Category Archives: Year Three

Commissioner’s Report 34

5-20-17

Media Frenzy

Just an FYI but it has been a media storm for me lately: a radio interview on KOAL with Delynn Fielding, CNN with John Sutter, County Seat with Chad Booth, and Heart of Utah with Randy Johnson. It’s been interesting ride.

Potential Flooding

I have been impressed by how the county pulls together to make sure that we are covered and protected, especially with the snowpack we received over the winter with the potential to overflow and runoff from the reservoirs.

We met at Huntington Plant with representatives from Rocky Mountain Power, Huntington-Cleveland Irrigation Company, Emery Water Conservancy District and Huntington City. It was good to listen, talk, and work together to make sure that all needs were being met so flooding would be mitigated. It was mentioned that the website from the EWCD is the envy of the state. Go to ewcd.org to see more.

Also, Green River has been meeting with the Bureau of Reclamation to urge them to increase flow so the Green River won’t flood later this year. In our initial meeting with the Bureau in Price, they seemed to care more about fish than people, property, and livelihoods. However, in the second meeting with them in Vernal, they seemed to change their tune and their perspective 180 degrees. The commission, along with other groups, sent them a letter stating that we didn’t want to see over 30,000 cfs in the Green River. They have already increased the release of water from the Flaming Gorge Dam. So far the river is high but hopefully, with the current release, it won’t flood.

Africanized Bees (AKA Killer Bees)

Click here for more information

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) has detected Africanized Honey Bees in our county.

You should alway be careful around bees, but Africanized Bees are aggressive. If you notice strange behavior in any bees please let us know.

UDAF said that they would help with education on Africanized Bees if needed. Our EMS and Fire District have been contacted to make sure that if there is an attack, they are prepared and can respond accordingly.

Part of the attached report says that “Africanized honey bee stings are not more painful or venomous than European honey bee stings: but the sheer number of potential stings from an aggressive colony can be of medical concern. Children, the elderly, and those with disabilities are at highest risk of suffering multiple stings because of their inability to escape an attack quickly. Leave the area immediately and seek shelter in a secure vehicle or “bee proof” building. If you are in an area that you cannot escape, cover your head and run away from the bees. Keep moving away from the bees until they stop stinging – this may be as far as a quarter mile. Do not hide under porches or other exposed areas to get away from stinging bees. Do not try to escape by jumping into a swimming pool because the bees will hover above the water longer than you can hold your breath.”

Medical Marijuana

Senator Hinkins referred me to the organizers of a Medical Cannabis Research Congress held at the State Capitol. Earlier in the year, the state passed a bill sponsored by Representative Brad Daw and Senator Evan Vickers to research medical marijuana.

I am reminded of a story about George Washington Carver, who was one of our great scientists, and he often prayed, addressing God as “Mr. Creator.”

One night he walked out into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make the universe?” He listened, and this is what he heard: “Little man, that question is too big for you. Try another!”

The next night he walked into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make man [meaning, the human race]?” He listened and he heard this: “Little man, that question is still too big for you. Try another!”

The third night he went into the woods and prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make the peanut?” This is what he heard: “Little man, that question is just your size. You listen and I will teach you.” And you may know that George Washington Carver invented some three hundred ways to use the peanut.

I believe that God put things on this world for our use. Marijuana is one of them and I think that it can be done right. I am glad that Utah has decided to review and research options for medical marijuana.

I was skeptical going into this meeting thinking this would be a coalition advocating for medical marijuana without extensive research or sound science. Representative Daw said that we will work through it with science through medicine and regulations. He also said he felt that there are three components to it for Utah:

  1. Research
  2. State Regulations
  3. Policy

One of the concerns I had was the evolution from medical to recreational marijuana. Representative Daw said he shared my concern and that is why he wants to do it right, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Folium Biosciences was one of the businesses in attendance that presented and shared information. They have been able to extract the psychoactive chemical, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), from the medicinal portion, CBD (Cannabidiol). They are located in La Junta, CO and are going to work with the state of Utah on continued research. One of the things that this company does is research and grow industrial hemp. Hemp that has no cannabinol properties but is used for its fiber and seeds. Click on the image to the right for more information.

I am curious to see where this goes. I am glad to be involved in working towards a positive solution on the medical marijuana debate.

Let me know your thoughts. Remember to be part of the solution.

Bears Ears Commenting Period

I am opposed to the Bears Ears National Monument, I have been from the start. I thought it was cowardice for President Clinton to announce Grand Staircase from Arizona. I have heard the plight of the locals and their representatives regarding Bears Ears and Grand Staircase. I have been in a public hearing with Secretary Sally Jewell regarding Bears Ears, where a quarter of the people in the room (the protesters) were from out of state. This designation puts a target and an interest in this area. Interest is good when it is managed, but there is no money for management, there is no plan for management in place right now.

People clamored to say they want protection, but it was already protected under current laws and regulations. It is sacred to Native Americans, I heard Commissioner Rebecca Benally say recently (I am paraphrasing), “It’s the equivalent of having someone walk through, take pictures (and possibly take stuff) from the place you worship, while you worship.”

Tourism is a good part of the economic pie, but when it IS the pie there is an imbalance. Look at Garfield and Kane counties their economies have slumped when the Grand Staircase NM was designated. It gutted the heart out of both counties. Sure tourism is up, but everything else is down. Even the promises from the federal government to allow grazing to happen at the levels previous to the designation hasn’t happened. The federal government will continue to take and take if we allow them to. (Cue, “I am from the government and I am here to help.”)

I am all for conservation; the best conservationists I’ve seen are the grazers, hunter, and fishers. They put their money and time into making and keeping our wild as pristine and wild as it can be to be enjoyed by others. Are there bad actors, of course, but should the act of very few condemn the rest?

The Antiquities Act of 1906 states, “the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” With Grand Staircase-Escalante designated at 1,880,461 acres and Bears Ears at 1,351,849, I find it really hard to believe that it has been confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

I will get off my soapbox now. I know others feel similarly and others not so much.

Bottomline, leave it a local decision with local control.

Add your voice by leaving your comments (see below). I hope you will take a few minutes to leave your comment. Here is how to do it:

Click Here: https://www.regulations.gov/ (The comment period for Bears Ears ends on May 26, 2017)

Type: DOI-2017-0002-0001 into the SEARCH BAR

Then just click on the blue “comment now” button and leave your comment.

Commissioner’s Report 33

May 15, 2017

Suicide Awareness

Recently, there was a dinner that was held in Huntington at Millers Landing that was about Suicide Awareness.

A local of Huntintgon, Tammy Oviatt,  presented a business that she is working on called Take Five that will be a part of Gordon’s Nursery. She explained that she had the thought to do this when she lost her son. The area will include a walking park, benches, animals and ponds to help people take five minutes, regroup, and be able to get back to life feeling refreshed. It will be free of charge and that she is hoping to bring in rescue animals and let people help with the care of the animals.

Representative Eliason presented about suicide and stats within Utah. He started with a Youtube video. I have some notes from his presentation that I wanted to share. He said that for every completion there are 25 attempts. There is no single cause, but multi-intersecting factors. For many, they feel like a burden on friends and family. The manic that proceeds a suicide or attempt last about 15 minutes. During those 15 minutes, he said that a crisis has been reached, they are desperate to escape pain and thinking becomes limited.

We should assume that we are the only ones who are going to reach out. The number one reason for rural being so high with suicides is the lack of access to help. To the right is an image for “Safe UT” it is a chat/crisis line and an app that could help save someone’s life.

Bottomline, just listen. You could save a life.

 

Spring UAC Meeting – Federal Bills

There was a panel of representatives from state and federal offices. Cody Stewart talked bout the number of bills before congress. He said that, on a ten-year average, 6000+ bills are introduced,  154 are passed into law, and that there is an average of 36 regulations per bill.

He followed that up with how to be effective with a bill: 1 have a strategy, 2 have realistic expectations, 3 persistent follow-up, and 4 prioritize.

Left to right: Chaffetz Office, Wade Garrett; Lee’s Office Ryan Wilcox; Stewart’s Office, Brian Steed; and Mayor’s Office, Cody Stewart

Public Land vs PILT & SRS

Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney does a good job representing rural Utah at NACo and UAC. I appreciate his testimony regarding Payment in Lieu Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The problem we have is the dichotomy or hypocrisy of the debate on public lands. The pro-public lands people say, “It’s our land, keep it open and accessible!” while at the same time decrying we receive “western welfare” in the form of (PILT) and (SRS).

Emery County is 92% public lands: 80% are federal lands (2,274,808 acres), 12% are state (335,085 acres), with only 8% private land (Garfield County has 3% private, we should count ourselves lucky). We have to petition (i.e. beg) legislators every year to make sure PILT and SRS doesn’t disappear or is reduced.

In 2016 the county received $282,924 from the state, that’s $0.84/acre, from the feds we received $1,290,199 that’s $0.57/acre for a grand total of $1,573,123. This is what the county receives as payment from the state and the feds in lieu or in the place of taxes.

If we were to receive from the state and federal government the minimum amount that the county taxes non-productive greenbelt, which is $5/acre the county would be receiving $13,049,465, that is about the whole budget for the county.

$13,049,465 vs $1,573,123 is big difference.

Economic development is hampered in Emery County in part due to the lack of private land available because of the amount of public lands in Emery County. While I would like to get rid of PILT and SRS, and “in lieu” let the state manage it, I am realistic that it is difficult with the partisanship in congress. For the record, I am not saying get rid of all public lands but there should be a balance and not to the detriment of people and economic development.

This is not just a county issue, Utah was ranked 51 (includes D.C.) in student spending in 2015. Utah has 64.5% public lands. Part of our property tax money goes to our schools. If there were more private property (or if the state and feds paid their fair share) we would have more for education, instead of taxing us more. In the image to the right, there was a poll that asked, “Do you believe more tax money needs to be allocated to fund Utah’s public school system?” 67% of the people that took the poll said yes. We have many good teachers and they go above and beyond (and spend their own money) for our kids. It just would be nice if our taxes didn’t have to increase to make a reasonable thing happen for the education of our kids.

Click for a pdf map

Now, I don’t tend to dwell in the past, I hope for the future but I work with what is right now. So what can we do right now and how are to create economic opportunity with so much public land?

In a previous Commissioner’s Report, I wrote about moving SITLA parcels in our county to strategic locations and around our municipalities. I believe that there is and will be economic value in doing this. I have met with the SITLA Board and they are in favor of this idea. There are a lot of moving parts that include grazers, mineral lease permittees, BLM, FS, SITLA, private land owners and the municipalities, but an Emery Count Land Use Bill could speed up the process. In talking with Ray Peterson, Emery County Public Lands Director, the recent PLI had 100,000 SITLA acres that are available to be moved around in our county. We will be working with SITLA and stakeholders to figure this out. The checkerboarded map doesn’t make sense for the state or the county.

Please send me your thoughts and, remember, be part of the solution.

Mosquito Monday

Word from the County Weed and Mosquito Director, Cory Worwood:

One of mosquito controls biggest challenges is the public perception that the Fogger truck represents mosquito abatement. One complaint I get a lot is “you have not been doing mosquito control in my town because I have not heard the fogger go by.” Please keep in mind that most mosquito control is done during the day by a guy on foot or ATV. The goal is to kill the mosquito larva and pupa in the water.

Notice that most of a mosquito’s life cycle takes place in standing water.

Most of our mosquito control efforts are focused on finding, preventing, draining and treating standing water. The fogging trucks that drive around at night only kill adult mosquitoes and make up less than ¼ of our mosquito control efforts.

A lot of mosquito problems can be avoided by:

  • Fixing leaks promptly (Fields and yards)
  • Drain objects that hold water (kid pools, wheelbarrows, garbage can lids, tires, coffee cans)
  • Stop overwatering (if water stands in the same place for more than 5 days it could be making mosquitos)
  • Fill in low spots that hold water (Fields and yards)
  • Make sure water drains properly (If water is moving it’s not producing mosquitos)

What I would like to accomplish: Follow up

After I was sworn in in 2015 I was asked by Pasty Stoddard, of the Emery County Progress, for some thoughts on what you would like to accomplish as a commissioner. Here is a follow up on what I have done and what is yet to be accomplished.

Here they are (in no particular order):

This may be the one I was most passionate about, hence I have this website and facebook page. I appreciate those who have taken the time to read, comment, and reach out to me on various subjects. Please feel free to share with your friends and fellow citizens of Emery County! Work on being as transparent as possible. Letting the people of Emery County know what’s going on, giving them updates, and using social media. Along with being transparent is letting the people have a way to contact their elected officials for rants, raves or ideas. I believe that we will hear great ideas for Emery County from the people of Emery County.
This is one I am still working on, I am hoping to bring better light to what taxes are brought into the county and how and where they are spent. Transparency in taxation. I want to create an infographic on what monies the county takes in as fines, fees, taxes, PILT, and grants; then break it down into how and where it all is spent. I believe in taxation with representation, we should know where the goes. So we all can have the correct information.
Jordan Leonard, out Economic Development Director, has been great to work with. I continue to work with him to retain and expand the businesses we currently have and to actively pursue bringing new businesses to Emery County. I want to work with our economic development department to continue to move forward projects that are in play and work to make our county as attractive as possible to future business opportunities. With that, I want to work with the Emery County Business Chamber to help the businesses we have already in the county to grow and expand. We need to develop a more viable and diverse economy in our county.
In working with Shannon Hiatt, the Aquatic Center Director, I believe that the pool is being used more. We have a facebook page for the aquatic center; discount cards for showers, aquacise and lap swim; We are working to purchase a WIBIT with school district participation as part of a fundraiser for the swim team. I maintain that the government should not be in the business of running businesses. The Aquatic Center is a great facility, but it needs to be utilized more. I want to see it priced competitively with the pool in Price and to develop more activities at the Aquatic Center.
We have many great people who volunteer a lot of hours on behalf of the county and to them, I want to say a big, Thank You! We wouldn’t be able to accomplish those things on our own. I love that we have so many that care and want to be involved.

One thing we recently did as a commission was to approve county employee prices at the aquatic center for all those who volunteer on behalf of the county (e.g. Special Service District Boards, County Boards and Committees, EMS and Search and Rescue, etc.)

I want to continue working with and supporting the great people on the boards and councils the county has to further the efforts of our county.
I hope everyone realizes we are all in this together (cue the song from High School Musical). It’s true and I hope those who know me and read this know that I have been actively working as commissioner for the benefit of the whole county. With all this, I would like to help build a better unity throughout the county, we are one county.

As always, I would love your feedback on this and remember: be part of the solution.

Meeting with CNN

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and have a conversation with John Sutter. He is a reporter with CNN and you can view his profile here on CNNs website.

He’s working on a story for CNN about Emery County peoples’ views on global warming. There was a survey from Yale researchers that estimated our county has one of the highest rates of climate skepticism in the US – meaning people often do not believe that humans and pollution are causing the Earth to warm. He is staying in our county for a week doing a listening tour, trying to understand peoples’ views on this issue, how they form them, what’s important to people here.

There will be follow up to this conversation.

State Legislature Regular Session 2017

Bill Support/Oppose Legislature Ruling
HB 439 Electronic Cigarette – Support
E-cigarettes should be regulated like regular cigarettes. The nicotine can be higher in e-cigs and recently has been found to have more carcinogens than regular cigs. It is on the rise quickly with the kids, which is a troubling stat. The Health Departments and CTCs support this bill.
Failed
HB 407 Utah Public Land Management -Monitor
If this is to work that this bill be enacted upon the fed giving the state the right to manage its own land, I support. I believe in locally managed lands. This bill should include all Federally “owned” lands e.g. BLM and FS.
 Passed
HB 408 State Property and SITLA
My concern with this bill is that the state is wanting to override local ordinance authority over state land within the bounds of the county or municipality. We don’t like when the feds do it. Please don’t do that to the counties or the cities.
 Failed
HB 442 Alcohol Amendments – Support
I support the loosening of Utah alcohol sales regulations. Namely, removing the Zion Curtain; If operating under a restaurant license, minors may not be seated/served within 10 feet of the bar.
 Passed
HB 239 Juvenile JRI – Oppose (for now)
My sheriff and attorney do not like this. Their associations don’t like this. Does reform need to happen? Yes. But let’s make sure we have a handle on JRI before we start in on the juveniles.
 Passed
SB 264 Outdoor Recreation Grant Program – General Support
While I would prefer the .3% tax to be on outdoor gear vs Transient Room Tax. It would be good to help with the outdoor rec program and trails matching program.
 Passed
HB 253 Short-term Rental (AirBNB Bill) – Oppose
I am an hotelier, and I have used AirBNB. I really like and have enjoyed AirBNB several times. I believe in capitalism and believe that we should not, as a government, get in the way of it. This bill says that political subdivisions cannot prohibit but can regulate short-term rentals, this should be left to the local level of government to decide.  I believe that TRT tax should still be collected on these short-term rentals.
 Passed
HB 175 Opioid Abuse Prevention – Support
This is another one of the three that I sent to you that I support.
 Passed
HB 50 Opioid Prescribing Regulations – Support
Sets a 7-day opiate prescription limit for someone who hasn’t had an opiate prescription in the last 90 days and requires them to check the Utah controlled substance database. This keeps the supply of potentially abusable opiates in home medicine cabinets to a bare minimum and prevents multiple prescriptions for opiates.
 Passed
HB 90 Insurance Opioid Regulation – Support
Requires Medicaid and commercial health insurance companies to establish policies to minimize the risks of opiate addiction and overdose from prescribing high doses of opiates and co-prescribing opiates and benzodiazepines. It also requires insurers to enact a policy to provide for medication-assisted treatment for patients with opiate dependence.
 Passed
HB 146 Partial Filling – Support
Allows a patient or a physician to request that an opiate prescription be only partially filled. This would also minimize the supply of leftover opiates in household medicine chests.
 Passed
HB 207 Federalism Amendments – Watching.
While I support the idea of federalism and following the 10th Amendment that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. I am not sure what the $350,000 is going to do to help this. Yes on federalism, no to the fiscal note.
 Failed
HB 265 Safety Amendments – Support
If I understand this bill correctly, it takes away the need to have vehicles inspected annually or when it is mandated by the state. From what I have read, inspecting vehicles has not increased vehicle safety on the roads. I am a fan of evidence-based programs. If there is little to no corresponding evidence of a program it should be removed.
 Passed
HB 147 Living Wage – Oppose
The minimum wage is not supposed to be a living wage. It is low for those entering the marketplace, learning skills and getting experience. And for those who want to make more ask for it and move up the ladder, find another job where they can more up the ladder, or gain a greater education on a skill set for greater opportunity for a better job. I do believe that minimum wage should go up based on inflation but not arbitrarily for the good feelings for the minimum wage earner.
 Failed

Continue reading State Legislature Regular Session 2017

Commissioners Report 3-7-17

March 7, 2017

State Legislative Regular Session

Meeting with Representative Watkins

Throughout the Utah State Legislative Regular Session I have been privileged and happy to meet with and discuss rules, regulations, laws & statutes that affect our state and county. It’s been a lot of time and reading and meetings. Some of these bills I was interested in, others came from the school district, Farm Bureau, Special Service Districts and you. I will post more information on some of bills that I addressed with our representatives after their regular session is over on Friday. I will have a link to the bill, my reasons for supporting/opposing or monitoring, and the final legislative verdict on the bills. Continue reading Commissioners Report 3-7-17

Commissioners Report 2-21-17

February 21, 2017

Recently, I was able to attend Rural County Day on the Hill. Governor Herbert, Lt Governor Cox, Representative Albrecht, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development addressed us. There was also a bit of Q&A for each.

In the Governor’s recent State of the State address, he said he wants to add 25,000 jobs to rural Utah. The Governors Rural Partnership Board put together the map to the left (click for a pdf) of how one job in rural Utah compares to a job on the Wasatch Front. For 1 job in Emery County, it is estimated to about 50 jobs on the Wasatch Front. That is quite significant. I told the Governor that rural Utah needs the infrastructure that the Wasatch front takes for granted in order to be able to develop and diversify our economies. I told him we have rail, highway, power, but fiber optic broadband; what we are missing in parts or our county is natural gas. The public utility rules and statutes need to change for them to be able to expand and provide money to operate and maintain the infrastructure. We’ll see where it goes.

Another aspect of this Day on the Hill was a presentation of Health Equity that expanded their business to Carbon county. I have heard that they have approximately 40 people from Emery County working there.

Continue reading Commissioners Report 2-21-17