ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Commission approved the new 2015 budget, implemented the Recreation, Arts and Parks tax, and honored outgoing Commissioner James Eardley during Tuesday’s regular commission meeting.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” Eardley said. “I will certainly miss the association and friendship with the county employees. It’s been great.”
Commissioner Alan Gardner thanked Eardley for his service and for having a positive effect on the county government.
“Coming through the slow times and everything else, we’re in good shape, and a good share of that is from your diligence on the budget,” Gardner said to Eardley.
Eardley was presented with a plaque during the meeting.
Zachary D. Renstrom will replace Gardner in County Commission Seat A in January. Renstrom won the November election by a wide margin over his Democratic opponent Chris White. Renstrom won the Republican nomination over Eardley in April at the Washington County Republican Convention.
RAP tax implemented
The commission authorized the Recreation, Arts and Parks (RAP) tax, which passed in the general election Nov. 5. The RAP tax is a sales tax of one-tenth of one percent of non-food purchases – one penny for every $10. The county estimates the tax will generate $2.2 million per year to help fund recreational and cultural facilities and organizations.
Proceeds from the tax will be used for things like athletic fields, parks, playgrounds, campgrounds, trails, swimming pools, gymnasiums and other recreational facilities; the tax monies will also benefit nonprofit organizations, institutions, and county and municipal cultural councils that focus on the advancement and preservation of art, music, theater, dance, cultural arts or natural history. The tax will be in effect for 10 years and will then have to be approved again by voters.
Eardley said the RAP tax has been popular in other parts of Utah, including Cache County and Cedar City, and that renewal of RAP taxes in other parts of the state have passed overwhelmingly.
“It’s been very successful in other areas,” he said.
The county also held a public hearing to adopt minor changes to the 2014 and 2015 budgets and to approve the final 2015 Washington County budget.
County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen said the changes came in response to requests by the state auditor and relate to the way the county is handling Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds. No one commented during the public hearing, and the budget changes were approved.
The commission retained the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce for transportation research, analysis, advocacy, public awareness and governmental and legislative relations. The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a public education campaign to raise awareness of how important roads are for the economic well-being of the state, County Administrator Dean Cox said.
“The state needs a tremendous sum of money by the year 2040 in order to meet all of the infrastructure needs, not counting the maintenance of what we’ve already got,” Cox said.
The last Utah gas tax was passed in 1997, and while the price of oil is down right now, “everything else has been marginalized by the winds of inflation that constantly blow,” Cox said.
Fire protection in remote areas
The commission voted “no” on a proposal to remove several parcels of private property located on Kanarra Mountain from the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Service District, due to the length of time it takes to access the properties from the Hurricane area. Cox said it’s important to keep the properties in the district.
Allowing homes to leave the district would be perilous, Cox said. If there was a wildfire in an area that is not in the special service district, the state fire warden would contract with a wildland fire force, and the bill for those services would go directly to the county, Cox said.
“So the cost of protecting those homes then would be shouldered by all of the residents, instead of the homeowners themselves that are putting the structures in place,” Cox said.
A better solution is for the properties to stay in the special service district and for the service district and New Harmony to work out an agreement that addresses the response times for homes on Kanarra Mountain, he said.
- Approved a copyright ownership and license agreement between the county and Amy English regarding the 2014 Tourism Vacation Planner. The planner was originally authored by English for the Convention and Tourism Office.
- Tabled a resolution that would have rezoned 53 acres located south of Regional Park Road near Hurricane, removing it from OST-20 (Open Space Transition 20-acre minimum lot size) zone and placing it in M-1 (Manufacturing) zone.
- Renewed a contract with Handy and Andy Services Inc. for custodial, cleaning and maintenance services for Washington County Library buildings and several other Washington County buildings.
- Appointed four board members to the Water Conservancy District to replace Daniel McArthur, Edward Bowler, Jim Lemmon and Dennis Iverson, whose terms expire on Dec. 31. Ed Bowler, who is currently serving as the chairman, was reappointed. New appointees are St. George Mayor Jon Pike, Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson, and James Eardley.
- Renewed an agreement with Pictometry International Corporation.
- Appointed Commissioner Iverson to the Utah Counties Indemnity Pool.
- Appointed Alan Gardner as the Commission Chair for 2015.
- Republicans take elections, RAP tax passes, state results; STGNews Videocast
- Let’s rap about tax, RAP tax that is
- County Commission, city plan redevelopment project in Ft. Pierce Industrial Park
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