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Carbon lawmakers discuss restaurant tax committee's funding recommendations

Staff reporter

Restaurant tax committee funding recommendations were one of the main topics of discussion at the Carbon County Commission meeting last Wednesday, along with a number of other issues that concern the citizens of the local area.

The restaurant tax committee members looked at four requests for money at the panel's recent quarterly meeting. Three requests were approved, while one was turned down by the committee.

The first request was from Helper's Western Mining and Railroad Museum. The museum asked the committee for $20,000 to help with remodeling costs, including installing new carpet in the building and constructing some restrooms.

The commission decided to allow for $10,000 and then give the museum the other $10,000 when the offficials provided more detail on what they were proposing at the facility in downtown Helper.

"Personally, based on the information we have here, I don't think $20,000 will be enough to do what they want to do," stated Commissioner Mike Milovich. "I think if they get into the details of what they want to do, it will cost considerably more."

"I think they need to do some research for exact amounts," said Commissioner Bill Krompel.

Kathy Smith, representing the museum at the meeting, told the commission that the facility's officials felt that is all that they would need. But Smith indicated that she would explain the situation and have the museum representatives get back to the commission.

The next restaurant tax funding request came from the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum for $20,000.

"The CEU museum is internationally known," said Jim Huffaker, representing the college facility. "But we are in competition with Thanksgiving Point and new museums that are going up at the University of Utah, in Vernal and the one that looks like it will be built in St. George. Our exhibits are old and need updating. In addition we now have eight new animals the museum staff have discovered that we need to expose the public too. This money is just a small start on what we need to do that."

The specific request for restaurant tax monies included $10,000 for upgrading exhibits and $10,000 for promoting the prehistoric museum to tourists and visitors.

"If we don't modernize this museum, it could be lost to the competition," said Huffaker.

The commission approved allocating the restaurant tax funds, but asked Huffaker to keep the county informed and report back about how the revenues were used and the status of the museums projects.

Another request was from the Carbon County Travel Council for a full-time information specialist. The specialist would man the Castle Country Regional Information Center in the museum lobby. The travel council was asking for $20,000.

"We have partners in this endeavor," pointed out Smith, the director of the travel council. "The total cost for the position, including benefits and other items, is $55,000 per year. I would like to see this as a line item on the budget each year."

Smith maintained that a full-time specialist working to promote the area would more than pay for the employment related costs with the combined revenue brought in by the person's efforts.

"I am a little concerned that Carbon County would be paying for the bulk of this position," stated Milovich. "I thought the costs for this position were being shared."

Smith pointed out that other partners are involved. Included are Emery County travel, Carbon travel, Canyonlands natural historic, the United States Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, CEUand Price city, which are all contributing $4,000 each. Price city has also agreed to pay the benefits and FICA for the individual, according to Smith.

"The present person works 24 hours per week from late March until September," said Smith. "We need someone full time all year round. Even if you approved the full $20,000 we will still be searching for another $11,000 to make this a reality."

"Well I don't mind funding some of it, but I think you need to come back with other partners, such as Emery County, to fund more," said Milovich.

Commissioner Tom Matthews also had some concerns about the position.

"I see you want to pay this person about $30,000 a year," he said. "That is well above the salaries we are paying most county employees. I think this needs to be tweaked to be more realistic for this area."

The commission approved $12,000 toward the position and agreed to look at the situation further if the travel council gets more partners involved.

The commission turned down the fourth request for $1500 that had been asked for by the travel council to provide cookies and tokens for those who visit Price during the Olympics.

"I think it would show the spirit of our community toward the games," said Smith.

When the funding was turned down Smith commented that the travel council would still do it anyway, using funds from another area to provide the gifts.

In another matter, one that has come up before, high school rodeo parents and others with non-profit riding events at the Carbon County Fairgrounds approached the commission about the new rules they have to follow concerning insurance when they are having an event at the county facility.

"We are just concerned about the cost of doing this," said Scott Young one of the coaches for Carbon High's club team. "It could cost us way too much. We need a clarification of the rules. Can't we sign a waiver or something absolving the county of liability?"

"The problem is that the Supreme Court ruled that parents can't waive those rights," explained Milovich. "And unless it is a county sponsored event we can't insure people anymore. We can no longer insure events; they must take care of that themselves."

There was some suggestions that a blanket policy by state associations or national associations might be the answer. Spectator liability also came up and some disagreements arose between Milovich and Commissioner Bill Krompel, based on different conversations they have had with insurance representatives.

After some discussion, the commission decided to get together and talk with the county's insurance representative to clear up the misunderstandings. They invited people from the various concerned groups in the audience to also be there to have their questions answered.

In other business the commission did the following.

•The Carbon County lawmakers approved a conditional use permit for a truck terminal and caretakers dwelling at 1475 East Ridge Road.

•They approved a zone change and a conditional use permit for Nelco Construction to build a new shop and terminal area west of State Road 10 at the Ridge Road junction. That was done under the condition that Nelco get their present shop area on Fairgrounds Road back into compliance with it's zoning within a year after the firm moves to the new location.

•The commission gave final approval for construction for phase IV of the Aspen Cove subdivision in Scofield.

•They approved a zone change for a small subdivision off of Airport Road near where the new county shops are being planned.

•They listened to a request from Jeannette Evans who is working with the Olympic committee to give members of the visiting national and international media publicity tours of the area at no fee. Evans feels her tour business and the area will gain from such exposure. She was asking if the county had a van and a driver that could be used for transporting the people wanting to go on the tour from Salt Lake to Price and then back again after she had provided the tour of the area in her van.

The commissioners said they would look into the matter and see what they could come up with.

•Bob Pero, the county recorder brought up the fact that he believes there needs to be more control on the phone system at the airport. He is worried that each month the county is paying for long distance phone calls they should not be responsible for. The commission took the position that Pero should look into the situation and find other arrangements so that the phone is only used by county personnel.

•The commission decided to add two more weeds to the noxious weed list: Black Hembane and Yellow Dalmation Toad Flax. While the state has not added these weeds to their list yet, many of the counties have.

The Carbon County lawmakers will also be sending letters out to private landowners in the local area telling them that it is their responsibility to take care of the weeds on the list on their properties.

•The commission approved a special meeting on Jan. 30 to deal with the problem of redistricting as directed by the legislature.

"We may have to change the boundaries on over half the precincts," Pero told the commission.

According to law, the redistricting has to be done before Feb. 1.

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