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Kane County Commission abandons plans for annexing Special Improvement District at Vermillion Cliffs

The first meeting of the Kane County Commission in 2024 was a busy one, with decisions made regarding some topics that have proven very contentious of late - a pattern that continued as multiple members of the public stood to communicate at the start of the public comment period.

At the top of the meeting, Commissioner Heaton called for members of the public to sign up for Utah’s public notice website, for the commission’s notices, but also more specifically for the notices in places like special service and other districts throughout the county that have their own notifications. The Commission also recognized January 9 as National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

A representative of Congresswoman Celeste Maloy’s office offered a brief report on Maloy’s operations as the District’s representative in Utah’s House of Representatives; Maloy has been touring the border to gain context for the immigration debate. The House is prioritizing passing the annual budget, and following that, Maloy’s priorities include addressing immigration issues, transportation infrastructure and education.

The meeting began in earnest with the public hearing period, which as mentioned at the top of the article, included some very pointed remarks on the county’s policies for appointing board members to head the districts. Specifically, one citizen voiced concern that the current process allowed for one specific commissioner to essentially veto a specific applicant without said applicant being heard by other commissioners outside of the liaison to the district to which they were applying. Commissioner Meyeres responded directly to this concern, citing the necessity of each respective commissioner having authority to manage the districts they’ve been assigned as liaisons, for the simple purpose of keeping that workload off of the other commissioners. Said Meyeres, “When a Commissioner makes a decision with the power they’re given, with authority allowed within the law, I’m okay with that … I’m happy with the process as it is.” Commissioner Wade Heaton added that it was rare that the first time the Commission heard of these applicants was in the deciding Commission meeting, implying that despite protocol giving explicit power to the liaison Commissioner to only present applicants they see fit, the Commissioners coordinate enough that it is essentially a collaborative decision nevertheless.

Other members of the public stepped up to voice concerns, most of which were in regards to Special Improvement (SID) and Special Service (SSD) Districts intended for the Vermillion Cliffs area; multiple citizens voiced support of the decision to abandon the SID in lieu of the SSD, which was an agenda item to be addressed later in the meeting.

As the Commission began addressing items of action on the agenda, they indeed reappointed members of the Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District Administrative Control Board, with an empty seat still to be filled at the next Commission meeting. Commissioner Heaton said of the two board members who maintained their seats going into the year, “They’re a huge asset in their service to this board and district.”

Following this, Sheriff Tracy Glover, more in his capacity as manager of buildings and grounds for the county, spoke on an award to be granted to Chris Ramsay. Called “the Extra Miler Award,” Ramsay was commended for his work on the new county facilities (including the one in which this meeting was taking place). Both Glover and the Commission commented on Ramsay’s hard work, going above and beyond to manage the upgrades to County property, and called for hands of applause.

This meeting enacted a few changes to the County’s billing and fee schedules; some minor changes to the overall billing, such as electric vehicle charging fees and suggested meal donations for the Active Living Center - specifics can be found in the meeting’s information packet - and some major changes to the interactions between county districts and the county Treasurer’s Office. As Kane County Treasurer Kieran Chatterly, who had been acting as interim treasurer following her predecessor’s resignation and who had recently applied to be elected to the position long term, approached the podium, Commissioner Patty Kubeja commented, “We’re grateful to Kieran for reapplying for Treasurer. She’s been in that office for a long time, and if she says we need to put in a fee, we need to put in a fee.” The fee to which Kubeja referred was a new fee for the labor intensive processes the Treasurer’s Office had previously been undergoing specifically on behalf of the county’s fee-based districts. Said Chatterly, “I don’t feel it is the responsibility of the county taxpayer to pay for the services we perform in these districts - that responsibility should fall on the district.” Commissioner Heaton responded, “While I do have my concerns, I think that last idea, the fairness point, will ultimately change my mind. These are young organizations who are always extremely grateful for the services of the treasurer’s office, so I’m hesitant to throw this at them … but if someone is living in Kane County but not in one of these SSD’s, it’s not fair to tax them.” The decision to install these fees ultimately passed unanimously, with the clarifying point that they applied only to fee-based districts, so some districts - the specific example cited was the Kane County Hospital SSD - are exempt.

The following item was a list of each individual Commissioner’s respective responsibilities within the county, along with a brief explanation of some of changes between 2023 and 2024. Said Commissioner Heaton, “There were between 90 and 100 specific assignments to be decided between the Commissioners,” referring to the list within the meeting’s information packet. Part of these decisions were made, as referenced with the empty seat on one of the fire protection districts, to alter the previous policy instating the Commissioners as members of county district boards. The current Commission have made the decision to act as liaisons rather than voting members of these districts except where required by state statute.

Finally, for the items that demanded the majority of the meeting’s time, the Commission addressed the abandoning of the previous plan to annex parts of the county east of Kanab into the Vermillion Cliffs SID. This issue stretched over two action items on the agenda: discarding the SID plans and implementing the intent to create the SSD. Commissioner Heaton commented on the pushback to the SID plan, demonstrated in part by the members of the public that stood to speak on the issue in this meeting. Said Heaton, “I underestimated the angst toward this SID … These folks who want fire protection, I want to do my best to help them get it. I truly do not care whether we use an SID or an SSD - I care that the two-thirds of the people out there that want that fire protection get it. Politically, if that means burying this part of it and moving on to the next, I’m okay with that.”

One of the members of the public who stood to address the issue earlier had commented on the possibility of county-wide general fire protection, and the Commissioners took time during this agenda item to answer that point. Said Commissioner Meyeres, “County-wide fire protection is still on the table … maybe in five or ten years.” Heaton added, “Fire protection is extremely expensive to provide, there needs to be an economy to scale … and Kane County has never been there. Yes, maybe at some point Kane County will get there … there simply aren’t enough people living in unincorporated areas to justify providing county-wide fire protection. Without the municipalities, it simply will not work. The reason these special districts have been created in isolation was for fire protection in isolated areas. We continue to have this conversation of ‘are we there’ - as Commissioner Meyeres said, in five, ten years, maybe - I continue to feel that the best way to serve this problem is through special service districts.”

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to abandon the SID plans, and after further discussion, voted two to one to approve preparing a notice of intent to create the SSD, with Meyeres as the nay.

With the meeting running long, a few items on the agenda were tabled for further meetings; the Commission reviewed legislative issues, approved a small policy change regarding minimum notice requirements to internal county boards, and adjourned, allowing the traditional closed session present on the agenda to go unneeded.




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