Iron County Commission discusses small business grants, location for possible Pioneer Day activities

Floor decals made for local businesses as part of the #CedarCityTogether campaign | Photo courtesy of Cedar City, St George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY —  The Iron County Commission approved a small business grant program using CARES Act funding during a meeting on Monday, as well as discussing potential locations for a Pioneer Day celebrations and recognizing firefighters for their work over the Fourth of July weekend.

‘We’re really excited to put some money into the local economy’

County Auditor Dan Jessen addressed the commission to explain the Iron County Cares Impact Grant Program, a small business grant program the county will provide using funds distributed to Iron County from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.

Iron County is receiving $5,576,911 from the state in CARES Act funding. The Five County Association of Governments is also distributing approximately $86,000 of CARES Act funding it received to Iron County.

Jessen said $4,482,000 of this funding would be dedicated to a small business grant program, as the funding can be used for economic recovery for businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, “because they have been expressly required to close … or have voluntarily closed due to the pandemic or have seen significant decrease in demand related to social distancing and the pandemic.”

Jessen said the funding has to be spent by Nov. 30, so the program will award grants on a first-come, first-served basis, and eligibility will largely be determined by a business’s ability to show financial hardship due to the coronavirus or public health orders that have been issued since April 2.

“We’re moving very quickly,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of outreach with the cities to make sure that the program will work not also for the county and the county’s dollars but also for the cities.”

Jessen said the program will be heavily documented due to expected auditing from the federal government, and there will be a formula that determines the amount of the grant for each business, adding that his primary concern is mom-and-pop-type businesses that may not have qualified for other coronavirus-related grant programs.

“We’re really excited to put some money into the local economy and target the businesses that got hit the hardest,” he said.

The Iron County CARES Impact Grant Program was approved unanimously.

The commission also approved an interlocal agency agreement to accompany the grant program so that municipalities like Cedar City, Parowan and Enoch can partner with the county in the program.

“We do need to have an agreement in place to help define the nature of our agreement with the cities and how the money will flow, the responsibilities,” Jessen said. “We will essentially be awarding money on their behalf.”

Jessen said the county will run the program, keeping track of documentation, accepting applications and administering the grants after approval from a committee that includes county and city representatives, including Cedar City and Iron County Economic Development Director Danny Stewart, Cedar City Chamber of Commerce Director Chris McCormick, Cedar City and Brian Head Tourism Bureau Executive Director Maria Twitchell, Enoch City Councilman David Harris and Cedar City Councilman Craig Isom.

Cities will contribute funding based on what they receive from the CARES Act, and the county will distribute it through the grant program.

The program will use city funding first, as city money is more limited.

“The goal is to use the cities’ money first within their cities and then fall back to county money,” Jessen said. “County money can be used anywhere in the county, and city money can only be used within their city.”

The Iron County Commission, Parowan, Utah, July 13, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

Cities that participate will be able to review grants that have been awarded by the committee and appeal grants if they see fit.

“Since we’re going to be awarding their money I wanted to make sure it made sense from their perspective,” Jessen said.

Applications for the grant program will be available beginning July 20 through the Iron County website.

In addition to the grant program, Jessen said the county would use some of the CARES Act funding to purchase equipment and cover expenses the county has incurred associated with the pandemic.

Approximately $680,911 would be used to purchase equipment, such as climatized drive-thru tents for the COVID-19 testing area, four mobile messaging boards, chairs that are easily wiped down for the Cedar City Brian Head Tourism Office, the Cedar City Justice Court and the Cedar City Airport, generators and personal protective equipment.

Jessen added approximately $500,000 of the funding would be used to reimburse the county for frontline public safety expenditures.

‘We can’t find a venue’

Rick and Cathy Bryant approached the commission Monday to request the use of the Visitor Center parking lot for a Pioneer Day celebration on July 24.

Rick and Cathy Bryant address the Iron County Commission, Parowan, Utah, July 13, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

Rick Bryant said he and his wife took over organizing the celebration last year, and they are having difficulty finding a venue for the event due to regulations related to the coronavirus.

“We can’t find a venue,” he said. “The city is adamant about following the governor’s protocols, which means we’d need to (section) off the city park with one entrance, man that, and get the name, address and phone number of every attendee.”

Although officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on July 7 that there would be no formal Pioneer Day celebrations in Cedar City this year, Rick Bryant said they still feel it’s appropriate to celebrate Pioneer Day. Social distancing will be encouraged and masks will be available, he said, but he doesn’t feel collecting attendees’ information is “a reasonable expectation.”

Commissioners expressed several concerns, including safety, accessibility, parking, bathrooms, use of the Visitor Center and allowing the use of county property for profit-making events without a permitting process.

Commissioner Paul Cozzens encouraged the Bryants to find a privately-owned property to host the event, and he offered to help them do so.

“My heart aches for the businesses that have been hurt by this whole thing, but it would simplify things if you can find a piece of private property,” Cozzens said. “I’d be happy to help you with that.”

‘You guys really deserve some recognition for your efforts’

County Commissioner Mike Bleak recognized Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips and Bureau of Land Management Wildland Fire Engine Captain Tommy Braun for their efforts to suppress a fire at the Iron County Landfill on July 5.

Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips and BLM Wildland Fire Engine Captain Tommy Braun received letters of commendation from the Iron County Commission, Parowan, Utah, July 13, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

“You guys really deserve some recognition for your efforts that day on that fire,” Bleak said. “The citizens of Iron County need to understand your efforts that you put out there every single day to keep us safe.”

Bleak said Braun and Phillips put themselves in harm’s way in order to keep two pieces of heavy machinery from burning in the fire. Phillips used one of the machines, a loader, to move burning material away from the machines while Braun was able to move the other machine, a compactor, away from the fire.

Bleak wrote letters of commendation for both Phillips and Braun.

“The cost to Iron County to replace these machines would have been well over a million dollars,” Bleak quoted from his letters. “The Iron County Commission and the citizens of Iron County are truly grateful for your dedicated service to our community.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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