Blanding Council keeps involvement with nuclear power plant proposal

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the Blanding City Council continued their involvement in a power project, made progress on the proposed wellness center retrofit, and heard from a city employee about volunteer firefighting at their latest meeting.
At their January 24 meeting, members of the Blanding City Council passed a resolution to continue their involvement in a project to construct a nuclear power plant that could provide about half of the city’s future power needs.
At their January 10 meeting, members of the council heard an update on the project from Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) General Manager Mason Baker.
The Carbon-Free Power Project, as it is known, has been in process for years and remains on schedule to begin construction in 2026, with the first module providing power in 2029. 
While federal government investments are helping move the project forward, Baker said additional power suppliers outside of UAMPS are needed to invest in the project to make it feasible.
While Blanding City could cancel its subscription to the project, City Manager Dave Johnson explained penalties for withdrawing early from the project outweigh the cost of waiting it out and seeing if the project will succeed.
“Essentially if they cancel the project we have the funds to cover that cost,” said Johnson. “If we decide to pull out, (...) we’re going to pay a lot more.”
Should the project succeed, the plant would deliver power to Blanding at a target price of $89 per megawatt hour.
At their January 24 meeting, members of the council followed the recommendation of UAMPS, Johnson, and city engineer Terry Ekker to pass a resolution to continue participation in the project.
Members of the Blanding City Council also passed a resolution to amend their assignment order to Jones & DeMille Engineering to provide architecture design, consulting, and construction oversight of the retrofit of the city Wellness Center. 
The project will add a fire suppression system and additional restrooms needed to bring the Wellness Center up to state code.
During public comment, members of the council heard from Blanding City Natural Gas Superintendent Chas Jacobsen.
Jacoben addressed the council about a recent policy change made by the city that disqualified him from continuing to serve as the city volunteer Assistant Fire Chief.
The recent change made by the city is due to concerns from city administration about a potential violation of IRS code and the Federal Fair Labor and Standards Act.
At the January 24 meeting, Jacobsen said he visited with the fire chief in Spanish Fork, UT at a recent training.
Jacobsen shared documents with the city council addressing the issue of city employees working as fire volunteers, including Utah HB 173 passed in 2019 which prohibits Utah employers from terminating an employee for being an emergency services volunteer.
Jacobsen said Spanish Fork recently went through a similar issue.
“They have two guys that work for power and light, and I think the third guy works for the parks and rec. department. He said, ‘As long as your normal job duties are totally separate from the fire then it’s not an issue.” Which is the case with me. So I ask for you to look that over.”
Members of the council were given packets of information and the phone number of the Spanish Fork fire chief.
Johnson noted that since it is an administrative matter, he would reach out.
Johnson did note the packet presented was dated 2006-2007, while Jacobsen added that HB 173 was passed in 2019 and has not been changed since.

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