahead we will pursue quality as the Smart Sites create new jobs. We will grow and develop. We will prosper for generations to come. Great things are happening. We have prosperity in our future and we need to find ways to make small buds blossom," said Governor Leavitt. The meeting adjourned and people spoke with the governor and his staff.

Kathy Justice displays her new Highway 6 survival bumper stickers.

The newly formed Highway 6 Improvement Corporation is striving for improvements on the highway. Corporation President, Kathy Justice said, "We are trying to increase awareness of the dangers in traveling SR-6. We had an idea to put up warning signs before people enter the canyon to make them aware they are traveling on a dangerous road, but there were too many legal formalities and it was too expensive. Then a friend of mine, Neal Peacock suggested we produce bumper stickers to put on cars that are frequently traveling the road, so a bumper sticker campaign has been started.

"We have designed two bumper stickers that will sell for $1 each, the proceeds from the bumper stickers will go to the non-profit corporation for use in lobbying the legislature for SR-6 improvements and for educating the public. We want people to know what we're doing. We believe the more awareness and publicity we can raise about this road will lead to more improvements.

"We went with the British Broadcasting Company on a tour of the road. They have produced a documentary which will air on June 17 on the Discovery Channel. This program deals with the dangers of SR-6. Ironically the broadcasting company was almost involved in an accident in their van when they were almost driven off the road to avoid a head-on collision with a vehicle passing where it shouldn't have been.

"People drive SR-6 like it is a freeway at freeway speeds. This road is not a freeway. It was not designed for the traffic load which it now carries. This is a very emotional issue for people who have lost loved ones on the road. Our organization is totally staffed by volunteers. I attended one of the Utah Department of Transportation meetings on SR-6 planned improvements and while there I had 200 signatures of people interested in banding with us. I get calls every time there is an accident on SR-6. Every time there is a near miss, I will hear about it. We need to keep this issue in the public eye. We are not going away until we have a four lane road through the entire canyon which might take a long time.

"UDOT also took the BBC up in a helicopter when they were here. They (UDOT) said they are doing all they can to improve the road. I feel they have neglected SR-6 for a lot of years. With recent improvements the SR-6 accident and death toll has gone down, a statement that I am very happy to make, but we will press on for the safety of SR-6 travelers. I have been told that a four lane highway would be a huge and expensive undertaking. It has been done in other places such as stretches of Provo Canyon. So I feel it is not an impossible dream.

"The mayor of Spanish Fork has been very helpful. They have lost many community members as well to the road. They send their rescue teams up that canyon nearly every week to help with accidents.

"We will place bumper stickers in Emery and Carbon counties as well as in Spanish Fork. We plan on creating a website to give more information on our mission and activities.

"We are just a group of concerned citizens bonding together to continue to improve this road. We will keep this mission alive. Call me for information on where to purchase the stickers at 687-2403," said Justice.

The two bumper stickers which are available now say, "I Drive Utah's Highway 6, Pray for Me, and "I Survived Utah's Highway 6. Thank you."

The Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation removed three parks from the proposed park closure list at their meeting April 18. The three parks are Otter Creek, Piute, and Millsite State Parks. The board made their decision after attending a series of public hearings and reviewing comments by concerned citizens. For the other parks in question, Utah State Parks is searching for alternative sources of management in order to remain open to the public.

When asked about what led to the decision to have Millsite remain open as a state park, Park Manager Ron Taylor stated, "I think it had a lot to do with the large turnout at the public meeting in Ferron and for the overwhelming support of the Mayor and officials of Ferron, the county commissioners, and the citizens of Emery County. Officials were determined to do whatever was required to keep the park open."

The decision of which parks would be closed in order to comply with the legislature's mandate to cut another $500,000 from an already tightened state park budget, was an extremely difficult decision for a board who loves to see the park system grow and improve. The general support of Emery County residents and officials for Millsite and with the way it is being operated as a state park, was certainly a compliment the board would appreciate.

"There are many here in Emery County who have a personal tie to Millsite and its inception," added Taylor. "A lot of hard work went into their efforts to make Millsite a state park, and I hope we will be able to add to that legacy by making continual improvements to the park and make it an even nicer place for families and visitors to enjoy for years to come. I personally want to express my thanks to the many friends of Millsite State Park who helped make this happen."

As the state experiences leaner times, and budgets get tighter, other parks may be selected for closure. Communities need to come together in support of protecting these recreation, scenic and heritage treasures, and park employees need to continue to provide clean, safe and friendly experiences in a sound fiscal manner.

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