Blanding City transfer station closed for now

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the Blanding City Council moved toward closure of the transfer station, talked about possible rate increases at the Wellness Center, and discussed Economic Development at their latest meeting
At their January 23 meeting, members of the Council heard from Recreation Director David Palmer about the city Wellness Center.
Palmer shared an update to the bathrooms and sprinkling system upgrades. Palmer said a walkthrough inspection discovered that the handicapped shares were 50 percent over the approach. As a result, contractors are working to address the issue which has set the completion date back.
Palmer said they have been unable to let kids use the restrooms, with most patrons using porta-potties located outside the center. The city has allowed some older folks to use the bathrooms.
Palmer also shared with the council that the city should consider updating the wellness center rates.
“These aren’t taken lightly by us or by you (the council). For years now, costs have been driving up and we’ve just continued to absorb those costs. It’s’ a hard thing to do to want to raise rates to a facility.”
Palmer recommended the increase take place over the course of two years, rather than a hike up front. Palmer also said they took a look locally and further away to compare rates and noted the city has been behind the mark for a while.
Council members asked for additional information about revenue at the center, what the increase would cover, and the usage at the center.
The increase would likely be focused on daily and weekly passes to have visitors carry more of the cost, as staff noted that annual passes are more likely to be purchased by local residents.
Wellness Center rates were a discussion item at the meeting and will return to the council before a final decision is made.
At the meeting, council also discussed the future of the Blanding city transfer station. The departure of the city employee who opened the transfer station has led to a several month closure and a discussion about whether to offer the amenity.
A city staff report estimate of 12 months of financials for the Blanding transfer station, show $18,000 in expenses and $8,000 in revenue. As a result, the Blanding transfer station is estimated to be subsidized by $10,000 annually by taxpayers.
In addition, the report noted that while San Juan County Landfill costs vary month to month based on weight, residents who go to the landfill will pay about 50 percent less than current Blanding rates, with the city needing to double rates to break even.
In addition, the Blanding transfer station cannot accept all the materials that is accepted at the county landfill.
Although no vote was taken, council agreed to close the transfer station, with plans to hold a free dump day at the county landfill sometime in the spring and possibly a second time later in the year.
At the meeting the council also heard a report from San Juan County Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler.
Gizler provided updates on a variety of county economic work, including the county housing assessment, administration of rural development grants, and the need for an increase in Transient Room Tax to fill the likely loss of tax revenue should the sale of Gouldings to the Navajo Nation be finalized.
Gizler also shared the county sales leakage report showing the county misses on $94 million in sales tax as county residents go outside of the area for certain purchases, including new and used cars, merchandise stores, clothing, and food services.
Council members noted that the lack of food services in Blanding is a particular detriment to visitors and locals who may support additional eating establishments.
Gizler shared that the county will be working on a “blight report” to identify unopened commercial properties in the county and encourage businesses to open in those buildings.
Gizler also noted that the county is working on relocation packets for businesses. Council members and Gizler alike agreed that housing shortages are among key issues preventing growth. Gizler shared her office plans to visit with city managers and economic development personnel to develop plans and strategies to achieve economic growth goals.
City Manager Trent Herring shared reports that administration is working toward the annual water sales agreement with Energy Fuels. Staff has reviewed and provided analysis for a contract with Pacificorp.
At the meeting, the council also gave a thumbs up to a letter the city sent to the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service regarding the Bears Ears National Monument.
The letter had the same requests as letters from San Juan County and the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, asking that the federal land agencies hold another meeting with cooperating agencies ahead of the public release of the draft of the Bears Ears Management Plan.
While the draft publication was originally scheduled for November, it has been delayed. Blanding City joined with others asking to see and provide feedback on any possible changes made to the draft plan.

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