The first Kane County Commission meeting of 2009 was held January 12 with a full agenda.

Commissioner Doug Heaton the newest member was given the Oath of Office. Heaton was elected in November to fill seat “C”, formally held by Commissioner Duke Cox. Chairman Daniel Hulet welcomed him.

Public Meeting Issue: Construction of the new Southwest Utah Public Health Center (SWPHC).

Is it needed? Kane County hires Southwest Public Health as a part of the Five County Association, to prevent, promote, preserve and protect health services to the county. They maintain their own staff and have clients throughout the county. 

How is the construction funded? Commissioner Hulet explained; the Five Counties Association, Southwest Public Health and the County Commission submitted the application for a grant for funding to the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB)

The State required Kane County to act as the “conduit” or pass through to obtain the bond, but the county is not financially liable. The Southwest Public Health Center and the Five Counties Association will be responsible for repayment.

Since the facility is to be constructed on county property, as part of the CIB grant process a public meeting was required.

A member of the public asked, “What will be the impact to the taxpayers?” Hulet replied “nothing at all”. It is coming out of the monies paid to SWPH for their services.

Taxpayer Association President Sky Chaney voiced a concern to the increase in the SWPH budget of 555% over and above what it was in 2006, and what will the future bring considering the current economic situation.

Hulet stated the Commission cut $150,000 from the SWPH budget during the review in August 2008. Hulet also stated SWPH still has the ability to proceed without increasing the tax rate.

Southwest Public Health is a separate entity not a part of the county or the hospital. Currently the SWPH is leasing a small house, next to Lumber Plus, at the cost of $2000.00 a month. SWPH determined it was better to invest and build a permanent facility.       

Hulet explained; the County, acts as the “conduit” during the new construction, the contractor bills SWPHC, SWPHC sends the bill to the county, the county submits the bill to the state and the state pays the bill out of the bond monies. Southwest Public Health pays for the bond.

Chris White, SWPH Deputy Officer of Operations stated if funding is obtained, the new facility would be located next to the Southwest Behavioral Center building as a duplex. This will maximize efficiencies of both entities. The SWPHC will start construction in May or June of this year to be completed in four to six months.

The county owns the property. The county will lease the land to the County Commission (Municipal Building Authority), and the Building Authority will own the project while the bond is outstanding.

The Building Authority will have a leasehold interest in the land. The estimated cost of the building is $956,352.00. White said it would take 20 years for SWPH to pay the bond. To learn more about Southwest Public Health you can go online at www.swuhealth.org.

Commissioner Habbeshaw stated Kane County as a class five county, has the lowest tax rate in the state of Utah, and predicts there will be no tax increases in the foreseeable future.         

Chairman Hulet welcomed Linda Little as the new Kane County Assessor. Human Resources Director Rhonda Gant appeared before the commission to keep them informed of personnel changes and replacements within the county.

Anne McGuire, Secretary for Utah State Extension and Kane County Planning and Zoning, retires January 20, after serving the County for 28 years. Wendi Mackenizie of the County Attorneys Office will fill McGuires vacancy.

Gant stated replacements for the budgeted positions are taking place. A non-designated personal property appraiser and not a Chief Deputy Assessor will fill the vacancy in the Assessors office.

Sheriff Lamont Smith reported two openings in his department, one deputy for the Kanab area and one for the Bullfrog Area. Smith said since this is a “down time” in Bullfrog, the decision is to wait until spring to fill that position.

 At that time it will be advertised for “certifiable” candidates only. Smith explained “certifiable” as a person who has passed the P.O.S.T. requirements, and is thereby qualified to enforce the law. This eliminates the need and cost to send an applicant to training.

In an effort to reduce the amount of inmates in the jail facility, Smith said he has put a freeze on imprisoning anyone charged with a misdemeanor or below. Commissioner Heaton asked for clarification. Smith stated DUI’s, domestic violence and assault cases are the exceptions.

Director Gant proposed a change to the Kane County Clerk/Auditors department by promoting within, not adding, the position of a Chief Deputy Clerk/Auditor. The prospect of this change has been in the works for several months and was included in the departmental budget.

Clerk/Auditor Karla Johnson expressed concern there should be someone else in the Auditors office familiar with the details of all county finances. Johnson recommended Carolyn McDonald, who is already performing some of the assigned duties, be appointed as her Chief Deputy.

Chairman Hulet explained every elected official has the option to select a deputy. That position is appointed rather than hired and the person must be qualified to perform the duties of the elected official. If that official leaves office, the position of deputy is not guaranteed.

The appointment was approved. The county will not be filling the vacancy created by McDonalds promotion.

After completing all the necessary requirements Carol Lee Hunt was up graded to Election Specialist. This position was also included in the Clerk/Auditors budget.

Commissioner Habbeshaw reiterated all these critical positions were included in the budget and are necessary to provide a service to the public. The reductions of staff in some departments have created the balance in saving money the Commissioners are striving to achieve. Commissioner Hulet stressed the fact they would be keeping a watchful eye on the next budget.

Something new! A time change to the scheduled Monday Commission meetings was approved. Work meetings will begin at 3:00 p.m. and regular agenda meetings will be held at 3:30 p.m. Employee related agenda items, including the necessity for closed sessions will be first on the agenda. Departments and the public will be notified. Meeting dates will remain the same.

Commissioner Habbeshaw made a motion to approve the Southwest Utah Planning Authorities Council (SUPAC) annual fee of $60.00 for participants who wish to remain on the council. The fee will cover administrative costs. Motion approved.

Commissioner Habbeshaw made a motion to approve the Draft Monument Management Plan and the Draft Rangeland Health Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). He commented the wording of the new document is crucial to understanding the grazing rights to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Habbeshaw stated it was very professionally done and congratulated BLM Public Affairs Officer, Larry Crutchfield. Motion approved. The plan had not been updated in 20 years.

The Commissioners discussed decreasing the bounty paid for hunting coyotes from $25.00 to $20.00. The county will pay hunters the bounty and the state reimburses the county.

Most of the money comes to the state from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Commissioner Heaton will oversea the Predator Control Dept. He made a motion to reduce the bounty to $20.00 and make it available to only residents of Kane County. Motion approved.

Each Commissioner has Departmental Assignments, attends meetings and is responsible for the over all functions of their assigned Departments.

Chairman Hulet suggested keeping the current assignments in place for the first quarter giving Commissioner Heaton a chance to get his feet wet and feel comfortable in his new position. It was agreed that the assignments could be reviewed and revised as necessary. Chairman Hulet volunteered to continue as Chair if agreeable to the other Commissioners. Agreed.

The road problem between the owner of Lot 56 in the Meadow View Heights subdivision and the County still exists. Commissioner Habbeshaw stated the situation has lingered on for approximately two years and is becoming an unnecessary cost to the county. GIS/Transportation System Director Lou Pratt said the solution might be to put the road back to the original condition.

Commissioner Hulet addressed the EMS Building Bid Process. Hulet stated some contractors in the area have voiced their concerns that the bidding process was not adequately advertised so all interested contractors could submit their bids.

Hulet stated the bidding process on this project has been extended to allow all bids to be submitted. Information will appear in the Southern Utah News January 14, 2009.

Hulet made a motion to go into closed session

Returning to the Regular Meeting Agenda: The Commission appointed William H. Leigh as Public Defender for 2009 replacing Kenneth Combs whose contract expired at the end of 2008.