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Kane County delays further decision on Vermillion Cliffs Fire Protection Special Service District

On the evening of Tuesday, July 9, the Kane County Commission held a special meeting for public information and feedback regarding the Vermillion Cliffs Fire Protection Special Service District (SSD) - this meeting was attached to the agenda of that day’s formal commission meeting, listed there as considering “Resolution Stating its Intent to Create the Vermillion Cliffs Special Service District (‘District’), to Provide Fire Protection Services in Unincorporated Areas of Kane County,” as well as address an amendment to the Church Wells Special Service District.



Left to right, photos by Ty Gant:

  • Tuesday’s meeting of the Kane County Commission went on for almost three additional hours after public feedback and questions.

  • The public filled the new commission chambers.


The meeting began with the Church Wells business as the more straightforward item; the district requested the removal of sewer from their charter and the addition of transportation, allowing the SSD to manage roads within Church Wells. Jesse Pennepacker, who serves on the Church Wells SSD board, stated, “We don’t really do sewer, we have mostly septic … and we have roads that are badly in need of repair. We got a grant for $50,000 to fix the roads, but we need that to be put in our charter. We’re not making any new roads; we’re fixing what we have.” The commission unanimously approved the resolution.


Following the resolution of that agenda item, the meeting proceeded to the Fire Protection SSD topic; contention began immediately, as Commission Chair Patty Kubeja began to outline the rules of public comment such as time limits, to which some members of the public were vocally opposed. The commission stated that there would be a public comment period in which the public would restrain their comments to two minutes, and there would be no back and forth between the commission and the public - though there would later be an open question-and-answer session with no time limit imposed.



Citizens ardently presented their perspectives on the matter, with tears being shed within a few minutes of the topic opening. Some criticisms were directed at the overall SSD plan, and some were directed at the char- acter and performance of the commissioners. The general tone of the meeting was one of protest, with very few comments being in support of the commission’s intentions to declare intent to form the SSD. The arguments presented could very broadly be settled into two camps: those who believed a county-wide fire district is practical, and those who did not, preferring the SSD to be specific to certain sub-county geographical areas such as Johnson Canyon or Deer Springs.


The meeting paused for recess at about 7:30 p.m., marking a sort of halfway point, after which attendance dipped a bit and the questions became much more detail-oriented and specific. A few of the salient points included were: even if the district was county wide, that SSD could still be divided into geographical areas including having multiple fire stations and distinct volunteer services; it would be up to the special service district board to determine the values of fee assessments and how they would be collected; it is yet undecided whether the board would be elected or appointed by nomination; and the period for protest is open until September 9. With the current agreement by Memorandum of Understanding with the Kanab City Fire Department expiring in October, the county is under pressure to have a plan for an SSD underway by then.


At the resolution of this meeting, it was determined that the current plan would require additional refining and discussion, and as such, no motion was made, and no intentions were declared.

Formal protest forms were handed out and can also be obtained from the office of the County Clerk. The commission also repeated their call for citizens to sign up for the regular newsletter by sending an email to communications@kane.utah.gov.

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