County approves funding for additional bus service in Zion, UV book cleaners for libraries

ST. GEORGE — UV book cleaners and additional bus services in Zion National Park were among the items the Washington County Commission approved for COVID-19 relief funding last week.

Inside the St. George branch of the Washington County Library System, Utah, Aug. 6, 2019 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During its meeting last Wednesday, the County Commission approved nearly $781,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act relief funds allocated to Washington County. The federal relief funds are meant to be applied to issues related to the pandemic, whether negative economic impacts on businesses or ways to ensure the continuing health and safety of residents.

UV book cleaners for the libraries

Washington County Library System Director Joel Tucker requested nine UV book cleaning units – two for the St. George library branch and one for the rest of the system’s branches in the area – be approved for purchase by the county.

“As a library, we like to share. That might be a problem with COVID-19,” Tucker joked as he spoke to the commission about the purchase request.

Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can lurk on the surface of various items and materials after someone touches it, Tucker said. This also applies to books. In order to prevent the potential spread of the virus, the library had been holding books for 72 hours (the time it takes for the virus to die out on a book’s surface) at its branches. However, this practice has “caused a few complications with patrons,” Tucker said.

Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker speaking before the Washington County Commission, Oct. 15, St. George, Utah | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The majority of the libraries dropped the 72-hour hold with the exception of Santa Clara. Instead, they turned to cleaning off the covers of the books and putting them back into circulation. This nonetheless proved to be a laborious and timely process.

In order to address this problem while also giving the books a deeper, more effective cleaning, Tucker applied for nine of the UV cleaning machines.

“It’s like a microwave,” he said. “Nuke (the books) for 30 seconds with the UV rays and pull them out. It kills 95% of the bacteria and virus, especially COVID-19.”

The commission approved the purchase for a total of around $38,700.

Additional bus at Zion National Park

The County Commission approved a service agreement with St. George Shuttle to provide additional bus service in Zion National Park.

The onset of COVID-19 originally shut down shuttle service in the park, which has since gradually returned. However, this required the park to bring in all of its shuttles, including those that had been used in Springdale. To compensate for this, Washington County used CARES Act dollars in July to fund a contract with St. George Shuttle to provide services in Springdale.

Now, under a new agreement, the county will fund the use of an additional bus in Zion National Park proper to help take people through the canyon.

A St. George Shuttle bus parked at the St. George Shuttle terminal in St. George, Utah, July 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

This won’t be a standby bus, Commissioner Gil Almquist said, but one making regular runs through the canyon — up to seven times a day.

“We’ve been engaging with the park for several months now trying to open up alternative or additional ways for people to enjoy the park,” Almquist said. “And with visitation off tremendously, we thought, ‘Why not get a few more buses in there?’”

Transportation into the park has been a sticking point for visitors, Almquist said. He shared that a Springdale hotelier told him that eight out of 10 of their overnight guests complained about it. As visitation and mobility into the park has improved, however, the complaints have begun to drop, he said.

“People are still coming here from all over the world despite the impacts to tourism through other means,” Almquist said.

A 90-day contract with St. George Shuttle was approved by the commission. Almquist added that a daily run for the bus was around $825, which amounts to a total of $74,250.

Additional purchases

In order to stay competitive in a world where more and more meetings and gatherings are being held online due to the pandemic, the commission approved the purchase of new audio-video equipment for the Dixie Convention Center that will allow it better accommodate a gathering’s teleconferencing needs.

The Dixie Center St. George is marked by a sign, St. George, Utah, June 29, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“I think it’s important we keep the Dixie Center viable,” Commission Dean Cox said.

The new equipment for the convention center was approved for $597,000.

The purchase of two sign trailers and a quarter-ton pickup truck to haul the trailers was approved for $67,800 for Washington County Emergency Services.

WCES Director Jason Whipple said the sign trailers can be used to help direct people to relief sites in case of emergencies. In relation to COVID-19, they can also be used to point the way to stations where a virus vaccine may be available at some point in the future.

“We can see these being used in future pandemics,” Whipple said. “It’s a long-term plan with a short-term solution.”

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

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