Council Member Darrell Valdez
As long as the junction of U.S. Highway 6 and State Road 123 has existed, motorists have complained about the intersection's lack of lighting and just how dangerous the absence of light is. Recently, the Utah Department of Transportation took notice and agreed to install solar lamps at heavily traveled intersection. Case closed? Maybe not. While UDOT has agreed to erect the light, its maintenance falls to the county and, according to East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine, the Carbon County Commission has declined to pay.
"We have people continuously getting into accidents at that junction," said LaFontaine during East Carbon's council session on Feb. 12. "We endure all of the coal trucks traveling that area and I myself have gone passed the junction on my way home. Well we finally got a commitment from UDOT to have a solar light placed in that area."
LaFontaine then passed out UDOT's bylaws which stipulate that while they can place the light, they can only operate and maintain lights on a main interstate highway. Anything besides an interstate, the local agency has to maintain the equipment.
"Being as this is within Carbon County's jurisdiction, we now have a problem because the commissioners have refused to take this on," he said. "I am being told by UDOT that the cost here is about $1,000 for operation and maintenance. We would pick up the cost but as it's outside of our city limits, I don't know if we even can legally pay for it. I have a real problem with this. Aren't our residents also residents of Carbon County?"
Council member David Maggio also took umbrage with the county's decision.
"I would be more than happy to go down and talk to the county commissioners and tell them, 'I understand you already got elected and now you don't know where we live until the next election but this has to be taken care of,'" he said. "This is a large safety issue for 1,500 county residents not to mention all those trucks.
While the item has not been discussed formally by the commission, East Carbon officials were encouraged to put themselves on the county's agenda when they were ready to discuss the issue.
Council member Barbara Robinett was able to contact the commission prior to the city session and relayed their feelings concerning the lamps.
"I spoke to two commissioners and their reasoning revolves around not wanting to set a precedent. They said if they do something to maintain a light for East Carbon junction, then they would be setting a precedent that they would have to also maintain the lights for Ridge Road in Wellington," said Robinett. "Or for Helper at the interchange, their cities pay for those. I brought up to the commissioners that this light would not be in East Carbon City, that it would be placed on a major highway. They told me, well it's still to benefit the residents of East Carbon City."
According to the Mayor, the county has been making money hand over fist from Westridge Mine for a lot of years. Even though East Carbon pays for the water they use.
"East Carbon City doesn't collect those taxes," he said.
Additional issues were also raised by the council.
"Who pays for the lights at that rest area at the end of Hwy. 124 and Highway 6?" asked council member Maggio. "They have got eight down there. Do we need to put a toilet at the junction to get lights? These people are talking about buying a lease for a goldfish. There is no community at the end of Ridge Road, Hiawatha is gone