‘Taxation without representation?’

J.T. Geddes speaks to commissioners during their last meeting in July. Geddes brought with him a petition signed by 20 residents along County Road 173 near Piedmont, in an effort to get the county to maintain the road. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

Resident says he and his neighbors aren’t being treated fairly when it comes to road maintenance

EVANSTON — Mosquito control and County Road 173 were the two items of business taking up most of the time at the July 19 meeting of the Uinta County Commission. 

Rancher Jack Sims from Almy and Vector Disease Control Maintenance Director Gary Simonton spoke to the commission regarding the delay of the aerial spraying for mosquito control. Sims, who has complained to the commission in previous years about the slow response from the county authorities on controlling mosquitoes, addressed the commission first.

“I would hate to see you guys not get re-elected,” Sims said to the commissioners. “People are watching. You don’t have any clue as to how upset people in this county are about mosquitoes. I didn’t bring anybody else with me this time, but I could have filled the room. The skeeters drive us nuts and besides that is the fact they carry West Nile disease.”

Simonton then addressed commissioners.

“I came to explain the issues we have been dealing with,” he said. “Our chief pilot quit right in the middle of the planning process. We then had to get another pilot certified as chief, and he flew to Louisiana so he could get certified quickly. The chief pilot has to sign off on the plan that goes to the Denver FAA. The new pilot has now done that and they should have the papers today.”

Simonton said they also have replaced the general manager. Spraying is now underway, and by the third week of August it should begin for congested areas. He said that they are setting Utah spraying aside in order to begin spraying here sooner.

“I feel confident that we can begin spraying in Uinta County in a week,” Simonton said at the July 19 meeting. “We are doing everything we can so this delay doesn’t happen again.”

Commissioners Brent Hatch and Mark Anderson both asked Simonton how long it would take to spray the entire county and Simonton said they could probably do it in two nights if they used both of their airplanes. He said the Lonetree area would be done a little later due to special aerial requirements.

Maintenance on County Road 173 (CR 173), near Piedmont, was the concern J.T. Geddes brought before the commission.

“Taxation without representation,” Geddes said. “Words that roll off the tongue quite easily, but what do they mean? Taxation without representation refers to imposing a tax on people who are not permitted like representation as others by the same governing body.”

Geddes read a prepared speech that expressed his thoughts on what equal representation means and said he thought the Uinta County Commission did not represent the taxpayers who live on County Road 173 equally and fairly. He cited the large amount of property taxes he pays to the county.

Geddes asked the commission to acknowledge the petition of the residents of County Road 173 for maintenance and improvement of the road. He cited how he and other residents have used their own resources to attempt to keep the road open; how children miss school and people can’t get to work due to the unsafe and impassable road.

Geddes said the Highpoint Ranch Property Owners Association filed incorporation papers with the Secretary of State on Aug. 9, 2006 and that the Commission is not treating the HRPOA as a mutual benefit corporation. Geddes presented the commission with a petition requesting “Uinta County to correct its practices and provide year-round maintenance beyond where CR 173 intersects with the west end of CR 171.”  The petition was signed by 20 residents.

Commission Chair Eric South said, “Buyers beware; there is a sign at the beginning of 173 that states the road is not maintained. People should have known before they decided to buy there.”

Hatch told Geddes that the county has 700 miles of county roads to maintain and there just aren’t enough resources and man power to add more miles.

“You have to be fair to all taxpayers,” Geddes responded. “How can you deny the taxpayers on 173? County road 171 gets maintenance. I will not relent. I do not like injustice.”

In other business, Uinta County Clerk Amanda Hutchinson asked the commission to ratify the stop loss proposal which is a notice to contract for coverage for the county’s health insurance plan. The commission approved to ratify the stop loss proposal.

Hutchinson than asked the commission to approve a non-disclosure agreement with an outside party for an external personnel investigation, which they did.

Last on her requests, Hutchinson addressed the resolution to approve the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

“The expenses in the 2023 general budget amount to $16,950,000, with revenues projected at $13 million. We have designated $300,000 from reserves to be used for special projects, which brings our reserves down to 16.3 million.”

Hutchinson reminded the commission that they had approved moving the insurance expense of approximately three million from the departments into the general fund. She said the largest grant received was the ARPA fund, $3.9 million of which the county has received half of the ARPA monies already and will receive the rest in 2023. Those funds will be used for new technology at the Uinta County Library, Public Health expenses, and in cooperation with the Joint Powers Board to fund some water needs in Bridger Valley.

Also included in plans for ARPA funds, Hutchinson said, is the parking lot structure behind the courthouse and the bleachers at the fairgrounds — a cost that will be shared with the City of Evanston. The ARPA funds will not be enough for all of the needs so the county will be using more reserve funds, Hutchinson said. The county commission unanimously approved the 2023 fiscal year budget.

Public Health Manager Callie Perkins requested the commission approve the WYFI agreement for the Public Health office with Statewide Health Information Exchange. This contract will allow the public health office access to patient information from other public health offices.  Perkins said hospitals are now required to do health information exchange with other medical facilities.

“Patients can opt in or out of this agreement,” Perkins said. “This online health portal is statewide and eventually will become nationwide. The county attorney reviewed the agreement and approved.”

The Commission approved the WYFI agreement for the Public Health agency.

The commission approved Saralee Gross, County Road and Bridge, as project administrator for the CMAQ grant and coordinator for the Title 6 FEMA grant. Her responsibilities will be to ensure contractors follow the equal opportunity guidelines.

The commission then heard four subdivision requests brought by County Planner, Kent Williams.

The Pitts subdivision, a two-acre lot was changed from agriculture resource development to single family residential. Eric Wall, Uinta Engineering and Surveying was the only person to testify at the public hearing opened by Williams. Wall said he saw no problems with the change, no other comments from the public so Williams then closed the public hearing.

The second subdivision Williams addressed was the Austin Hills subdivision which contained Lots 9, 10, 11 and 12 Block 2 and Lot 1 Block 3. Williams explained that the lots needed to be reconfigured in order to build a road and allow for the wet areas. Wall testified in favor of the change. There were no other comments and the public hearing was closed by Williams.

“This next one is the A & R subdivision which shows little difference than when it was subdivided in 2008 in order for the owner’s son to build a home,” Williams said. “In 2019, the son passed away. His building was built over the property line between his lot and the balance owned by the Reese’s and now they want to sell the property. Part of the property will go from agriculture to single family residential and part that is residential will go back to agriculture.  We will bring the map amendment to the August meeting. We are trying to help the family and allow the property to be sold.”

Wall testified in favor of the subdivision, and there were no other comments and Williams closed the public hearing.

The last one Williams addressed, and the commission approved, was the High Point subdivision.  Williams explained that this is one lot of 15 acres subdivision. The lot is zoned agriculture resource development and the owners wish to change it to single family residential.  The area is in a remote location on County Road 173, near Piedmont.

Fred Coles of Wasatch Engineering testified that the lot would be subject to the same covenants and restrictions as other subdivisions though it is just one lot and has never been a subdivision. No other comments were made, so Williams closed the public hearing.

All four subdivision requests made by Williams were approved by the commission.

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