Mayors, commissioners hear from congressional staff, mull local issues
SPRING CITY—Sanpete County mayors and county commissioners heard reports from representatives of Utah’s congressional delegation and took up topics ranging from participation in a state fire-insurance program to implementation of the local-option sales tax for roads at their gathering Sept. 8.
The Mayors’ and Commissioners’ meeting, which also serves as the governing board meeting for the Sanpete Landfill Cooperative, was hosted by Spring City Mayor Jack Monnett and held at Zona Barrio Grill.
Robert Axton, from Sen. Mike Lee’s office, reported that Sen. Lee was working toward a solution to the so-called “war on coal” and has been trying to get a feel for how the “war” is impacting people he represents.
Axton said Sen. Lee had visited with workers from the SUFCO mine and seen firsthand how efforts to stamp out coal mining were hurting the local economy as well as coal workers and their families.
Barry McLerran, from Rep. Mia Love’s office, told officials at the meeting that Love was currently working on a bill to address the aggressiveness of collection agencies who collect from citizens in behalf of government agencies.
The two congressional staff representatives both reported that Lee and Love were keeping a close watch on the “Bear’s Ears” monument controversy. President Barak Obama is considering designating the area, covering thousands of acres in San Juan County, as a national monument.
McLerran said Rep. Love had attended a “Bear’s Ears” hearing in Blanding. Supporters of the monument movement had been bused in, which made it look as though locals were in support of a monument, when they were really not.
Gary Webster, from Rep. Chris Stewart’s office, reported that Stewart had attended a national security conference, and his biggest priorities right now were the economy, terrorist attacks and cyber-attacks. Stewart believes it is vital to keep our nation secure, Webster said.
Stewart has also been working to ensure that Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding is included in an upcoming bill in Congress. The funding has become inconsistent, Webster said, and although vital to the county finances, has become difficult to count on.
During the meeting, Fairview Mayor Jeff Cox presented Judge Ivo Peterson with a plaque recognizing his years as Fairview’s justice court judge. Peterson retired from the position, but is still a justice court judge in several other Sanpete cities.
Cox said Peterson’s devoted service was greatly appreciated. Peterson said he felt it was important for every city in Sanpete County to maintain its justice court, including its own judge. Sanpete County Commission Chairwoman Claudia Jarrett talked about participation by the county and municipalities in the Utah Wildland Fire Suppression Fund.
“The fee depends on fire risk and history,” Jarrett said. She used Fayette as an example, saying that its suppression fee was $250.
“This is something the towns should really look into,” she said. “If a big fire happens, something beyond the local fire department’s ability to fight, the state covers the cost to bring in all the crews needed and equipment.”
Jarrett told meeting attendees that a government entity can opt out, but since we live in a high risk area for wild fire, she felt it was important to be proactive.
Jarrett urged the mayors to include the fees in their yearly budgets but also said the participation fee could be paid for in-kind with work from a town’s local fire department.
Commissioner Scott Bartholomew raised a concern about the local option sales tax for roads that was approved in the last election. He said he knew some businesses in the county had not been charging the extra sales tax. With quarterly taxes approaching, Bartholomew said, businesses need to be prepared for the extra tax.
Bartholomew was also concerned about why our county had not been declared a drought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year, even though our surrounding counties had been.
He told his fellow public officials that, in all his years of farming, he had never run completely out of water until this year. He said Sanpete County is in a drought and needed to be classified as drought-stricken.
Manti Mayor Korry Soper, who works for USDA, said the initiative for agriculture disaster declarations needs to come from the local level.
“Individual famers, local government officials, state governors, the state agriculture commissioner, a state secretary of agriculture, other state government officials, and Indian Tribal Councils initiate requests for disaster designations,” he said. “Requests for disaster designation must be in writing to the Secretary of Agriculture within three months of the ending date of a disaster.”
Fountain Green Mayor Ron Ivory had some questions during the meeting about the locked gates across a road north of Fountain Green, near where a large stock of horses is being kept.
Ivory wanted assurance that the locked gates were on private property. Wales Town Mayor Keith Jensen offered to investigate to make certain the locked gates are on private property and the private owner has a right to bar public travel.
The remainder of the meeting was in regards to the landfill.
Bartholomew reported that a number of buildings owned by Gunnison City had been torn down and taken to the landfill. According to Bartholomew, the total cost for disposal was $85,000.
Bartholomew mentioned that since the landfill board had already given Ephraim and Manti permission to dispose of some of their demolished buildings, the co-op needed to consider the costs they are undertaking by allowing the cities free disposal.
Mt. Pleasant Mayor Dave Blackham told the members of the Landfill Co-op his city had received a judgment that would allow it to remove the junk and refuse from a local property. According to Blackham, a substantial amount of trash is ready to be removed and he wanted permission to bring it to the landfill.
Jensen made a motion to approve the request, which was seconded by Ephraim Mayor Richard Squire. The motion passed.
Bartholomew informed Blackham that any TVs and tires would have to be disposed of elsewhere. Bartholomew asked Blackham to contact landfill manager Gary Bringhurst to find out specifically what Mt. Pleasant City could dispose of at the landfill.
The next mayors and commissioners meeting, and meeting of the Sanpete County Landfill Cooperative, will be in Fairview on Oct. 13.