The Carbon County Commission accepted the recommendation of the gun range executive committee last Wednesday and approved an architect for the project. The committee recommended that the officials approve Cramer Architects of Arizona to plan and design the range.
"It was a hard decision," said committee chair Don Burge. "We had two of the group that bid which were outstanding. But we thought that, with our terrain and climate, it might be best to pick the firm we thought was the best one from the western United States."
Approving an architect is the first step in the process. Now the county must have an environmental assessment conducted on the area where the proposed gun range will be tentatively built. The location remains uncertain because the site is presently under U.S. Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction. The amount of land the gun range advocates claim they need is still under scrutiny.
Carbon officials asked that two sections of land - two square miles of 640 acres - be transferred to the county. But some BLM officials feel that the county needs only one section for the proposed range.
"One of the things I am wondering about is why we need to do an environmental assessment on the whole thing when most of it will not be impacted by the activities on the range," said Burge. "It just seems rather odd."
"For instance, gas companies only do their studies on the areas where roads and pads are. The BLM doesn't have them do a study on the whole section where those activities are located," pointed out Burge.
Commissioner Bill Krompel said the problem with an EIS comes down to money as well.
"We need to keep the range at two sections and we also have to determine why a full study needs to be done on those sections," stated Krompel. "Let's see if we can work with the BLM to reduce the scope of work to cut down the dollars we need to spend on that phase of the project."
According to Burge, part of the problem with not knowing the extent of the EIS is that the contract bids for the study are weak estimates without understanding the scope of the work.
The planning for the range will continue, with the committee meeting Thursdays at College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum.
The commissioners asked Burge to get in touch with the appointed architect and to determine when the firm can begin working on the project.
Introducing an unrelated matter, Burge recommended that the commissioners reconsider a request submitted at the last commission meeting by Carbon School District.
At the Aug. 6 commission meeting, Superintendent David Armstrong requested $64,500 in the county's payment in lieu of tax funds for various items the district needed to fund for the current school year.
A significant portion of the PILT money was to help keep an elementary after school program open because it had lost funding for the year.
The program is designed to take care of "latch key" kids or students who would go home to empty houses after school because parents work.
At the meeting, the commissioners told the superintendent that the county's budget is tight and the money Carbon government had provided to the school district in the past was not available.
However, Burge told the school district superintendent that the commission would try to find alternative ways to fund the program if possible.
After the meeting, Burge sent letters to a number of people requesting assistance with the program. He brought the matter back to the commission last Wednesday to talk about the responses and possible actions the county could take.
"So far, I have only had one response. But I think we should lead the way on this matter," noted Burge. "I know we don't have the PILT money available that we have had in the past. But nonetheless, we did get more of it this year and I think we should give that extra to this program to get it started."
The difference totalled $4,609 in additional revenues. But the other two commissioners had different viewpoints regarding the matter.
"That's not a lot of money when you consider the size of our budget. But we have been trying to juggle funds for many different needs," pointed out Commissioner Mike Milovich.
"No where in all this have I seen that the school district has tried to save this program. They have more money than we do and we have critical needs ourselves. I sympathize with the problem, but we have our own set of concerns. I just don't think it is good policy," indicated Milovich.
Krompel felt differently.
"I want to believe that, if individuals and private firms can come up with some funding, we can, too," said Krompel. "But the program must be sustainable. We do have a budget crunch, but I think we should see what we can do."
The discussion continued, with Krompel pointing out that the Grand commission gives all of the county's PILT money to the school district. Uintah County also provides mineral royalty money to the local school district.
"I just think we should give something to help, whether it is $4,000 or $1,000," stated Burge. "We just need to make it clear that this is a onetime shot. The benefits of doing this are substantial to children and parents."
Milovich suggested that the school officials should look into the district's coffers and see what they have there to help the program.
"I think that they should look to other agencies for help as well," indicated Milovich. "It just seems they are asking for this at the last hour. They knew the cuts were coming."
The school district and the program's administrators had been trying for a year to find funds to operate, but were unsuccessful, said Burge.
At the end of the discussion, Burge and Krompel wanted to give the program money, while Milovich opposed granting the school district's request for county PILT revenues.
The commission approved a motion in a two to one vote to wait and see what other contributors did before the county approved funding the program.
Acting on unrelated business matters, the commissioners:
Advised Scofield Fire Chief Larry Stallings that he would need a letter of support from the town council and mayor for requests submitted to the county.
The contract for the Scofield department to cover fires in the unincorporated areas near the town is up for renewal and Stallings had requested $5,000 to cover the contract.
"I need those funds for the maintenance of the trucks and to bring our SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus) up to date," explained Stallings. "I just want to get everything up to standard."
But the commission pointed out that the county has been providing equipment and trucks for years to Scofield.
Milovich indicated that "$5,000 won't even put a dent in his needs for SCBA equipment."
The commissioners suggested that the county work with Scofield to secure grants for funds to upgrade the department. A proposed hourly rate for fire coverage was also suggested.
Discussed the wording in a proposed memorandum of understanding between the county and BLM concerning cooperating agency status on land use planning.
Following the discussion, the Carbon lawmakers approved the memorandum of understanding between the county and the federal agency.