The Emery County Commission met in their regularly scheduled meeting on March 4 at 4 p.m. Those present were Commissioners Ira Hatch, Drew Sitterud and Gary Kofford. Also present was Sheriff Lamar Guymon and County Attorney Dave Blackwell. The opening prayer was given by Bryant Anderson. The boy scouts from Troop 329 led those present in the pledge of allegiance. Commissioner Sitterud read a resolution proclaiming March 29 as "Scouting for Food Day in Emery County. "The Emery County Commissioners hereby strongly encourage all citizens of Emery County to contribute generously to the food drive," read Commissioner Sitterud.
The first item on the agenda was the update from Deb Dull of Utah Power. She mentioned that the utility bills from Utah Power would have a new look. She said the intent was to make the bills more understandable. She said Utah Power remains active in the communities; they have been working with irrigators and working with those involved in the Huntington Plant issues. Dull introduced Mark Mansfield, manager of the Hunter Plant, to the meeting. He said they have always received a warm reception in the county and they appreciate the support of Hunter Plant by the county and commissioners. He said they are in the process of completing a 200 page permit application. He knows it hasn't been filed yet as he is the one who will sign it before its submission. It is their intent to file the application for a permit to build Hunter 4. Utah Power is regulated by six states and each state owns a percentage. Thirty-five percent is owned by the state of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Each of these states must be in agreement on where a new plant would be built. Wyoming wants the plant in their state; Oregon and Washington do not like coal fired power plants and want a wind powered plant. Mansfield reminded those present that it is a multi-state process and decision. He said Utah will develop a desperate need for power in the next few years. Utah needs several base load units plus capacity for peaking loads. Mansfield believes that Hunter is the logical place to build and it is his intent to file the application as soon as they have all of the pieces together.
Hunter Plant will not undergo an overhaul this year, but $15 million has been allocated to the plant for capital work. Work will be done on the scrubbers which will employ pipe fitters and boiler makers. "There will be quite a bit of activity at the plant. Hunter will have enough water to operate and we will avoid leasing additional water. We have a secure fuel load," said Mansfield. "We are in good shape, we have gone through a transitional phase and we have around 204 employees, we look to increase the work force to around 233 people. We will add skilled people, journeyman and others, but we hope to add some local people with some entry level positions as well. Huntington Plant will also be adding some employees, but I'm not sure of the numbers. We are also involved in homeland security, we are a vital infrastructure, but we like to keep that low key and behind the scenes. We welcome visitors to come and see our facilities," said Mansfield.
Delena Fish was next on the agenda with the Division of Workforce Services update. She said they had their open house at their new facility last week. They have had a lot of activity as well. Fish reported that the unemployment rate for Emery County was 10.1 percent and 13.2 percent which is the highest in the state. She reported that some of the services they help clients with include looking for work as well as resume writing and other job search related education. They also conduct testing for businesses in need of employees. Workforce Services conducts workshops which better prepare job seekers for employment by helping them with their interview skills. Fish also mentioned the website which connects job seekers with employers. It is jobs.utah.gov. This is a free service to both job seekers and employers. She mentioned that they were happy the medicaid cuts for the elderly and low income had been rescinded by the governor and overall they do expect a 2 percent cut. She said that most of their funds are federal and they don't suffer as much as some state agencies have with the attempts to balance the Utah State budget. Fish said she appreciates the support of the county.
Mike McCandless was next with an update from Emery Telcom. He said they are doing an upgrade on fiber optics which will upgrade the capacity from OC 12 to OC 48. The new will be three times the size of the old and will allow the company to do a lot of different things. The telecommunications industry has been taking a beating the last couple of years and Emery Telcom took the opportunity to pick up some new equipment at low cost.
McCandless said that the fiberoptics is the backbone of the system and is now available in each of the communities they serve except Wellington and hopefully it will arrive there sometime this year. "We are putting our resources into building the backbone and are now starting into a new cycle. We have 110 employees and we are refocusing on some efforts. We are working on our call center, it has been operating now for eight years and we are looking at additional resources and recruiting there. The director will be traveling and making new contacts. We are also looking at our advertising as a sustainable business. DSL has exceeded our expectations and the customers have been great and we are expanding our territory into Elmo. We are especially proud of our schools program which began in 1997 with the education initiative. We donate approximately $35,000 a year in money and services. Currently we will be awarding scholarships to Emery High students and conducting our annual art work contest."
Bob Greenberg was next on the agenda with the presentation and review of the Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Audit for the year ending 6-30-02.
The next item on the agenda was Barbara McKell with a discussion of property taxes on personal and business property. She expressed amazement that her property in Utah County which was appraised at $289,000 had a tax of $1,200 and her home in Ferron was appraised at $129,000 had the same $1,200 tax. She said that she thought Emery County had the highest tax rate in the state.
Commissioner Hatch mentioned that the only way to lower taxes is to do away with services. Commissioner Kofford mentioned that the county is offering the same services as back in 1991 and doing so with less taxes being collected from Utah Power.
McKell said it is scary for businesses and hard for them to operate with the tax burden. She said that the Price City tax rate was .011991 and Utah County is .010564, Castle Dale is .016510, .Ferron is .016995.
Commissioner Sitterud said with the centrally assessed Utah Power's taxes are going down each year, which creates more of a tax burden on county taxpayers. Commissioner Kofford said that over the last ten years the taxes collected from Utah Power have gone down from $21 million to $13.5 million collected in 2001. The commissioners said they were open for input from the public on which services they don't need and are willing to do without in order to reduce taxes.
The next item on the agenda was the Huntington City Mayor Jackie Wilson with a request for a tax abatement. She said they have been trying for several years to get rid of the two abandoned buildings on Main Street in Huntington. She said the buildings have now been deeded to Huntington City and will be demolished after the necessary prepatory work is completed. The taxes on the building are $3,401.84 and $25.01. The outstanding taxes are five years overdue and Wilson requested a partial or complete abatement of the taxes owed on the property.
Commissioner Hatch said it was a worthwhile project. The commissioners agreed to abate 50 percent of the taxes owed on the property. Wilson said they will resale the property when the necessary cleanups have been completed.
The next item on the agenda was Paul Jensen from the Emery County Theatre with a request for a donation. They will present the musical "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" on April 10, 11, 12 and 14. The commission approved a $250 donation to the theatre.
The next item on the agenda was Ken Michie discussing the bonds and grant. Commissioner Sitterud read the information on the bonds. The amount of the bond is $162,000. Michie said the jail property and the courts have had interesting financing and the courts building is a state facility on which the state will pay a lease. The jail was built with mineral lease money without cost to the taxpayers of the county. The facility itself was not built with county taxpayer monies. He said the lease agreement being entered into has favorable financing at 2.5 percent over a 20 year period. The grant is larger than the loan and doesn't have to be paid back. The closing date for the bond is March 28. The resolution was adopted by the commissioners.
The next item was the consideration and approval of a resolution confirming the sale and authorization of the issuance of $1,000,000 general obligation public purpose bonds, series 2003A of Castle Valley Special Service District and related matters. Michie explained this bond as being authorized in a bond election with this being the first in that series and it needs to be paid back in 10 years. Michie and Darrel Leamaster have been working with the CIB to improve the terms of the bond to pay the bond back on the long end and hopefully the CIB will approve those terms. The commissioners approved the resolution.
The next item was the consideration and approval of a resolution confirming the sale and authorization of $2,100,000 in general obligation sewer bonds, Series 2003B of CVSSD and providing for related matters. Michie explained that this bond was purchased by Zions Bank at 3.76 percent interest and must be paid off by March of 2012. This bond was sold on the open market. Both bonds will close on March 21. CVSSD will invest the money and the actual construction of the sewer project will begin in one year. The resolution was approved by the commission.
The next item was the filling of the three vacancies on the Emery County Special Service District #1 board. The names of Bevan Wilson, Kent Petersen and Dean King were approved to fill these vacancies. The next item on the agenda was the appointment of Vernell Rowley to the CVSSD administrative control board. The next item was the discussion of the board of adjustments. It was decided that they would begin the process to fill these openings. Commissioner Hatch suggested staggering the terms for these vacancies. The next item on the agenda was the consideration and approval of amendment number 3 to the economic adjustment strategy grant. This will extend the EDA grant to July 2003 which will extend the time the grant has to be spent. This grant is for the incubator building.
The next item on the agenda was the approval of the standard contract agreement between Emery County and the Utah State University for extension services. The next item was the approval of the check edit list, additional claims, requisitions and dispositions. Commissioner Hatch encouraged department heads to get the bills in on time so they can be paid in a timely manner. Commissioner Kofford expressed concern for credit card payments to Walmart. He stressed that the county purchase available items within the county whenever possible. Pat Snowball, personnel director, presented the name of Chris Hansen as a deputy treasurer in the treasurer's office. The name was approved with the effective date March 5. She also asked for the promotion of Morris Sorensen to general foreman for the road department.
The next commission meeting will be held on April 1 at 4 p.m.