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Front Page » August 9, 2005 » Local News » Economic boards solicit public input on county projects
Published 3,341 days ago

Economic boards solicit public input on county projects


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By LES BOWEN
Sun Advocate reporter

Local residents voiced opinion and had questions answered at a public meeting last Thursday hosted by the Carbon Chamber of Commerce and county economic development representatives.

The public forum allowed attendees to respond to proposed and potential plans that may impact the community.

Topics included a fairgrounds exhibit center, county ambulance garage, gun range, a recreation center, off-highway vehicle trail, relocation of College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, and relocation of Price police to the old BLM offices in north Price.

Regarding the potential construction of an exhibit center at the fairgrounds, Rhonda Peterson, speaking for fairgrounds staff, pointed out the economic benefit to downtown businesses if the county chooses to build the exhibition center.

The county is currently considering the possibility of building an exhibition center that would be able to host groups in excess of 1,000 people.

Present plans show a large building that could be subdivided into three sections. Plans include a kitchen area and loading docks.

With a cement floor, the facility would be capable of housing events featuring heavy equipment, trucks, boats, all-terrain vehicles and possibly livestock.

With the large facility currently on the drawing board, one resident questioned whether Fairgrounds Road would be capable of handling increased traffic.

"We studied it and the road is only at 15 percent of its capacity," responded Commissioner Michael Milovich.

"We are looking at another possible route into the fairgrounds area, but that's not final," added Milovich.

Commissioner Bill Krompel pointed out that the section between U.S. Highway 6 and the intersection of Fairground Road and Westwood Boulevard will be improved as part of the Carbonville Road project.

Another concern raised related to the capability for hotels in the area to handle that large of a crowd. Presently, there are only 850 hotel rooms.

However, Milovich revealed that at least two hotel companies are looking at possible expansion into the area.

Reese Barrick, director of the CEU Prehistoric Museum, presented those in attendance at the public meeting with the status of the proposed expansion of the museum.

Barrick said there is not enough space at the current location to care for and display all of the collections currently owned by the museum. He said that the museum recognized its role in recreuitment for the college and economic development in the community. As a result, the museum is exploring the possibility of constructing a faclity estimated to cost $20 million.

The museum currently receives between 35,000 and 50,000 visitors annually according to Barrick. In the new facility, he expects those numbers to increase to as many as 250,000 annually. Citing the estimate by the Utah Tourism Council that visitors spend between $60 and $80 every day, Barrick said the museum would bring $12 million to $15 million into the local economy, mostly in new tourism.

At present, the museum is looking at government private and corporate funding sources as well as local fundraising. Barrick said the museum is not currently considering asking for a tax increase to fund the museum. Since the museum imposed an admission fee, revenue from admission has increased 20 percent while attendance has increased 12 percent.

Barrick said that since the current location is unsuitable for the type of expansion the museum hopes for, three sites have been considered as potential sites for the museum. Projections indicate cost of operation will increase from the current $200,000 budget to $1.5 million.

Norma Procarione, director of the Price City Library, gave an update on the suggestion to build a combined city, county and college library. Still in early planning, Procarione said that the facility is needed because the city library is already at capacity.

She indicated that a variety of factors are shaping the plans for the potential library. Location and funding top the list. However, other factors, such as how to handle multiple entities using the same facility are being considered.

Steve Christensen, director of Carbon County Recreation, presented plans for a recreation center that would expand the Desert Wave pool into a complete recreation center.

Christensen said that for many, the center was just a dream, and for a few, it was considered a pipe dream. However, he said the recreation center would have economic value and increase the quality of life in the area.

At its conception, the recreation center was estimated to cost $9 million. Increases in construction costs have brought that figure up to $19 million. Christensen said that funding is still up in the air, but that some had considered requesting a recreation, arts, and parks (RAP) tax to be implemented in the county. That tax would increase sales tax by .001 percent. That would equate to one cent for every $10 spent.

County commissioners quickly pointed out that the RAP tax is nothing more than an idea, and is not scheduled or planned to be implemented any time in the future. Christensen said that some costs would come from other sources, though he did not disclose what those sources may be.

Two planned projects were presented by county planning director Dave Levanger. Two recreation opportunities are being planned by county planners. One is the shooting range in Wattis, the other a OHV trail across the county.

Levanger said plans for the shooting range are close to completion and will likely go to bid within a month. Levanger said that until bids are opened, the county won't be able to determine how much of the planned range will be built or its costs.

One participant at th meeting asked why the range was not planned for a location closer to Price. Levanger said that noise and safety considerations had required the range be built well outside of the more populated areas of the county. Milovich confirmed that when the county had considered locations closer to Price, residents close to the sites had opposed the location.

With regard to the proposed OHV trail, Levanger said the county is currently seeking turn-key proposals for construction of a route that would span from Scofield to Nine Mile Canyon with connections to each of the cities and towns in the county. Those bids will be opened on Aug. 17.

Levanger indicated the current plan is to fund initial costs of trail construction and placement of staging areas. Those costs are expected to be covered by the county's recreation and transportation special service district. The costs of upkeep are expected to be shouldered by the county using restaurant tax dollars.

Milovich gave an update on the ambulance garage. The county purchased land this spring near Tram Electric on Airport Road. Soil tests in the lot purchased for construction necessitate that the new facility be built closer to Tram's building than previously planned. The projected cost for construction is $1.65 million. Th county has a $2 million grant from the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board. The costs of constructing the county road shop which will be built on Airport Road, as well as the shooting range, will be covered by funds from the CIB.

The ambulance garage will be a two-story building with bays to handle up to eight ambulances. The county currently operates five ambulances. In addition, the facility will house the county's electronic voting equipment and a dispatch center that could replace the public safety dispatch if the current dispatch facility were forced to close in an emergency.

Price Mayor Joe Piccolo addressed the relocation of the city's police department to the old BLM building on the north end of 700 East in Price. He said the facility will be more suitable for the police department.

Police work mostly from their cars, so easy access to the facility will not be a significant issue. Piccolo said that after neighborhood meetings in the area, residents are comfortable with the relocation.

Attendees were given a ballot to provide feedback to the chamber of commerce and the economic development organization. In addition to asking attendees to rank the importance of the projects discussed, the ballot also allowed for feedback on possible tax increases that have been discussed by various entities.

None of those tax increases have come before a decision-making body in the county or any of its cities, but some groups have looked at them as possible routes to pursue for possible funding.



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