COG hears BEAR program benefits and directives
The Emery County Council of Governments, which consists of Commissioner Drew Sitterud and the Mayors from all the Emery County cities and towns, held its quarterly meeting on Sept. 16. Commissioner Sitterud welcomed everyone to the meeting and began by introducing a presentation from Mike McCandless, Emery County Economic Development Director.
McCandless and Carbon County Economic Director DeLynn Fielding, have been instrumental in setting up the BEAR program. This stands for business expansion and retention. The program is designed to help businesses be successful and help them in any way possible. "We recognized this was a needed effort," said McCandless. "We have been able to secure grants and other things to help small businesses succeed in Emery and Carbon counties. Six months ago, this program really took off and thanks to the VISTA program, we now have three full time employees to work for this aim. Their job is to survey every business in the two county area and find and provide whatever help they need."
McCandless said between the two counties, there are around 1,300 business and the staff has completed evaluations with 700 of those businesses. The evaluations consist of a survey comprised of 160 questions which gives BEAR baseline data concerning the health of the businesses.
"Through these surveys, we have seen the labor market getting tighter and companies are beginning to offer better benefit packages for their employees," McCandless stated. "Another thing we do is short term referrals to meet the small businesses' needs. One issue we helped resolve is the enterprise zones in each town. These enterprise zones help businesses who operate in these zones to get tax breaks."
In addition to the surveys, McCandless and Fielding have pushed through legislation to define rural in the Fast Track program. Fast Track helps rural businesses and many of Utah's cities on the outskirts of urban areas were getting the help because they consider themselves rural. Rural is now defined as a community of not more than 10,000 in population. This definition has helped many really rural business owners get $50,000 grants to help them.
McCandless informed the COG to refer any business owner who may come to them for assistance to call the BEAR office and they will send a specialist to do an assessment.
Kent Wilson and Nathan Johansen addressed the COG with a request to clarify purchasing policies throughout the county.
"It is very difficult for service providers and contractors to deal with the cities in Emery County due to the fact that each one has a different purchasing policy. A uniform purchasing policy for every city and town would clear up questions and speculations for the providers and contractors. It would be a lot easier for those who are submitting bids to the cities and towns," said Wilson.
He went on to say that he has obtained and studied each policy from the cities and towns, and his opinion is that Orangeville's purchasing policy is the most fair and clear.
Following the presentation, the COG felt this suggestion was worth pursuing and will check into it for their next meeting.
Commissioner Sitterud read a letter from Dr. Glen Jensen of Emery Animal Health, who had written to the commissioners concerning his contract with the county for animal control housing. Dr. Jensen said he has not received a raise in the amount he is paid by the county to handle the animals. He is spending as much on housing, food, and medical supplies for the animals as the county is paying. He also noted that several years ago when he first contracted with the county for the service, he was promised a small percentage increase each year. "That has not happened," said Dr. Jensen.
Dr. Jensen also noted that each city and town has different policies and fee schedules for impound and animal services. He suggested the county hire one animal control officer and formulate one animal control ordinance that would be enforced countywide. "The only animal control enforcement is in those cities with an animal control officer, nothing in the county. Animal control began in the 60s with rabies vaccinations. We need uniform, county wide enforcement," said Dr. Jensen.
The COG meets quarterly and its next meeting will be held Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. in the county building.