Blanding Council addresses capital projects

The Blanding City Council discussed a number of issues at their January 28 meeting, including capital projects and economic development.

Kara Laws, representing the Blanding Chapter of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce, asked the City Council to set aside some of the city’s capital projects funds to build a covered pavilion in the park between the South Chapel and Blanding Elementary School.

Laws said, “The park is an important part of downtown,” and added that events at the park keep people in the downtown area. 

In the past year, the Chamber of Commerce hosted several activities in the park, including Dutch Oven Days in October and “Fifth of July” activities.  Laws said the group is considering four annual events, such as a kite flying event, the Car Show, a Best of San Juan County, and The Amazing Race.

Mayor Joe B Lyman said the request is “something that we should look at closely.”

The annual city budget process begins in coming weeks and will be approved before July 1.

The project priority list will be compiled and sent to the Association of Governments (AOG) by the end of February.  Getting a project on the AOG project list generally is a big step to getting it done.

The Council discussed possible partnership opportunities with other organizations.

Upcoming projects currently on the capital projects plan include micro membrane filters for the water treatment plant ($220,000 estimated cost), shade structures for the baseball field ($150,000 estimated cost), and an outdoor recreation project that may include a dock at Recapture Reservoir ($100,000 estimated cost, including $50,000 in possible grant funding).

The Council also discussed a splash pad project, along with other projects already on the capital projects plan for future years.

In other matters, Economic Development Coordinator Pratt Redd gave a quarterly report of efforts in his office.

Redd distributed draft copies of two visitor services products that are set to be distributed in the near future. They include a “rip map” of Blanding that will be ideal for visitors, and a 36-page community guide that features a variety of ideas for visitors and residents alike.

The publications are made in partnership with the San Juan County Economic Development office. Similar products are being developed for Bluff and Monticello.

Redd reports that the Dutch Oven Days in October was a great success for a first-year event.

A new online system to coordinate permitting and inspections for construction projects was introduced.

Redd also reported on tracking software that is helpful to measure the success of lodging marketing efforts.

35 new business licenses were issued in Blanding in 2019, including eight for homebased businesses.

Major construction projects in 2019 included the new clinic for Utah Navajo Health System clinic, the new Maverik convenience store, and the Desert Rivers Credit Union building.

The Council approved a letter supporting the White Mesa Mill and the uranium industry in San Juan County. There are 62 people currently working full time at the mill, even after recent layoffs that cut the workforce by 30 percent.

The council received the annual report from the San Juan Public Health Department from councilmember Kd Perkins, who also sits on the Public Health Board.

Councilmember Cheryl Bowers asked about the collection of sales tax for online orders, including Amazon. This is for items ordered directly through Amazon and not through a third-party provider.  

City Manager Jeremy Redd said the City of Blanding has been receiving payments of this type for the past year.  Redd said the city cannot discuss the sales tax collections of individual companies.

In 2019, total sales tax collections were up $73,493 overall, with the state portion up 2.26 percent and Blanding collections alone up by 11.15 percent.

Bowers pointed out that purchases made locally have the most significant impact on local government, even though there is a positive impact for purchases made through many online companies and in other areas in Utah.  

She added that there are no positive impacts of sales tax collection for purchases made out of the state.

The annual report from Express Bill Pay showed $1,776,338.76 were paid to the city through the Express Bill Pay Service. This represents about one third of all city transactions in 2019.  Finance Director Kim Palmer said the city hopes to get more people signed up for the Express Pay service.

Official appointments were made for city officers, including Jeremy Redd as City Administrator, Kim Palmer as Finance Director, Terry Ekker as City Engineer, J.J. Bradford as City Marshall, Lyon Hazleton as Justice County Judge, and Corey Spillman as Fire Chief.

City Engineer Terry Ekker reported on several city projects.

Bids for the Storm Drain project are set to open on February 19.  Ekker said there has been decent interest in the project, with seven contractors looking at it.  

He added that contractors from San Juan and Grand counties are interested along with several large regional contractors.

The new water rate schedule will go into effect in April.  Ekker said the city will watch the snowpack closely and let city residents know what the rates will be.  The snowpack continues to be significantly above normal levels.

Ekker said the transportation master plan is moving along slowly.  The project will identify future transportation corridors in the city.

Ekker said the fuse coordination study is moving ahead, and they hope to wrap it up in May 2020.

The fuse study is working with Intermountain Consumer Professional Engineers to look at how to improve fusing throughout the city to decrease outages.  

The Council approved a change in the city vehicle allowance policy to allow the city recreation director to be reimbursed for using his own vehicle for city business. City Manager Jeremy Redd said the policy works well and represents a cost saving to the city.

“In my personal view, it has been really successful and has been good for the city and the employees who are on the program,” said Redd.

A schedule was discussed to guide the upcoming budget process.  After a series of meetings, public hearings, and work sessions, the council is set to adopt a budget on May 26.

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