Carbon government absorbs county recreation department
The county's recreation agency became an officially sanctioned department of Carbon government last week.
The county board of commissioners voted on Jan. 17 to fully absorb the recreation provider.
"We need a resolution on exactly who I belong to," said Steve Christensen, director of Carbon County Recreation.
Until last week, Christensen and his staff reported to a board of directors comprised of representatives from each of the cities or other entities involved in the recreation organization.
With the five cities plus representatives from Carbon School District, College of Eastern Utah and the county, Christensen was answering to a large board, often with differing requests. Meeting the requests and demands of the parties involved often pulled recreation staff and management into multiple areas of emphasis.
By consolidating, the recreation staff now answers to Christensen, who can report directly to county commissioners.
"The reason we did this - at quite an expense to the county - was so [Christensen] didn't have so many masters," said Commissioner Mike Milovich.
In absorbing the recreation department, the board of commissioners also dissolved the board who had formerly overseen it. And although Commissioner Steven Burge was hesitant to cut off the involved parties, Milovich insisted that Carbon County Recreation make a clean break from its former governing structure. Milovich said he would be unwilling to support absorbing the recreation department unless the board was dissolved.
However, commissioners recognized that two entities other than the county depend on county recreation. Both the school district and CEU have integrated recreational activities into curriculum. Further, the educational aspects offered through the district and college have become a significant portion of what Carbon County Recreation has to offer.
The commission's decision to dissolve the board means neither Carbon School District nor the college will have a decision-making voice with the recreation department.
However, commissioners recognized the need to keep both educational entities involved. They said that contracts or interlocal agreements would be appropriate in these types of partnerships.
Christensen and the board of commissioners said that while there will no longer be a board to represent individual cities' concerns, the county will continue to offer the services which residents around the county have come to rely on.
"The intent is to provide services to all citizens of Carbon County, whether they live in the county or in the cities," said Commissioner Bill Krompel.
Originally, Christensen said Wednesday's actions were anticipated to take place at the end of June. Each of the cities involved in the recreation department pays an annual fee which covers the fiscal year from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next.
However, for financial reasons, the June was stepped up. Carbon County Recreation's annual insurance premium had been more than $10,000. The insurance premium would have been due last week. By becoming a county entity, the department falls under the county's insurance policy and the recreation department can cancel its previous insurance policy.
Christensen also explained that the attorney for Utah Local Governments Trust, the agency which had previously insured the recreation department, had left the trust.
Having an insurance attorney on staff had been one of the benefits of the insurance policy, explained Christensen.
By becoming part of the county, the recreation department will have access to the county's team of attorneys and the attorneys available through the county's accident insurance.
"We have never had a lawsuit filed," said Christensen, explaining that he hoped the department would not need legal services for personal injury lawsuits.
Because the county absorbed the recreation department, each of the cities will receive a pro-rated rebate for the period from Jan. 18 through June 30. For most of the cities in the county, that represents a few hundred dollars.
Christensen explained that the total cost will be somewhat larger than the $10,400 which it will save in insurance premiums this year. However, county commissioners recognized that there will be thousands of dollars in savings in future years and directed Christensen to refund the prorated balance to the cities.