County allocates pandemic relief funding to Tuacahn, Hurricane Valley Fire District

A sandstone sign marks the entrance to Tuacahn Amphitheatre, Ivins, Utah, June 18, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Approximately $3.2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act relief funding was granted to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts and Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District by the Washington County Commission Tuesday.

Posters announce Tuacahn’s 2020 season of Broadway-style shows as well as other performances, Ivins, Utah, June 18, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“In the response to COVID, obviously there’s been a lot of impact economically as we’ve responded across the country, across the state and here locally,” County Commissioner Victor Iverson said during Tuesday’s commission meeting. “A place we really don’t talk about much is our performing arts centers.”

Tuacahn is in the business of bringing people together to experience major theatrical productions year after year. However, due to the onset of COVID-19 and the many restrictions on social gathering that came with it, Tuacahn was forced to cancel its 2020 season.

Shows that had been set to go this year included Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.” “Annie” has also been set for the summer season, but has since been rescheduled for the fall. Tuacahn announced the season was canceled in late June.

In a regular year, Tuacahn is often counted among the top five economic drivers in Washington County along with Zion National Park and the area’s many golf courses. Because of the lack of productions and patrons, the nonprofit has had to look for additional support to meet its financial obligations.

Part of that support comes in the form of $1.9 million in CARES Act relief funds granted by the County Commission.

L-R: Brady Miller as Rolf and Emily Grace Tucker as Liesl in Tuacahn’s 2019 production of “The Sound of Music,” Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Ben Braten courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

“This funding will allow us not only to survive but to potentially come out even stronger next year with wonderful live entertainment for the whole family to enjoy,” Kevin Smith, Tuacahn executive director, told the commission over a Zoom call. “We can continue to be an economic engine for the area.”

Since 2015, Washington County has supported Tuacahn with an annual donation of $325,000 that stems from RAP tax and transient room tax revenue.

“Tuacahn is a world-class arts center that brings in world-class talent,” Iverson said. “I think it’s important we support them.”

An additional $1.7 million in CARES Act funding was granted to the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District for special equipment and other items needed to help keep first responders protected during the pandemic.

However, two of the items on the fire district’s list caused the commission to question whether or not they met the criteria needed in order to apply for the relief funding.

Because the criteria set forth by the federal government as to how the money can be used is somewhat vague, Iverson said the commission has relied on the County Attorney’s Office to determine which uses apply and which ones do not. If they didn’t fit the mandated use of the funds, the county would have to repay the federal government.

Firefighters with the Hurricane Valley Fire District flooded into a Hurricane neighborhood to extinguish a shed fire that posed a threat to nearby homes. The fire was contained, but not before the shed was completely engulfed in flames, Hurricane, Utah, May 2, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The items in question involved special defibrillators that allow responders to handle patients indirectly rather than close up in their faces where they could potentially be exposed to cases of COVID-19.

The other item that commissioners were not sure about at first included antigen testing, which Hurricane Valley Fire Chief Kuhlmann said would allow the fire district to know who may have already been exposed to COVID-19 or other illnesses. This will allow the fire district to plan accordingly in relation to staffing and who may still be at risk for the virus.

“These will allow us to respond in a more efficient manner and keep our responders at a higher level of protection than they have today,” Kuhlmann said.

An additional benefit of the special defibrillators and antigen testing is that they can be used in the long-term, and not just during the current pandemic, Kuhlmann added.

The County Commission approved of the CARES Act grant to the Hurricane Valley Fire District following the county attorney’s satisfaction that the purchases were justifiable.

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

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