County approves tax funded projects
As expected, the Carbon County Commission acted positively with only a small bit of discussion on money for various projects from the recommendations of the Carbon County Tourism Tax Advisory Board on Wednesday evening, approving all the request for funds the board had reviewed and passed on.
Then they went a little further and went ahead and approved more money for some county projects that the board had not recommended as well.
The commission initially funded the Eastern Utah Rock and Fossil show to the tune of $3,500, then approved $5,450 for the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum billboards in Spanish Fork Canyon and east of Price on Highway 6. Then they provided $17,000 in operating funds for the Castle Country Regional Information Center, $4,117 for starting up the Castle Country Bike Festival next fall and $5,000 for the Black Diamond Golf Tournament this summer. They also put forth money ($8,000) to East Carbon City for their joint celebration with Sunnyside, Community Daze, gave the Helper Art and Music Festival $12,500 for promotion purposes, supplied the Little Grand Canyon Marathon with $2,000 to promote the second year of that event and supplied the Scofield Triathlon and Iron Man competition with $5,000 to advertise their event on July 18.
One discussion about all these events centered around the Little Grand Canyon Marathon. A concern of the two commissioners centered around the fact that the race is held in Emery County instead of Carbon. However, Jared Haddock, one of the promoters of the event, explained that most of the money that attendees spend gets put into Carbon County's economy because most of the motels and restaurants are within the counties boundaries.
"We know by our registrations that only 35-40 of the participants last year were from Emery and Carbon counties," he told the commission. "The other three hundred were from outside the area, many from out of state. Many of those flew in, rented cars in Salt Lake, drove down here and stayed, some for a few days."
Another discussion ensued when Commissioner Mike Milovich challenged East Carbon Councilman Andy Urbanik about money for the Community Daze event.
"I wonder why each year the money that is needed each year for some of these events keeps rising?" he asked. "You know we see the two cities up there as one, and yet I sometimes wonder if there is going to be some kind of consensus on this event. I worry we spend money on one thing one year, and then the other city tosses it out and they need money for something different the next year. I would like to fund this, but we need some assurances that this money goes to good use."
Urbanic explained that this year East Carbon is the one that is hosting the party (thetowns alternate the operation of the event every other year).
"We are spending this money wisely," he said. "For instance we are buying banners and signs that will be able to be used more than one year. We want to promote the area rather than just one of the towns."
The commissioners said they would tentatively approve the funding, but that Urbanic needed to come back and provide information that the two towns are cooperating on this and that the operation is not unilateral.
The the commission turned to a group of funding requests from the county that the board had tabled.
"The board looked at these requests and they decided they wanted to wait because the applications were not filled out properly," said Kathy Smith, the director of the tourism office that administrates the board. "They just didn't feel there was enough detail."
During the board meeting Commissioner John Jones had been present, but could not convince the board that the board should approve the applications.
However, Jones was not present at the commission meeting on Wednesday because he was in Washington D.C. working on some land use issues for the county.
The total amount funded for the board recommended applications was $62,567 with $8,950 of that coming from Transient Room Tax and the rest from the Tourism, Recreation, Cultural and Convention (restaurant) Tax.
The county had requested a total of $598,818 for various projects that were listed on one application.
Those projects included $100,000 to bring electricity to the North Springs Shooting Range, $97,150 to widen the intersection directly in front of the Events Center at the fairgrounds, $81,668 for paving at the model airport, $100,000 to finish a community fishing pond, $100,000 for repair of the bleachers at the fairgrounds along with the purchase of some more portable bleachers, $40,000 for T5 lighting in the events center, $20,000 for a bluegrass festival to be held during the 2009 county fair and $60,000 to promote events and venues in the county for the year.
"The problem with not approving these request is that we have had to move forward with some of them already," said Milovich. "For instance, we only had a short time span in which ConocoPhillips would let us hook up to their power near the shooting range. We had to move quickly."
Commissioner Bill Krompel explained that the road in the front of the events center had proved inadequate last year when a number of events took place at once around the fairgrounds.
"We needed to get that done because on April 17-18 there will be a similar problem when the motocross track is being used for races, the high school rodeo is going on at the arena and the Events Center is being use for a fight night," he said.
The commissioners also explained that much of the money requested was tied to matching funds that were being sought or had been garnered from various other agencies, grants, etc.
Smith said the board had some questions about if the money could be used for some of the purposes that the county had requested it for.
She said road work, in particular, was not seen by the board as something that should be funded. At that point the commission then turned to the deputy county attorney Christian Bryner for advice.
"I think part of the problem here is that the applications the board is using is designed for events and not for venue requests such as these," he said. "There are provisions for the money to be used for brick and mortar projects and I would see the roads in this case as part of the fairgrounds."
"But what about the fishing pond?" asked Smith. "Shouldn't that be funded from somewhere else?"
"When we developed these venues they were for locals and visitors to the area as well," said Krompel explaining that the fishing pond was a joint venture between the county and the Division of Wildlife Resources. "We do both. Much of what has been spent on these places is mineral lease money."
A couple of board members came forward and said they just didn't think the commission should be different from the other applicants.
"We want the commission to be held to the same standards as everyone else when they apply for money," board member Christine Trease told the commission.
Krompel said that some county staff should have provided detail so that the board had more information and he would expect them to do that in the future.
After a little more discussion concerning the fairgrounds, the commission elected to reinstate the counties applications and voted to fund the full amount of those requests.