City Council Minutes

Thursday, March 8,2001



ST. GEORGE CITY COUNCIL MINUTES WORK MEETING MARCH 8, 2001, 4:00 P.M. ADMINISTRATION CONFERENCE ROOM PRESENT: Mayor Daniel McArthur Councilmember Suzanne Allen Councilmember Rod Orton Councilmember Sharon Isom Councilmember Bob Whatcott Councilmember Larry Gardner City Manager Gary Esplin City Attorney Jonathan Wright City Recorder Gay Cragun Mayor McArthur called the meeting to order. Councilmember Larry Gardner offered the invocation. DISCUSSION RE CURLY HOLLOW: Jim Crisp of the Bureau of Land Management advised he would provide a verbal report on an interlocal planning study for a block of state and federal land located west of St. George and south of Santa Clara that has a significant potential impact on land use planning and transportation issues, and also report on joint planning steps that need to be taken as a result of studies to optimize land use potential. He explained that critical environmental concerns have been identified in the Curly Hollow area as well as a world class archaeological site. There has been extensive recreational use due to increased population areas in Bloomington and Bloomington Hills by unregulated off-road vehicle use which conflict with land management and create intrusions to endangered plants and soil erosion. He stated that mixed ownership of land does not always make sense, and consideration is being given to changing this. 1500 acres located west and above Sunbrook have been identified as transfer properties, and School Trust Lands is interested in the property as well as private individuals and developers. Last year an interlocal agreement was entered into between SITLA, the BLM, and Leisure Services to contract with Ira Hodges to do a land capability analysis of the Curly Hollow planning area consisting of 25,000 acres. The bottom line of the study was to make a recommendation concerning land use and reconfiguration. Mr. Hodges looked at soils, drainage, topography, land development, recreation potential, and existing land uses. The outcome of the study recommends a land swap between the BLM and SITLA, with areas outlined of where this should occur. This will promote good development, provide revenue for SITLA, and put natural resources and off-road vehicle lands in the hands of the BLM to manage. Mr. Hodges also looked at the natural southern corridor beltway and identified prime recreation lands. Mr. Hodges’ study incorporates property north to Old Highway 91 because the same issues are occurring in this area, and Santa Clara City is completing a master plan and intends to do some master planning in anticipation of this land transferring out of federal ownership. The study will be used for land use allocations for development, public purposes and recreation areas, and areas which should remain in public ownership because of resource protection. He advised that public input will be required to implement the plan, and the BLM will be required to do an environmental analysis. Affected cities should examine their options for annexation or cooperative agreements with SITLA and the BLM to promote development and recreational use of the area. Ira Hodges presented an overview of his three month study and reviewed maps depicting the topography of the land, washes, and soils. He explained the area has severe restrictions, and after site analysis of major land forms, the area was divided into five areas. Mr. Crisp stated the plan was still in its conceptual stage. Ric McBrier representing SITLA stated this was a great opportunity to work on local exchange of lands, and the Trust is pleased to see planning money used to pay for studies such as this. Mr. Crisp advised that action steps necessary include screening for land swaps, and he believed the potential existed for a trade of land with endangered habitat. He explained that BLM’s Washington office has taken an interest in the project and is coming forward with funding to do a marketing analysis. A contractor will put together a marketing strategy. This will allow a return of the public’s investment into land acquisition for the desert tortoise, HCP, etc. Leisure Services Director Kent Perkins commented the proposed plan is consistent with planning of the South Block area to the Arizona border and around the area of the new airport, and consistent with planning north of St. George for The Ledges and in the Coral Canyon area. The plan will create consistency and presents an opportunity to define which areas are best for development and long range planning for utilities, recreation, and transportation corridors. He advised that SITLA requested assistance from the City to map out a trails system to create connections throughout the entire area. Scott Hirschi advised there are known mineral resources in the West Mountains, and he inquired if this was taken into consideration in the plan. Mr. Crisp replied this was taken into consideration, as well as concerns about trying to maintain livestock operations. He then displayed a map of the Washington County Regional Public Lands Trails Project. Mr. McBriar commented that land exchanges with the BLM are not easy and usually require a congressional bill. However, if this plan can be finalized and an exchange of land figured out, the Trust is working on a small regional exchange in another part of the State, and this exchange could be made part of that package. JOINT MEETING WITH WATER AND POWER BOARD: Water Rate Changes. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised staff recommends a phase-in of a water rate increases which should be based on the median water bill rather than the average water bill. George Spencer of Alpha Engineering reviewed a packet of materials entitled Replacement Pages for City of St. George Water and Power Development Impact Fee and Rate Studies, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit "A." He explained the recommended impact fees are based on total build-out based on what is needed in the future. Water and Power Board Chairman Ross Hurst explained the Water Department is solvent right now, but the increase is needed because two build-outs are needed and $81,000,000 must be generated in order to build the facilities. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur explained the Water Department is simply trying to raise revenue so it can bond for the $81,000,000. Finance Director Phil Peterson advised that the Water Department is making money now, but there is still a deficit in its cash position because it started out with a $3,000,000-$4,000,000 cash deficit and is still down $1,000,000 in cash. Councilmember Whatcott commented the proposed water rate increase is an increase of three times the current rate and asks locals to shoulder the costs so that new people can move to St. George. Deputy Director of Water and Power Phil Solomon advised that the average cost of 1,000 gallons of water in Utah is $1.42, and the City of St. George is below that. Mayor McArthur advised that the average water bill in Utah is $27. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised the City is drilling three more wells in Gunlock and transmission of that water will provide 3,000 gallons a minute more for the west side of St. George this summer. If water from the West City Springs is used, it will be two to three summers more before a major project is needed. City Manager Gary Esplin commented that the City was in a unique position because the City does not need all the water it develops for year-round use, but only for a few months in the summer. However, if conservation is practiced, there will not be enough revenue to pay the bonds. The longer the City can wait, the bigger the population base will be to draw from and the easier it will be to sell the rate structure. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised a decision is needed so the plan can be implemented July 1. Mr. Spencer advised the proposed base fee for water (See Exhibit "B" attached hereto) is based on doubling the City’s current impact fees. If impact fees are not doubled, the proposed new base fee will not be high enough. Councilmember Whatcott inquired if weather was taken into consideration in the study. Mr. Spencer replied that the study took into consideration weather data based on wet years. In a dry year, the proposed figures would be too low. Facilities are based on the same wet years. He advised that snowbirds were also taken into account. Mayor McArthur inquired about other communities tying into the system. He advised the Washington County Water Conservancy District is pushing for the Quail Creek facility to treat the water for all Washington County communities. Mr. Spencer advised this was also taken in consideration. Councilmember Gardner expressed concern about double taxation as everyone pays a percentage of taxes to the Conservancy District, and for the same purpose huge impact fees are paid to the City. He inquired if this was taken into consideration in the study. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised that construction of reservoirs was not included in the impact fee study as the Conservancy District develops water resources and the City simply treats the water and delivers it. He advised that water from the Sand Hollow Reservoir will flow to Quail Creek and the size of the treatment plant will have to be doubled. Mayor McArthur suggested the matter be scheduled for a public hearing, and information provided concerning what is currently in the water budget, and what will happen if additional revenue is not generated. However, right now the Water Department is generating funds, and a rate increase is hard to sell when the Department is operating in the black. City Manager Gary Esplin advised that the amount generated is not enough to pay for the bonds, and the bottom line is how fast the City will grow and who will pay for the cost of the water long term. Conservation will result in revenue loss, but conservation is critical in order to get through the summer. Water and Power Board Chairman Ross Hurst commented that the Water and Power Board’s job is to try and project into the future, and the community will continue to grow and max out facilities. The City is well-served today because of bold decisions made in the past with regard to water development. Water and Power Board Member Craig Booth advised that no municipality has ever shown a greater than 8% conservation rate over a two year period, and right now St. George’s water usage is almost twice what Tucson’s is. Conservation Officer. City Manager Gary Esplin requested authorization to hire a full-time Water and Power Conservation Officer. He advised the program will be self-sustaining. George Spencer advised that the only effective method to force conservation of water is a rate increase. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised the Conservation Officer’s salary would be in the range of $33,000-$41,000. It is anticipated he or she will be used for providing public information, instituting efficiency programs, carrying out management policy, handling high bill complaints, performing walk-through water and power audits to provide an analysis to increase efficiency, and will work with the schools in education. City Manager Gary Esplin advised the Conservation Officer will sit in on development meetings and suggest alternatives and develop models to encourage homebuilders and developers to incorporate water conservation programs. He or she would also visit every City facility and develop a plan for reducing grass areas thereby reducing water consumption. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised the Conservation Officer will also attend Water and Power Board meetings, and will be under his jurisdiction. Telecommunications. Water and Power Board Chairman Ross Hurst distributed a hand-out, attached hereto as Exhibit "C," and asked that it be read. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised that Mary Lamar Schaefer, Marketing Director for Provo Power, would like to give a briefing to City officials on their telecommunications program. It was the consensus of those present to schedule a public meeting and invite all internet, telephone, and cable TV companies to attend. Water and Power Board Member Craig Booth advised that preliminary studies show that the program can be supported with 30% participation, but Board Members did not want to spend more money on the study unless the City Council is in favor of it. ADJOURN TO EXECUTIVE SESSION: A motion was made by Councilmember Gardner and seconded by Councilmember Isom to adjourn to an executive session to discuss possible litigation. Mayor McArthur called for a vote, as follows: Councilmember Gardner - aye Councilmember Isom - aye Councilmember Whatcott - aye Councilmember Orton - aye Councilmember Allen - aye The vote was unanimous and the motion carried. RECONVENE: A motion to reconvene was made by Councilmember Allen and seconded by Councilmember Whatcott. Mayor McArthur called for a vote, as follows: Councilmember Allen - aye Councilmember Whatcott - aye Councilmember Gardner - aye Councilmember Isom - aye Councilmember Orton - aye The vote was unanimous and the motion carried. Power Rate Changes. Water and Power Director Wayne McArthur advised staff would like to implement the power cost adjustment of 1.77? per kilowatt hour across the board effective June 1. This would be a seasonal rate adjustment for four months only. It is recommended, however, there be a slight increase year-round, as well as a significantly increased impact fee. Water and Power Board Chairman Ross Hurst advised other power generating resources will be examined, such as wind generation, so that the City is not dependent on one single source of power. ADJOURN: The meeting adjourned at 6: 45 p.m. _______________________________ Gay Cragun, City Recorder