Interagency committee conducts first meeting
Carbon County's intergovernmental council met Feb. 26 at the courthouse in Price. The purpose of the council is to provide a forum to promote understanding and better working relationships with all agencies in the county.'
In addition, the members of the panel intend to brainstorm, negotiate solutions and work on quality of life issues, particularly economic development.
In attendance at the first council meeting were mayors Joe Piccolo, Price; Joe Bonacci, Helper; East Carbon Mayor Dale Andrews, East Carbon City; and Karl Houskeeper, Wellington.
Commissioners Steve Burge and Bill Krompel represented the county at the gathering. Also in attendance at the panel's initial session were College of Eastern Utah president Ryan Thomas, school superintendent Dave Armstrong, county economic development director Delynn Fielding, Carbon recreation director Steve Christensen, Sunnyside Councilman Gene Vernon and Bill Howell, Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments director.
All taxing entities in the county except Price River Water Improvement District were represented at the table, noted Piccolo.
Slicing the pie and understanding all agencies' needs are priorities "as we move forward," said the Price mayor. "A meeting such as this is for the greater good of the county and can serve as an overviewing committee to groups such as the restaurant and room tax and chamber of commerce."
"It can be a tool to unite and drive our individual efforts. United we stand, the often used political slogan, will help push us forward for the greater good of the communities we serve," added Piccolo.
Thomas recognized the areas of shared interest on the council.
"We really do not want to compete, but rather dovetail with other efforts," pointed out the CEU president. "There are so few of us with limited funds."
Christensen and Thomas are involved in a monthly meeting to promote the college and it was at this meeting that the seed was first planted.
"The potential for us as a college can be more. We had 14,000 hours of student service last year. We are looking for opportunities to serve," stated Thomas.
Dave Armstrong, superintendent of schools, cautioned the group not to make it another meeting where there was too much talking and not enough action.
Defending the success of discussions among community leaders, Bill Krompel, commissioner, made reference to assisting Helper City with its water conservation plan. Recently the commission worked with Delynn Fielding and his economic development efforts to complete the plan.
"We were made aware of the problem and could see how it needed to be solved," said Krompel.
He also discussed another issue he feels the county and maybe other agencies are faced and that is the record keeping issue. He made reference to the coal lease problem where two documents were issued on the same lease. He has contacted the state archives and they advised him methods to improve and manage records. He invited other agencies to join the county as they share strategies on it.
Steve Burge made reference to this monthly meeting as an opportunity to update the entire county and cities on travel and tourism efforts, economic development progress, drug problems that face the county and also inform the group of new technologies available.
He said that this group could coordinate CIB (Community Impact Board) monies and work on the county master plan. He also made reference to a grant that is available for a bus system and said that by working together with the Texaco/Chevron Corporation the group can get the community involved and market the museum.
He recently met with the president of the college in Cedar City and discussed how that community is raising money through a RAP tax (recreation, arts and parks) following a model provided by Weber County. There is a local effort currently underway to educate the community on how this tax could be used to build a new library, arts building and recreational complex near CEU.
"Timing couldn't be better as we move forward with this study and make feasibility recommendations," said Burge.
Fielding reported that things are beginning to move in economic development circles. He made reference to the five public entities and two other organizations where $1.5 million was raised to provide a package to a potential new industry in the area. "Whether we get the business or not," Piccolo said, "Our strength is knowing we can put together a package that will compete with the big boys upstate."
Both East Carbon and Sunnyside said that it is always valuable to know what is going on throughout the county.
"We can come together and communicate with other leaders. When one wins, we all win," said Andrews.
Bonacci said that his community needs help.
"We are often spinning our wheels and need new or innovative ideas."
One idea thrown out during the discussion was developing a kayak park on the river. Christensen said he felt that the potential was there and no other community outside the Wasatach front offers a kayak river run.
Bonacci also said that his community needs to look into the volunteer fire department.
"We have always financed the department through the annual fireman's ball and this year the activity was very poorly attended." The firemen provide all their own training and there is a day coming, Bonacci predicted that, "We cannot provide the level of service needed for the community."
Howell discussed affordable housing legislation and the need for community leaders to be aware of the issues that face our area. There is a bill in the current session that would force Carbon County into completing a costly annual report, that has previously been exempted because of size.
"We are now being lumped in with the rest of the state when we don't need to be there," said Howell. "If passed and should this area not complete the report then funding would be cut off. Housing advocacy groups have clout upstate. Should they get their way rural Utah will be hurt. We need to make sure that we are all aware of the effects the legislature has on our communities."
"We are having a problem around Union Pacific," said Howell. The cost of transportation for energy products is being drastically affected by the carrier, who is basically holding the county hostage because they have a monopoly on rail service. Several leaders spoke out that Union Pacific is ignoring this area and giving a lot of problems to the mining industry. Reference was made to Skyline mine, the ECDC plant out in East Carbon, and most recently the construction of a spur to the new proposed fencing company that was being invited to relocate in the Wellington area. Fielding reported that building a simple spur through Union Pacific contracts was more than triple the cost of an independent contractor. Andrews said that, "This is a critical economic issue for all of us, all the way from Scofield to East Carbon."
The next meeting will be held the last Thursday of March at the county commission chambers.