Monticello will keep swimming pool closed

The Monticello Swimming Pool will not open in 2020 after the Monticello City Council met on May 26.
It is just one of several momentous decisions made at the council meeting.
After a significant amount of discussion, the council voted 4-1 to keep the swimming pool closed. Councilman Ron Skinner was the dissenting vote.
Recreation Manager Shane Christensen and Pool Manager Kaeden Kulow offered a variety of perspectives about opening the pool, with Kulow presenting a plan if the pool were to open.
The council discussed closure of the bathrooms and changing rooms, closing the rock wall and slide, possibly taking the temperature of patrons, and how the logistics of outgoing cleaning efforts could work.
Liability fears seemed to be the biggest issue for the Council.
City Manager Doug Wright said, “One of the things that worries me more than anything is the swimming pool having 16, 17, 18 year-old kids in charge of the lives of people. Adding this layer (coronavirus) concerns me even more.
“I worry if they have the maturity and common sense to make sure these things are being followed.”
It was suggested that adults should serve as lifeguards but the employees are paid $8 an hour and head guards earn $8.50 an hour. The Council wondered if adults would work for those wages.
The bottom line seemed to be the liability and the cost.
Christensen asked, “Is it really worth the risk to open the pool for one summer?”
The pool is in its tenth year of use. The city has a $45,000 annual payment for the facility that is due each year whether the pool is open or closed
In other matters, the city adopted new rates at the city landfill.
City Works Director Nate Langston explained that an increase was necessary because the city is “consistently short on the landfill and not making enough money to keep that place afloat.”
Langston estimates that actual annual costs total $36,621, while revenues have averaged between $10,000 to $14,000 in recent years.
The Council eventually instituted a new pricing structure to use the transfer bin and to dispose of construction materials.
The minimum cost to use the transfer bin is $25, while the minimum cost to use the construction material landfill is $10 for city residents and $15 for non-residents.
Mayor Tim Young said, “This is a tough situation, if we increase it too much, people just go out and dump it in the wash somewhere.”
City officials said that fees are cheaper at some transfer stations, suggesting that a $50 load in Monticello may cost $15 in La Sal.
Langston said the San Juan County landfill charges $44 a ton for garbage, while it is $80 a ton in Flagstaff, AZ and over $100 a ton in Page, AZ. “Our landfill is the cheapest by far,” said Langston.
The Council asked what would happen if they closed the transfer station. It was suggested that it may be cheaper for residents to drive to the county landfill at White Mesa.
Langston added, “When it hits people in the pocket book, then they pay attention.”
City resident Doug Allen asked if the county is “making their problem our problem. What obligation do they have for county residents in the area who live outside of city limits?”
Langston said, “The county used to be pretty much a partner when I first started. It was a lot more of a co-op thing out there.”
The city police department may be absorbed by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department by July 1.
The city department is losing one officer from the three-man force. Negotiations with the county focus on the transfer of employees and assets, including city police vehicles and equipment It costs about $100,000 a year per officer.
Two budget hearings were held, the first to adjust the current year budget and the second to set a tentative budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.
City Manager Doug Wright explained that actual sales tax revenue this year is $100,000 more than budget.
“We have not yet seen the negative effects of the economy shutdown,” said Wright.
Wright added, “We should be pretty much a balanced budget for the year. Last year, we over-expended by about $200,000.”
The tentative budget next year anticipates a 15 percent reduction in tax revenue.
Wright outlined cuts in every department, with reductions across the board in areas of the general fund.
“This may cause a little suffering and pain, but we can retain our level of services without causing too much pain,” said Wright.
“Halfway through the year, we can look at it and decide as necessary,” said Wright.
There are 14 applicants for the city manager position, with Wright set to retire in July. Officials estimate that a hiring committee will interview six or seven of the applicants.
The City Council will address the annual Pioneer Day celebration at the next meeting.

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