Emery County Democrat Nominating Convention is attended by Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth, Commissioner Gary Kofford, Sheriff LaMar Guymon, Glenn Wright, Rep. Christine Watkins, and Chairman Gary Petty.
Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford tells the convention participants of the projects ongoing in the county.
Emery County Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth speaks at the Democrat Nominating Convention.
Rep. Christine Watkins addresses the convention. She represents District 69.
The Democrat Nominating Convention was called to order by Secretary Kim Player on April 23 at the Huntington Senior Center. Chairman Gary Petty conducted the meeting. Petty introduced the dignitaries, Gary Kofford, Chairman of the Emery County Commission, newly elected County Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth, Sheriff LaMar Guymon, and State Representative District 69, Christine Watkins.
Petty introduced Glenn Wright of Summit County who presented a proposition. The proposition is about redistricting for the Senate, Congressman, State Senate, State Representative, and the State School Districts. Wright is a member of an organization called Fair Boundaries. Fair Boundaries is a non-partisan group put together by Republicans and Democrat's about two months ago. The task is to get on the 2010 ballot an issue that would require the establishment of a nine member non-partisan commission for redistricting after the 2010 census.
Fair Boundaries believes that in a true Democracy voters pick their leaders, not the other way around. It is our civic duty to make sure Utah's representatives are accountable to the populations they serve, and that quality candidates have a fair chance to challenge incumbents.
In Utah the proposed nine member commission would consist of four Democrats and four Republicans, they would select one other person to be chairman. Their job in re-drawing the districts would be to follow, as much as possible, city and county boundaries. Wright then asked the group if they would support a resolution requiring the Fair Boundaries be on the ballot by getting signatures on the petition. A sign up sheet was then passed around for volunteers that would be willing to help get signatures on the petitions. Petitions will be delivered, to those that signed up, in June. More information can be found at www.fairboundaries.org.
Petty called on Commissioner Gary Kofford to give a report of what is going on in the county. Kofford said, "There are good things happening in all areas of the county. I appreciate all of you for the support you give especially to Commissioner Pitchforth, it was a wonderful thing when she was elected and she has done an excellent job representing the people of Emery County and it is a pleasure to work with her. We have a good commission right now, there is not too much contention in it. We are getting a lot of things done. I can tell you several things that I am involved in.
"I do appreciate the sheriff too. It is great to work with him and he is a good man and I think he has done a lot of good for Emery County over the years. He has 35 or 36 years in service to Emery County.
"This morning we had a final inspection on the airport. We have built two buildings, one of which is called a 'T' hangar and one that has four individual hangars. If you are out there get Leon Defriez to open up the big hangar door. You can put a plane with a 50 foot wing span in that hangar.
"The building behind it has the 'T' hangars there are four of them in it. These are built so you can lease them out to individuals. They each have a door that is 48 foot wide. I went out there today on the final inspection and Leon has already got two of them rented. Kerwin Jensen's helicopter is in one hangar and it looks like it belongs there. This is a great addition to the community.
"Mark Johansen and Leon Defriez are the proprietors of the airport. He is presently in Duchesne and he has been doing quite a bit of work out of the Price airport. Mark will now be working out of the Huntington airport.
"One fellow said to me today, after he had looked at the airport, that the only thing we need now is a good cafÃ© and a good motel to sustain the people that come in here. I suggested to him that he build one or the other. His reply was that he did not have the money to do it. Somewhere we need to pull in a cafÃ© and a motel. Not meaning to run down the cafÃ©s and motels we have. But people have a mind set that we need those things, like a nice cafÃ© that served something beside hamburgers and fast food.
"Bevin Wilson sits on the UDOT Commission and represents this part of the world and through his efforts we got a little bit of stimulus money. That amounts to $2 million that will go on the Goblin Valley Road and right behind that will be another $2 million that will be a second contract to finish up the Hanksville Road into Goblin Valley. That will probably be done next June or so We have what is called a TS and E which is a review with UDOT on the May 5. That is to be bid around the 24 or 25.
"Behind that you have Lila Canyon UtahAmerican Energy, the same owners that own the West Ridge Mine and the Crandall Canyon Mine developing what is called Lila Canyon which is actually an extension of Horse Canyon if you are familiar with the Book Cliffs. Rather than going through the old Horse Canyon they are putting in a new portal in Lila Canyon and mining under the Book Cliffs back towards Green River. That has been a process of about 10 years to get it permitted. But it is permitted. There are still appeals against it and it is a race to see if the appeal gets heard or if UAE gets into the coal. SUWA is appealing the process of getting the mine permitted. The mine owners have to drive about a 330 foot rock tunnel to get to the coal. If UAE gets into the coal first then the appeal goes away. That does require a road which is about another $6 million through the efforts of the county, the special service district and UAE we are trying to come up with the money. It will be paid entirely by UAE, but the county is trying to help put it in place. That road needs to be in place for UAE's and the miners benefit by next June. So they can start trucking coal out of there. That is when they anticipate starting to truck coal out of the mine. The coal will be taken to Ridge Road near Wellington.
"Long term UAE are talking two scenarios, one is to reactivate the old load out facility where East Carbon used to come in on the road, and the other is to put a conveyor from the mine down to close to State Highway 6 and bring a railroad spur in. That is awfully expensive but it is expensive to truck it too.
"In order to do what they call due diligence they have to mine one percent of that coal within three years after they have started. The clock doesn't start running until the appeals process is over or until they hit coal. Once they hit coal they have 2.5 years to mine more than 300,000 tons. That will mean about 250 jobs in Carbon and Emery county.
"It means stabilization of West Ridge Mine. MSHA made them shut down for 2.5 months this spring. Part of the argument was that they wanted to leave every other column. The way MSHA wants them to mine is to go from a column, leave a column and mine the next column. This cuts the production in half. The way a long wall advances, they normally go from one column to the next column to the next column. That is what the orders are now and that is what they are doing.
"That means that Lila Canyon has to be producing in order to keep their contract going. This is a faster schedule than they anticipated. Their intent has been to complete West Ridge's as close as possible and then move the equipment to Lila Canyon, because of the MSHA ruling. To do due dilligence they will have to move into Lila Canyon earlier than anticipated. The change in the way coal is mined is due to what happened at the Crandall Canyon Mine.
"By the way, LaMar Guymon has been appointed to the Mine Safety Technical Advisory Council. He was appointed by the Mine Safety Office and is representing Emery County.
"We are trying to get money together to remodel the Emery County Care and Rehabilitation Center, in Ferron. We have an architect on board.
"Commissioner Pitchforth is over the Care Center and doing a fantastic job with them. We are going to have to replace all of the sewer lines in the building, the water lines, lavatories, toilets, showers, basically everything but the shell and concrete will have to be replaced. We will end up refurbishing the whole thing, including building a new kitchen and laundry facility. We hope to go to CIB on this. We have some money in the Municipal Building Authority and we hope to get a 50-50 match grant from CIB to get this funded. Because of the nature of the project we would like to get started as soon as possible in July and have the building closed in by October for the safety of all the people over there.
"Emery County Care and Rehabilitation Center has been a good thing for Emery County. They built it in 1965 with some federal funds. Think about all the people that have went through there out of Emery County it has been a great service to Emery County. A facility that we need to keep up. The only reason we didn't build a new one is because of money.
"When Laurie looked into the Care Center problems she said why mess with this? Lets build a new one. The architect said, 'We can refurbish this one for between $2-3 million and a new one would be above $6 million.' That is just for the original facility, that does not include the wing that goes out to the South. Money is a big problem and always will be.
"A lot of the things that we are doing when we talk about this money, it needs to be pointed out that it is not coming from taxpayer money it is coming from mineral lease money. This is not part of the burden that taxpayers are bearing. It is money that has come from coal mining but now is coming from coal bed methane such as gas wells. This money has been a benefit to Emery County and the State of Utah. This is money the legislators continue to look at and try to pull it away from us.
"Yesterday I was in a meeting with Deeann Bodily, she stated that 33 percent of the people in Carbon and Emery counties qualify for Medicare either through income or through age. Whereas on the Wasatch Front it is about 5-7 percent of the population that qualify for Medicare. But when it comes down to funding you're still funded based on population. So we are trying to treat one-third of our population while on the Wasatch Front they only have to treat 5-7 percent.
"When you talk about re-districting and I am not throwing things at the Republicans, when you look at Carbon and Emery counties, we did come up with a senator this year. David Hinkins has done a good job and I compliment him. I am happy to say he is from Emery County and I think he will represent us well. He represents all of SouthEastern Utah though. County boundaries would make a lot more sense. Regardless of who gets the seat.
"The swimming pool has been a hit. We average 200 people a day at the swimming pool. It starts at 5 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m.. There are more than 100 ladies in three aquasize classes.
"We are in the process of building a park next to it. If you have been over there and looked at it, the ground was a dumping ground for when they were building the high school and the auditorium. There has been a lot of concrete and steel hauled in there. The contractor has put in a separator and a clarifier and he has put through better than 72,000 tons of soil and I do not know how many tons of concrete he has hauled out.
"We required in the contract that they put 12 inches of top soil depth for burying the sprinkler system. The contractor has a D8 Cat and the other day he unearthed a piece of concrete bigger than your pickup. This is what he has to put up with while trying to make a park out of this ground. He has done an excellent job and it is going to be a beautiful park, with a restroom, a pavilion, three gazebos with tables and a soccer field, something that is really not in Emery County.
"I would like to make the point that Emery County has the best employees of any place. I have done several jobs in my history and worked with a lot of people. The people in Emery County are as hard working, dedicated, loyal and productive as any place. You hear criticism sometimes about them but I will put them up against anybody, anywhere, anyplace. There is nobody better than what we have right here in Emery County. They are top people. I do appreciate them. Thanks for your help and support," said Commissioner Kofford.
Gary Petty said we sure appreciate what Gary Kofford has done for the county and the Democrat party.
Commissioner Laurie Pitchforth said, "It has been quite a year and I want to thank all of you here because I would not be in this position without your help and support throughout the election and I thank you so much. If it was not support it was encouragement to hang in there. All these things that Gary was talking about and a lot of things he did not mention are happening in our first 90 days. When they say this is a part-time job I haven't figured that out yet, because I know how much time I am putting in and Commissioner Kofford puts in twice as much time as does our sheriff. I want you to know that Gary is an amazing commissioner. He has taught me so much. I recently had occasion to be with Sheriff Guymon and a group of his officers, they are a great group of men. Every where I go some one will ask, 'do you know Sheriff Guymon?' There isn't anyone that has anything bad to say about him. They all love him and they all appreciate him. They all tease him, but they all respect him very much.
"I am really proud of this county and all the things we have accomplished and that we are going to accomplish in the next few years. Thank you for all of your support," said Commissioner Pitchforth.
Sheriff Guymon said, "I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 40 years. It seems like only a week a month or year. I am looking at Commissioner Collard, and Commissioner Wilson, it seems like they were there yesterday. I think back at the things they did, they started a lot of good things in the county. The two commissioners that we have now, have just carried that on. I can tell you from experience that this last year has been an absolute relief to be able to get back to doing things and not have to worry about how you are judged and taken advantage of when you try to do things. It has been a real treat to be able to get back out and do work and have it appreciated. I appreciate the commissioners so very much. Gary has been out with us on search and rescue. Laurie has listened every time I have had a request. The other thing I appreciate is that they do not beat around the bush and drag things on months and months trying to get an answer. I get an answer and I can get on with the business that needs done. They are very supportive and that is appreciated. I have a few committee assignments and that takes me out of the office quite a bit. I used to worry about that, but I have such a good staff that I can go and do the things that I need to get done and not worry about things not getting taken care of.
"As Gary said we have some of the best employees ever and my guys treat me with all the respect in the world and seem to have just as much interest in the job as I do. That is hard to find. I take my job very personally. It is very important to me that the job gets done right for that is my reputation, my life that is on the line and my job that is on the line. They take good care of me and make sure that I look good and I appreciate that.
"We have had an interesting time. Every time election time comes, I continually hear that I am retiring. Just so that I can set the record straight, I do not intend to retire, although I have set a retirement date and that day will be three days before the viewing. That is my intention. I am sure I will have competition. I have never not had competition. That doesn't bother me that much because that makes you work twice as hard. As Gary said we do need to get out and give all of those offices some competition. Some of those have never had any competition and they get lax in their position. I look at my job every day like I have to do it right or tomorrow I won't be here and every elected official needs to look at their job that way. I intend to continue to do my job the very best that I can.
"Our county is changing, our recreation is just absolutely booming. You used to be able to go down on the Swell and spend two-three days and never see anybody. Now today I am out there for about four hours doing other things and every campsite in the draw is full. Weekends now are bigger than Easter used to be and that is taking more and more of our time. Thank goodness that our commissioners saw wisdom in signing the contract with the BLM and we have funding to take care of that.
"I thoroughly enjoy my job and look forward to it everyday. Everyday is a different adventure an it doesn't seem at all like 40 years to me," said Sheriff Guymon.