Prairie dogs cause $100K in damage to sewer pond

Even though the Blanding City sewer lagoons may be a paradise for local prairie dogs, the pesky critters have caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the waste management system.
An anxious Blanding City Council selected a repair option at the August 23 council meeting and it comes with an estimated $100,000 price tag.
The method approved will use corrugated vinyl sheet pilings that are driven into the dam to create a barrier to further digging. The prairie dog holes will be filled with a special grout, and the prairie dog infestation will be monitored more closely.
City officials state that the process should require one or two weeks of work to finish.
The damage is to the winter storage pond, which holds clean water after the treatment process.
The local prairie dogs apparently have an incredible work ethic. All of the noticeable damage was done this summer, after a massive increase in the number of prairie dogs.
This summer, so many prairie dogs dug holes through the side of the dam that water was leaking through the dam, putting the entire pond in jeopardy. Action is required to reinforce the integrity of the dam.
City officials do not know how many prairie dogs were killed, but said that more than 1,000 were killed on an adjacent property. The prairie dogs have dwindled in number due to the eradication effort.
In other matters at the city council meeting, the council heard that Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) wishes to purchase property for a new clinic in Blanding.
The UNHS clinic in Blue Mountain Hospital has run out of space and officials would like to build a new, stand alone facility.
The property for the new clinic is owned by Blue Mountain Hospital and is adjacent to the hospital. City ordinance requires the new building have direct street access, which would require construction of a road to the proposed site, in addition to a storm water drainage system.
According to City Manager Jeremy Redd, because of costs, other priorities and a limited time frame, the city cannot build the street this year.
Councilman Joe B. Lyman said the city needs to meet with those who have an interest in the development and see how they all can work together and contribute to this effort.
City liability issues were discussed, stemming from a claim for assistance from a homeowner whose sewer line was damaged and patched by the city approximately 50 years ago.
City officials state that in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the city broke a customer-owned line. The city repair to the line failed approximately 50 years later.
Although the home in question has been sold multiple times since then, the current homeowner said the city should insure the patchwork and assist in paying for repairs and damage caused by the failed patch.
Mayor Calvin Balch said he believes the city is liable and proposed the city assist the homeowner. The subsequent discussion became quite heated between Mayor Balch and Councilman Taylor Harrison, with Harrison finally exclaiming, “Why the h--l should we?”
Councilman Robert Ogle urged caution in setting a precedent of favoring one individual and moved to create an ordinance for this and future similar situations. The conclusion is to research the issue and outline and establish the level of warranty and liability.
City Planner Bret Hosler requested signatures for an Affordable Housing Plan required by the State of Utah. Hosler then presented the beginnings of an Economical Development Plan to the Council.
Councilman Lyman suggested the Council members use a survey to organize and prioritize goals of the city, which could then be utilized in the development of both the city’s Affordable Housing Plan and the Economic Development Plan. Discussion followed.
The City Clean Up is set for Saturday, September 17. A flyer will be sent in the upcoming utility bills containing additional information on the event.
Mayor Balch announced that the city has awarded a $2,500 bonus to the Blanding Police Department for their excellent work of late.
(Staff writer Eric Niven contributed to this story.)

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