Blanding, Navajo Tribal Utility and UAMPS partner to extend power to Westwater area

The Blanding City Council discussed enforcement of ATV ordinances, the visit of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and approved some ordinances at their April 13 meeting.

The City Council meeting included a report from Public Works Director Terry Ecker, who updated the council on the project to bring power to the Westwater community, west of Blanding. 

The City of Blanding is a partner with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) in the project.

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

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

A construction agreement is anticipated to be signed by all parties by the end of the month, with an estimated design and construction schedule of eight to ten months.

Ecker said the idea to bring power to Westwater has had many iterations and different plans, and he added that this version is the best one yet.

It was reported that the main intersection in Blanding will soon be getting overhead arms, which is the first step in eventually installing a traffic light at the four-way intersection.

Police Chief JJ Bradford reports that the month of March saw an increase in tourist traffic and a correlating increase in traffic-related citations.

Additionally, the department is focusing on stricter enforcement of the town ATV ordinance. The department is educating minors and non-registered users of ATVs and off-road motorcycles.

The department is trying to educate Blanding residents on the ATV ordinances. Councilmember KD Perkins added that she’s seen “little kids”, visiting from out of town, driving on city streets in side-by-sides.

Chief Bradford explained the next steps in education may include issuing citations. 

“We don’t want to issue citations,” said Bradford. “We would rather have people do as they’re supposed to and not having kids flying around causing crashes.

“We have had a few kids that are on ATV’s that shouldn’t be crashing into cars and wrecking on city streets.”

At the meeting, Economic Development Director Pratt Redd reported on the city efforts to improve the visitor center. 

Goals to update the facility include a re-focus on providing tourist information, rest stop amenities, supporting local businesses, providing historical information, and increasing revenue.

As part of the effort, the city is fielding proposals from local guided outfitters to rent out space in the visitor center.

Redd says they have seen several proposals so far from local businesses that could offer tours and outings to visitors. In exchange for the space, the city would receive either rent or a portion of sales made at the center.

The move is being considered in order to increase city revenue and manage the cost of operating the visitor center.

The city council will review the proposals in coming meetings and may or may not choose one of the local businesses to operate in the visitor center.

Recreation Director David Palmer reported the department is busy cleaning parks and city buildings, along with preparing the pool at the recreation center for the season. 

Mayor Joe Lyman reported on the visit of Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as she met with stakeholders and reviewed the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Lyman was the lone representative from Blanding City invited to the meeting of elected officials. In addition to brief remarks, Lyman delivered a letter to Haaland outlining reasons to not increase the size of the monument.

Lyman presented the letter at the council meeting, which occurred after Haaland’s visit. Although an official vote was not taken, members of the council generally agreed with the sentiments expressed in the letter.

Lyman said of the visit, “A lot of people were in town and I think that the community hosted them well.  We were friendly and welcoming, despite whatever difference there may be across the board.”

The council also held public hearings and formally adopted four ordinances, all by unanimous approval, including adoption of the transportation master plan, which is an appendage to the city master plan.

The city adopted a policy regarding discussion items at city council meetings to provide staff with general thoughts and feedback in a public setting before being brought back for a formal vote. 

The City Council was presented with two options: 1) Adding a consistent workshop meeting before every City Council meeting; or 2) Creating a policy that identified a discussions items section in the city agenda, where items could be discussed without a formal motion.

 The City Council directed staff to move forward with the second option to create a discussion items policy in the Meeting; Procedures and Conduct section of city code.

The City identified an area of code that did not include the language of the Mayor’s designee, as identified in other areas of code, to oversee basic daily operations, such as payroll, routine expenditures, contracts and capital purchases.

The City also identified outdated exception for invoicing and purchasing procedures.

City Attorney Kendall Laws recommended that specific details be implemented as administrative policy, rather than in City Code.

This creates consistency and clarity on spending limits, who approves purchases at different spending thresholds, and establishes a limit to spending within the budget without council approval.

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