Blanding City Council discusses budget, street crossing safety, Westwater power agreement

The Blanding City Council discussed their upcoming budget, safe street crossing for children, and the agreement to bring power to Westwater at the May 11 meeting of the city council.

As part of their meeting, the Blanding City Council discussed safety at the crossing of Center Street and 100 West.

Councilmember KD Perkins says she lives nearby, and she sees the heavy foot, scooter, and bike traffic at the intersection.

“I see that most children do cross at the crosswalk but it’s really hard to see cars coming,” said Perkins. “Regardless of which way you’re going, there’s a huge tree that shades the kids who are waiting to cross”

Perkins also mentioned she has had discussions with the principal of Blanding Elementary School about the intersection.

At the meeting, City staff explained the challenges of addressing the intersection. 

The current use and vehicle speed in the area does not meet the state standards to warrant a flashing school zone sign and an accompanying crossing guard.

Without meeting those required thresholds, the city would open itself up to liability if it posts a crossing guard.

City Manager David Johnson explained the liability lies in setting a precedent of placing a crossing guard at an intersection that doesn’t warrant one.

Despite that, the council and staff agreed to investigate options to address safety in the area.

Mayor Joe B. Lyman described the intersection as being at a “weird” spot.

“You think at the top of the hill you’re very visible, but because of the angle of the sun morning and evening and because of the shade of the tree, it’s not good visibility,” he said. “I got hit there once so I have personal experience.”

Several ideas were floated at the meeting. Public Works Director Terry Ecker said his department could install some PVC containers to hold orange flags that children could use while crossing the intersection. The idea is low-cost, but there is an issue with keeping the flags in the area.

Johnson added that although liability could hold the city back from getting a crossing-guard, it might be possible to have parent volunteers operate as crossing guards at the intersection.

Perkins also asked that the idea of a four-way stop be installed at the intersection. City staff said they would further explore the item and bring it back to the council.

The council also unanimously signed off on the city agreement with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to bring electricity to the Westwater community, possibly within the next eight to ten months.

Westwater is west of Blanding on land owned by the Navajo Nation. Jurisdictional challenges have meant the 20 or so families who live there do so without electricity.

The agreement was presented in the last council meeting but was tabled for a week to allow for legal representatives to resolve some minor wording in the agreement.

The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution establishing the agreement between Blanding and the NTUA.

The construction of three-phase power and a primary metering point will allow the city to act as a pass-through for the NTUA to provide and charge for power to Westwater residents.

This portion of the project is estimated to cost just under $200,000. It is covered by funds from the Utah State legislature, donations from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other contributors.

The council also held a public hearing for fiscal year 2022, which starts on July 1.

The general fund has a $2.9 million budget for the year. $400,000 has been budgeted in anticipation of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan.

In addition to the general fund, the City of Blanding provides its own services represented in the Enterprise Fund.

The $5.1 million budget operates the electric, water, sewer, and solid waste departments, along with other needed utilities.

The council also approved the transfer of funds between the city enterprise and general fund.

Blanding budgeted for the transfer of between one and 3.4 percent of utility fund revenues to the general fund as a “dividend” to Blanding taxpayers as the result of the taxpayers’ investment in the City utility infrastructure. 

The City says the utility transfer helps keep property taxes in Blanding low

If City utility services were provided by private utility companies, these dividends would instead be paid to investor-owners.

But because Blanding taxpayers are the investor-owners, these dividends are used to offset what otherwise would be an increase in property tax rates.

In total, $160,500 will be transferred from the enterprise fund to the general fund.

Additionally, the city will hold a public hearing on June 8 to solicit public comment for or against approving amendments to the 2020-2021 budget which concludes at the end of June.

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