Monticello explores ideas to cut fire suppression costs
by Eric Niven
The Monticello City Council had several important issues to discuss during a recent council meeting. After the regular issues of reviewing minutes and paying bills, the council set to consider new issues facing the city.
Jason Johnson, Southeast Area Manager for Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands, was asked to speak by invitation of City Manager Doug Wright.
Johnson presented a fire agreement with the Utah State government. The contract outlines the fire suppression responsibilities for Monticello and how the city can call upon state and federal entities for fire assistance, if needed. The cost of these services would be directed to Monticello.
Johnson presented a possibly more financially viable alternative to the Council. The new agreement will be more like an insurance program, where Monticello would pay a $1,317 premium based upon the acreage under Monticello’s responsibility.
The benefit of the new program would be that the $1,317 cost could be offset if the City develops a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The cost to implement the Plan could also be deducted from the $1,317 premium.
The requirement to participate in the new plan would be that the City obtain approval for fire suppression activities as a deduction. In addition, the Monticello volunteer firefighters must meet minimum standards of training and equipment.
Concerns were raised that the minimum standards might not be attainable for many Monticello firefighters nor might the volunteers be able to take the required time to obtain the training.
Johnson said Monticello needs to decide whether to participate and meet the requirements, or to opt out. The Council decided to discuss the new program with Jonathan Nielson, the Monticello Fire Chief.
In addition, Johnson reviewed the current agreements regarding access to the Monticello secondary water system for fire suppression efforts. Currently, Monticello would receive a lump sum of $200 for the season for unlimited water usage, unless water access is used for more than four consecutive days. Should this happen, a monetary renegotiation would take place.
Natalie Randall, the new Director of Economic Development for San Juan County, visited and shared her team’s organization, the various committees which are either already in place or in planning, the goals of her office, and what she needs from Monticello for her team to help Monticello develop economically.
Randall said the purpose of her office is to act as a liaison between San Juan County, the State of Utah and other organizations.
She then emphasized research designating five areas of focus for San Juan County: 1-transportation, 2- broadband internet, 3- business expansion, 4- diversification, and 5- culture.
Randall’s team has divided responsibilities, including 1- researching economic needs of the county, finding new opportunities and developing existing opportunities, 2- social media and public relations and 3- office management and distribution of marketing supplies.
Randall said she will be hiring another individual to oversee business development.
Randall emphasized the need for community involvement in the various committees and for Monticello to determine future economic goals, so she and her team can assist.
Jeremy Avondet, the new Recreation Director, gave a progress report and outlined the projects he is engaged in. Avondet is developing a one, three and five year plan to maximize current programs and create new recreational opportunities for the city.
Avondet plans to develop a coordination and alert application so city residents can know what recreational opportunities are available and the specifics of each program.
Most of Avondet’s recent efforts have been in repairing neglected facilities. He and a seasonal helper have made numerous repairs to ensure the safety of participants.
Avondet said they have repaired fields, sealed and cleaned sections of the swimming pool, spread gravel, and initiated a fertilization project. The Council expressed appreciation for Avondet’s hard work and willingness to get his hands dirty.
To close the meeting, Manager Wright shared a number of project updates. First, he brought up concerns that a grant to build and expand existing trails may not be financially viable to implement. Wright estimates the City would need to spend more than $100,000 to receive the $50,000 grant.
Because of the high cost and the limited time to implement construction, the grant might be returned unused. It was pointed out that the council voted on the grant without having the specifics to make an informed decision.
Discussion ensued that grants need to be carefully reviewed because the city has a limited staff whose time is currently consumed in maintaining the existing city infrastructure.
Grants usually require not only monetary investment, but personnel to build the additional infrastructure and then maintain it.
Wright said that unless the city hires new personnel, grant projects could easily overwhelm the existing staff.
Wright said he would like additional time to review the options and to see if the grant might be flexible in its implementation.
Wright also informed the Council that the fueling system at the airport is now functioning. He said a temporary fix is in place on the system but a more permanent fix will be in place soon.
Other issues in process include continued work on the water main, training for pool maintenance, the City audit, closing of the golf course for the winter, inadequate parking for seniors and golfers at the Hideout Community Center, and city signage, which has been passed to the Parks and Beautification Committee for their feedback.