Washington County Commission adopts 2021 budget, takes cemetery off school district’s hands

Washington County Administration Building sign, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In its last meeting of the year, the Washington County Commission adopted the county’s pending 2021 budget and also relieved the school district of ownership of a cemetery it inherited 50 years ago.

The Washington County Administration Building, St. George, Utah, Nov 20, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Adoption of 2021 budget

Some minor tweaks were made to the proposed 2021 budget since its original presentation to the County Commission in November, Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen told the commission during its Dec. 15 meeting. However, the overall budget, which stands at around $135 million, was largely unchanged, he said.

The single biggest project funded in the budget is the construction of a new county administration building on the corner of 100 East and Tabernacle Street, which is estimated to run $25 million. The current administration building was built in 1966 and only houses a handful of the county’s various departments and services.

The new building has been designed to pull all of the county departments under a single roof for the convenience of county residents, while also having room to expand in order to meet the needs of a growing population in the future.

Other highlights include a 4% wage increase for county employees in the new year, as well as the hiring of two new prosecutors for the County Attorney’s Office, two new public defenders, as an additional Sheriff’s deputy to act as a bailiff for the 5th District Court. Other projected hires include a new public works employee and a range manager for the county’s shooting sports park.

The County Commission unanimously voted to adopt the 2021 budget. Details on the budget can be found on the county website.

Central Cemetery switches hands

A recent audit conducted by the Washington County Treasurer’s Office discovered that a cemetery in the community of Central – where plots were being sold and the grounds being managed – was owned by the Washington County School District.

Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox during the Dec. 15 County Commission meeting in St. George, Utah, Dec. 15, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

“Back in the 50s, Central incorporated, and after making a run at being an incorporated community, they decided to discorporate in 1969,” Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox said, adding that under state law, assets of the former town went to the county school district.

“One of those assets was the cemetery,” Cox said. “I instantly talked to my wife – she’s on the (Washington County School Board) – and said, ‘Are you guys planning to build a school on the graveyard?’”

Cox said he was told, “Absolutely not.” This eventually led to the school district signing its interest in the cemetery over to the county.

“This is great, because it will protect in perpetuity the sacred nature of the cemetery,” Cox said following the commission’s voting to take over ownership of the cemetery.

Commissioner Gil Almquist, who has a reputation for sharing puns, said Cox’s explanation surrounding the cemetery was a “grave undertaking.”

Other business

St. George Bicycle Collective’s Shop Manager Michael Hernandez loves his job, loves getting grease under his fingernails and love the shop’s new location. St. George, Utah, July 17, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

In other business, the County Commission approved a five-year lease with the Bicycle Collective, which set up shop at 39 S. Bluff St. earlier this year.

The property the Bicycle Collective’s shop has settled on was originally bought as a right-of-way for the Bluff Street expansion that occurred from 2017-18, yet turned out to be not be needed at the time.

The collective is a nonprofit organization that takes old bicycles and refurbishes them. These bikes are then either sold to the public or donated to school children and adults who are homeless or in-need so they have a means of transportation.

Also during the meeting, Almquist was named the County Commission chair for 2021. Iverson, who served as the commission chair for 2020, said he was looking forward to whatever puns Almquist may have in store for next year’s meetings.

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

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