EVANSTON — The Uinta County Commissioners had a full agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 7, in the commission chambers at the Uinta County Complex, when commission chair Eric South and commissioner Craig Welling were without the company of fellow commissioner Wendell Fraughton, who South said had recently been in the hospital with pneumonia.
The first order of business was an appointment to the Uinta County Veterans Board, and Mike Erickson Jr. was appointed to that position.
Gary Welling with the county planning office presented a memorandum of understanding with the state industrial siting commission regarding the Invenergy wind farm project that is moving forward in the county. As part of that project, Uinta County, the City of Evanston and the Town of Bear River are eligible to receive funding for mitigation for any possible financial impacts to the county during the construction phase of the project stemming from either the construction itself or from providing services to individuals who may move into the area to fill the approximately 100 anticipated jobs associated with the construction.
For example, Welling said there is an anticipated impact to County Rd. 103, which will be heavily used during the construction process. The MOU with the industrial siting commission will allow the county to be compensated for expenses such as chip seal on that road.
Welling said the MOU allows for approximately $385,000 in funding for such impacts, split almost equally between Uinta County and the City of Evanston. Officials in Bear River do not believe there will be any impacts there; however, the MOU still allows for claims from Bear River should there be a need, as well as adjustments to the total dollar amount if impacts are greater than anticipated.
Welling said overall the planning office sees the Invenergy project as a positive one for Uinta County, with construction set to begin in 2019 and run for about a year and a half.
In other business, Uinta County Clerk Amanda Hutchinson requested approval of acceptance of grant funding from both the Federal Aviation Agency and the State of Wyoming for the Fort Bridger Airport apron rehabilitation project. The grant funding includes approximately $715,000 from the FAA and another approximately $47,000. Uinta County has a required match of approximately $30,000.
Hutchinson said, “Obviously, without that federal grant we would not be able to do this project.”
The commissioners approved acceptance of the grant monies as well as a contract for the work for phase I of the apron rehabilitation project with Kilgore Companies, doing business as Lewis and Lewis, for just over $310,000.
Sheriff Doug Matthews presented a contract with the U.S. Marshall’s office for the housing of federal prisoners. Matthews said it is the same contract they have had for years; however, he was able to secure an increase in the rate paid for the housing of prisoners from $45 a day to $66 a day. Matthews said the actual costs for housing an inmate are roughly $60 a day. He also said the jail doesn’t take federal prisoners very often, but is currently housing several prisoners for the state pending their transfer to the state prison.
Matthews also spoke about two grants the county is receiving from the state for purposes of conducting alcohol and tobacco inspections. Each grant is for $1,700 and pays for overtime for deputies and for an underage person to go into local businesses to attempt to purchase alcohol or tobacco. The grant also allows for the purchase of $10 gift cards to give to clerks and bartenders who refuse the sales.
County assessor Lori Perkins presented the mill levies for the new tax year, which remained the same other than increases for the Uinta County Conservation District, which went up from .341 to .399, and the weed and pest district, which went up from .902 to .933. Perkins said both agencies are able to levy up to 1 mill but they request only what they need. She also said all other agencies are already at their “maximum capacity,” other than the fire district, which can take up to 3 mills but is currently at 2.5. The commissioners approved the mill levies.
County planner Kent Williams then presented a request by Tony and Katlyn Redmon for a new subdivision, the Coyote Hills subdivision, in the Austin Hills subdivision in the area north of the freeway and north of Lyman, with access off Magpie Road and County Road 231. Williams said the planning and zoning commission had given the proposal a favorable review at a meeting in July.
When Williams opened a public hearing on the proposal, however, some objections were voiced by Sandy Moon, who said she was speaking on behalf of her parents who live adjacent to the proposed subdivision. She said when her parents moved to their home, they were told the area couldn’t handle more than one septic tank per five acres and asked that to be investigated prior to approving a subdivision that would have three homes on five acres.
She also said there was a problem with water overflowing from a culvert onto her parents’ property due to a berm that was built by the prior owner of the land of the proposed subdivision. She requested that if the subdivision were to be approved that someone be directed to create some type of proper drainage system to prevent the massive water overflow onto her parents’ property, which she said, “creates a lake,” makes her parents miserable and isn’t fair. She described the situation as turning valuable hay property into seaweed.
Access off Magpie Road was also a concern. She said the access is terrible and the county should consider maintaining the road if it’s going to be seeing more usage because of more residents in the area, and especially emphasized the difficulty she believes emergency vehicles would have accessing the homes in that area.
Williams said he was sensitive to the concerns about the berm creating problems for her parents, but her comments were the first anyone in the planning office has heard of these problems and added that the issue is really a civil matter between two property owners. When asked about notifying neighboring property owners about the proposed subdivision, Williams said because there is no zoning change being requested the planning office is not required to send letters to the neighbors in the area.
After some discussion, including further comments from Moon indicating she believes other neighbors are also concerned, the commissioners voted to table the subdivision proposal until further investigation into the issues could be completed.
Williams also presented a letter to “several different individuals” with the U.S. Forest Service to be signed by the commissioners regarding sheep grazing in the High Uintas. Williams said a couple of years ago he and other individuals had been appointed to “represent the county in the forest service planning effort of the High Uintas Wilderness Domestic Sheep Analysis as it relates to the interaction between some of our grazers and bighorn sheep in the Uintas.”
He said the letter outlines a series of three alternatives that could occur, including no grazing, continued grazing as it is currently authorized, and an alternative that could essentially increase the grazing in the Uintas.
Williams said it is a confusing issue, but it is important to send the letter in to the Forest Service because otherwise “they simply won’t consider any of our viewpoints at all.” He said the county needs to have a seat at the table as the issue is considered because of the potential impact on Uinta County ranchers.
“Agriculture is one of the life bloods of our county — it always has been — so we need to make every effort to protect the efforts of our grazers, and this does that,” said Williams.