Board reviews status of Nine Mile road
The Nine Mile road and Scofield dam were the main topics of discussion at a meeting of the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District on Monday .
The issues are major concerns for local residents and all three members of the county commission attended the Jan. 9 meeting.
On Monday, special service district board member Neil Breinholt reported that a sub-committee had met with retired Utah Department of Transportation engineer Albert Spensko to discuss options for paving the Nine Mile road.
In a previous meeting, service district board members and two county commissioners had discussed paving 35 miles of road through the canyon.
After his discussions with Spensko, Breinholt said he was of the opinion that the road project might be bigger than the county could fund.
"This is a big time project," said Breinholt. "It will require big money."
No engineering study has been done, but best guess estimates run as high as $35 million to $40 million, according to county officials and special service district board members.
During a lengthy discussion on Monday, the service district board members identified several issues of concern.
First, the canyon road is narrow in many places and will need to be widened.
Another factor is a re-design of the road to eliminate many of the twists and turns.
Many fences and ditches may also need to be moved. The situation brings up rights of way issues.
Safety is also a concern, as paving will increase traffic speeds in the canyon. And then there is the matter of maintaining the road once the project is completed.
On Jan. 9, Commissioner Steven Burge told attendees that he had just come from a meeting at the governor's office with state officials and representatives of the Bill Barrett Corporation.
Burge said the Tavaputs gas field is projected to have a minimum of 500 wells in the next few years.
The drilling companies are willing to use Carbon County as a base for operations, but they can't do that until the canyon road is improved.
Commissioner Bill Krompel pointed out that the drilling companies are not going to wait for three or four years.
"We need the road now," said Krompel.
The focus turned to ways to fund the project.
Burge said Bill Barrett has pledged $1 million to the canyon road in 2006.
With a firm plan and county participation, the company might pledge more money to the project.
Commissioner Mike Milovich said the state might provide $20 million from an energy impact grant.
The idea of relinquishing control of the road back to the state was also discussed.
But Milovich said the county would keep control of the county road.
"What we need is outside funding," commented Milovich. "And absolutely good engineering."
Burge suggested that the county might be able to improve the existing road, while plans and funding for the paved road are being developed.
Breinholt said varying categories of road improvements, with varying costs, had been discussed with Spensko.
Cheaper alternatives had also been discussed at a previous meeting.
The general consensus, however, was that only the hard-surfaced road would be adequate for the industrial traffic expected in the canyon.
Special service district board member Richard Lee reminded attendees at Monday's meeting that the right of way questions must be resolved before anything can be done on the canyon road improvement project.
"A 30-foot right of way is not doable," said Lee. "And alignment issues need to be addressed."
It was pointed out at the special service district meeting that a paved road would require two 14-foot lanes with adequately sloped road shoulders and ditches to allow for drainage.
The board had information that the average width possible for a new road through the canyon is about 44 feet. But in numerous places, the existing road in Nine Mile Canyon is much narrower.
Lee also explained that environmental groups might want to have some input in the project, too.
Federal funding would require a study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency before construction could begin and the process might take as long as two years to complete, added Krompel.
"I don't think it's possible to do anything without a study to determine what we need and what we can do," pointed out Breinholt.
The special service district board member suggested that a previously approved road-base analysis be extended to include a study of safety and right of way issues.
Breinholt's suggestion was presented as a formal motion and passed by a unanimous vote. It was also agreed that Albert Spensko be offered a job as a paid consultant for the project.
Another item of business was a request for the Special Service District to retire a debt incurred by Carbon County in rebuilding the spillway of the Scofield dam. The three county commissioners presented the SSD board with a formal letter asking that the SSD allocate an annual sum of $575,000 for the next four years to retire the debt.
County commissioners explained that the total cost for the spillway project is $15.5 million. And for the first time ever, the federal government is going to provide 85% of the funding. The county will be left with a debt of $2.3 million as a 15% share of the project.
Commissioners told the board that water users in the county were already paying back a $4 million loan recently incurred for earthquake protection of the dam. The earthquake debt is being paid back by a 75 cent per share assessment on Scofield water shares. Adding the new $2.3 million debt would increase the water surcharge to more than $5.00 per share for the next 33 years according to the commissioners. This would be a heavy burden for agricultural users in the county. For this reason, the commissioners asked the SSD to pay the full $2.3 million with transportation/recreation funding over the next four years.
After some debate, the SSD board approved the proposal and agreed to fund the $2.3 million project.
County commissioners also asked the board to provide funding for construction at the new county gun range complex at North Springs, near Hiawatha. The board had previously agreed to provide $500,000 to the project, and Burge said that $229,000 was due to contractors for work already completed. He asked the board to release that amount to the county so the contractors could be paid. County clerk Robert Pero said that the funds could be turned over to the county municipal board who would then pay the contractors. The SSD board passed a resolution to that effect, releasing the funds.
The county also asked for $31,000 in supplemental funding for the fairgrounds to help with overtime pay, office support, and cleaning. After some discussion, it was pointed out that the SSD had already given the county $750,000 for the fairgrounds. "The county failed to fund these items from their own budget," Pero pointed out. "This is circumventing the county budget process." The board agreed not to fund the request.
In another matter, Brent VanSickle asked the board for $9,500 to use for sprinklers, batting cages, sod, and cement repairs at the Toy Atwood ballpark. VanSickle pointed out that just over $140,000 of a $150,000 grant had already been spent on the ballpark, and he was asking that the remaining money be turned over for ballpark use. Board member Sam Quigley made a motion that the SSD fund the projects, but with a condition that each project be presented to the board with a full cost breakdown. The board members approved.
Connor Jensen then appeared before the board with a proposal for an Eagle Scout project at the ballpark. He asked the board for $12,000 to purchase statues from local artist Gary Prazen to be placed on pedestals at the ballpark. A bronze plaque would also be placed there honoring all who had donated funds to the Toy Atwood complex. Jensen told the board that Prazen was willing to reduce his normal asking price of the statuary for the scout and community project.
After some discussion, the board declined to fund the project. It was pointed out that the board had several major projects on line for the coming year that required the existing funds. It was also determined that a formal bidding process would be required before art items could be purchased for the ballpark. Board members were suggested other ways the scout might fund his eagle project.
Brian Barton of Jones and DeMille Engineering gave the board a quick overview of work being done on the county ATV trail through the Scofield area.
The board then went into executive session to discuss land and property issues.