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Front Page » January 4, 2005 » Local News » Recreation, transportation board administers mineral leas...
Published 3,515 days ago

Recreation, transportation board administers mineral lease funds


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor


The Carbon Country Club back nine holes were built with money from the Carbon County Transportation and Recreation Special Service District. The district has also put funds into many other projects in the county.

Ridge Road acts as a heavy haul corridor that keeps coal truck traffic away from more populated areas in Carbon County. But 20 years ago, it was a small agricultural road used as a short cut from Wellington to Utah Highway 10 and for access to the Miller Creek area.

For residents who play golf at the Carbon Country Club, the 18 holes and vast improvements that exist today are different from what was in place in 1990.

The connection between the two public areas may seem slight. But the common denominator is money to fund the changes. The money for Ridge Road and the golf course expansion came from the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District.

With assets that can total millions of dollars, the board may be one of the most powerful forces in the area.

The funding administered by the recreation and transportation special service district comes primarily from mineral lease revenues generated by the extraction of coal and gas on public lands in the county. That money comes from two sources, the state and the federal government.

The national government grants 50 percent of the royalties that are generated from federal lands to the state of Utah. Then the state divies it up into various funds, with 40 percent of what it received going to the county.

The state also collects lease monies from extraction companies based on their lands in the county as well. They then send 35 percent of what they collect to the county.

Neither of these processes, as simple as they seem, have always worked perfectly. At one time lawsuits flew through the courts concerning both the federal and state government not distributing money properly to the counties involved.

But according to state law, the money must be handled through a special service district rather than directly by the county. Therefore, the CCRTSSD was formed to monitor and administer the money.

Originally, CCRTSSD was was set up as a transportation district to handle the impacts on roads created by the heavy industry associated with coal extraction. But proponents of other venues pointed out that since the day will come when coal and gas mineral lease money will go away (because eventually these natural resources in the area will be depleted) the money should also be used for other public improvements that will exist for the long term good of the community and the economy in the area.

Hence, in the mid-1990s the original district was dissolved and a new one formed that a created a district for transportation and recreation. The first large project built with money under the new determination was the additional nine holes at the golf course.

The Ridge Road project was negotiated as a toll road with many entities that use it regularly. The agreement with these companies basically said that they would pay the loan on building the road until the private bonds for the project were paid off and then the SSD would continue to pay the public financing until the road was entirely paid off. The final date of payments by the companies was Dec. 31 of last year.

The SSD also backs projects that local industry has to construct to operate efficiently. For instance both the "C" Canyon Road and Dugout Road were built with the backing of the SSD. They helped the companies using these roads to get funding for them. However, they are being paid for by private funds from those companies until the bonds are retired.

The SSD has also helped with various other projects around the county, many of them rather small as compared with building long heavy duty paved roads. For instance they have been helping Spring Glen with their park improvements and the CEU Prehistoric Museum with money for engineering and architectural work on the new museum expansion, along with many others.

The CCRTSSD board is one of the few county boards or committees which does not submit its actions for approval to the county commission. Despite the fact that the boards members are appointed by the county commission and that one of the county commissioners sits on the board as an ex-officio member, the board is independent of the commission.

Besides the one commissioner the board has six members, all appointed by the commission for four-year terms. This is also a paid board, unlike many of the others in the county. Each member gets $50 per month plus $150 for each activity they must attend, which is generally one board meeting a month. There is also a paid administrator that works full time who is paid $1,650 per month. In addition, because of the state statute which set up special service districts, the district must have a finanacial officer. That position pays $550 per month.

Presently the commission member on the SSD is Bill Krompel. The chairman of the board is Pace Hansen. Board members include Tom Bruno, Dennis Christensen, Jerry Jensen, Richard Lee and Sam Quigley. The administrator for the board is Linda Ballard and the financial officer is Bob Pero.

There is also another special service district that is part of the county government as well, one that gets less attention, but is important to everyone who uses culinary water in the county. That organization is called the Scofield Reservoir Special Service District. However its funding comes from a different source that the other district; sewer rate charges.

The district was formed in the 1980s to install sewer systems for areas around the Scofield Reservoir to prevent pollution of the drinking water supply for Carbon County. The initial installation was financed by a permanent community impact board loan, which the rates have been paying off since installation. However, even after the loan is paid off property owners will continue to pay their annual assessment of $138 per year for maintenance of the system.

The board that looks over this district is composed of five citizens who must own property within the area of the district. The terms of the board are for four years each with no more than two of the terms expiring in the same year. The district also has an administrator, a financial officer and also county staff that handles various items. The administrator for the district is paid $300 per month and the financial officer makes $270 per year.

Those on the board include Tony Basso who is the forresters representative, Ted Helsten from Clear Creek, Rudy Metelko from Scofield West, Florence Sealey the campsite representative, and Paul Wheeler from the Bolotas subdivision. Board members are paid the very small amount of $10 per meeting and some travel expenses. The board is appointed by the county commission but has the final say on decisions they make.

The district's administator is Judy Lamb, while the financial officer is Bob Pero.

The district does not represent Scofield town which has its own sewage system, but the district does contract with Scofield to maintain the districts infrastructure.

While the district presently operates purely on sewer rate charges, it does have the ability to levy taxes, which it has never done since it was formed.

Editors note: This is the second in a series of four articles discussing the various boards and committees that operate within Carbon County government.


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