East Carbon's mayor highlights grants awarded for city projects
East Carbon City recently received four grants totaling more than $300,000.
According to Mayor Orlando LaFontaine, three of the grants came as part of the United States Department of Agriculture's rural development program.
"We received three separate grants at just over $50,000 a piece," said LaFontaine. "However, due to the low countywide unemployment rate we are now being granted at only 50 percent, where we used to receive 100 percent granting from the USDA. I am very grateful for all that the USDA does for our community, my issue is that it is my feeling that the county unemployment rate does not reflect the truth of the employment problem in East Carbon."
LaFontaine reported that the Utah Department of Workforce Services statistics show East Carbon's unemployment rate at six percent, double the county rate that hovers around three percent.
"And that statistic of six percent is also misleading," said LaFontaine. " There are more than a few citizens in East Carbon who are neither on government assistance or drawing unemployment, so they are left out of the equation. It is my estimation that the true unemployment rate in this community could be as high as 10 percent."
Due to the low county unemployment rate the city has matched the grant funding to the tune $100,000. An amount that has put significant strain on the small municipality's budget, according to LaFontaine.
East Carbon plans to use the three grants to fund a variety of projects, including:
The purchase of a backhoe and dump truck.
The replacement of the city's two oldest police vehicles.
And the construction of a public bathroom in the Columbia subdivision of East Carbon.
"The public bathroom in Columbia was put on the priority list because it really is a health issue," said LaFontaine. "Many small children playing at the park have nowhere to use the restroom and you can imagine the problems that can cause in a very small community."
The East Carbon administration came under fire last year from county and city residents for purchasing two Hummer H3 vehicles for the local police department.
East Carbon City plans to do the same thing with the current USDA grant monies.
"We are getting those vehicles for a price comparable to any other SUV and an SUV is required to patrol the terrain in our community. Not only for our city protection, but for the county patrol we do as well," commented LaFontaine.
"People always get on us for buying new police vehicles but what citizens forget is that when our law enforcement officers get in their vehicles it could be a life or death situation. Making sure our police department has more than adequate equipment is a top priority to me and the city council," added the East Carbon mayor.
In addition to the three USDA funding allocations, the city has received a $148,300 grant for a community walking trail to be built in East Carbon and Sunnyside.
"This is a very exciting project for our cities," said LaFontaine. "David Maggio and Doug Hintze have been working very hard to get this project off the ground and we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel."
The non-motorized walking trail would begin at East Carbon's Viking Park with a track and then head south along the Grassy Trail Creek through the entire community until it crosses Utah State Highway 123 below the Sunnyside Park. The trail would then make its way through the Sunnyside Park.
"This trail will go a long way to solidifying our two communities, connecting us and making us one. It will also make a starting point for a possible single track mountain biking trail that could go from our community all the way up on top of Bruin Peak," explained LaFontaine.
According to the East Carbon mayor, the walking trail project has a $300,000 budget, which could be increased by $100,000 for additional lighting and seating areas at locations along the trail.
"I approached the county commissioners about partnering with us as they have with Price and Helper. I have not heard from them as of yet, but I am hopeful they will help us with this project," indicated the East Carbon mayor.
LaFontaine reported that the municipality has already received a commitment for more than $70,000 of in-kind labor donation from the East Carbon Development Corporation.
"If our city did not need these grants, we would not be going after them. The truth of the situation is that the loss of our high school and pool was a big hit on this community," said LaFontaine. "I have seen our county make a commitment to the recreational needs of its citizens and I want to do the same for the citizens of our town. I believe that recreation is the key to both growth and crime reduction in this community."