An unusual agenda item occupied part of the Tuesday, Feb. 4, meeting of the Grand County Council: altering the structure of the meetings themselves to ensure every citizen who wishes can be heard by the Council.

Council Chair Mary McGann introduced an agenda item to address complaints from residents who could not be heard during the designated time on the standard agenda.

“We’ve had citizen’s comments suggesting that,” said McGann, pointing out that those working can often not attend the 4 p.m. meeting start.

“This has been an ongoing issue since before my tenure,” she said.

McGann proposed adding an additional time for citizens to speak at 6 p.m., noting that simply removing the earlier time could exclude citizens who work at night, like restaurant workers.

Currently, members of the public may be heard on issues not being debated by the county council at a time after some administrative items, including general reports from councilmembers and ratifying bill payment.

“Oftentimes, there isn’t any citizens to be heard,” said McGann, “so I don’t think that it would really add any time to the meetings.”

The proposal met with support and a broader discussion of how to incorporate members of the public who wish to speak to Council into the meetings more seamlessly.

Council Administrator Ruth Dillon added that moving the earlier time to right after the Pledge of Allegiance in order to have a more regular, standard time before any presentations had been discussed.

“I don’t know if we pass something like this if it would be in conflict with other policy,” said Chris Baird, “but I think it’s a good idea.”

Baird suggested referring the matter to Grand County staff, who could review the written policies and bring back recommended revisions.

Councilmember Gabriel Woytek said that he was in favor of any move to have “a more concrete time for citizens to be heard,” as current procedure left people uncertain.

“How is someone who doesn’t have an extra 20 minutes going to know when they have the opportunity to speak?” he said.

“The city council does it very differently,” said Dillon. The Moab City Council requires all members of the public to speak during a regular time, whereas the county council requires those who are speaking on a specific issue before the council to speak during the discussion on the agenda.

This means that some citizens have had to sit through long meetings in order to be heard. “This could clean it up,” said McGann.

Curtis Wells supported the move toward two citizen comment periods and further proposed mirroring the Moab City Council’s policy of confining all comments to those times.

Hawks agreed in the hopes that the change would improve meeting clarity and could be more convenient for citizens.

“If they want to stay here all evening, great,” she said, “but if they would like to have their say and go home and watch it on YouTube, this leaves them free to do so.”

“You’ve convinced me,” McGann said, emphatically.

The motion to direct staff to develop the details of what the new policy would be passed unanimously.

Moab citizen Marc Horowitz, earlier recognized by the council as a frequent meeting attendee, welcomed the proposed change.

“I’ve always been opposed to how you can’t speak to an item on the agenda during Citizens to be Heard,” said Horowitz. “So thanks for clearing that up, and we’ll see how it works in the future.”

Opposition to Sand Flats oil & gas leases

The council had no problem unanimously passing a letter in opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed oil and gas lease parcels near the Sand Flats Recreation Area. The issue has been discussed widely in the community in the past month, and McGann reported that many in the community had approached her.

She sponsored the proposal, noting she “got a lot of pressure to do it.”

“This is really a good resolution. I’m really proud of it,” said McGann, thanking staff for preparing the document.

“Generally, I’m a supporter of multiple use,” said Councilmember Curtis Wells, referring to the policy of managing public lands for many uses including recreation and mineral extraction.

Wells noted that the proximity of recreational areas with the parcels makes the leases unlikely candidates for oil and gas development.

“This just isn’t a logical site for oil and gas development,” said Wells before voting in favor of the proposed letter.

Support for Utahraptor State Park

The council also approved a letter of support for the new Utahraptor State Park planned just about 14 miles north of Moab on U.S. Highway 191.

McGann noted that years of work had gone into plans to develop the area into a recreation area similar to the Sand Flats Recreation Area. The area is popular for dispersed camping and has had problems with sanitation and vandalism.

The change of plan to create a Utah state park on the site instead was a point of discussion.

“I’m curious how far along they are in this process since it’s kind of news to us,” said Councilmember Evan Clapper.

McGann said there had been a lot of planning, as plans were fairly complex and included a museum. She spoke positively of the proposal, saying that it would help Grand County retain items excavated by paleontologists and archaeologists. At least eight Utahraptor specimens have been collected at the site, near the Dalton Wells area.

“At present, Grand County doesn’t have an area that we can store [antiquities], we have no climate-controlled situation,” McGann said, “so they want to create a museum which will enable us to store the dinosaur bones and such…it will also make it so antiquities like baskets and pottery can stay in Grand County.”

While she reported that she was surprised by some of the plans for a state park, she has seen that the planning work undertaken by Grand County and other local organizations has been considered and incorporated into the new proposal.

“They were worried I was going to be mad,” she said of Utah State officials, “but if the goal is accomplished I’m fine with it.”

The Grand County Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers (125 E. Center St., Moab). Meetings are also live-streamed online on the Grand County YouTube page.

The Grand County Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers (125 E. Center St., Moab). Meetings are also live-streamed online on the Grand County YouTube page.

Feb. 4 Grand County Council Vote Tallies

* Approving proposed agreement for the Wingate Village Planned Unit Development – Passed unanimously.

* Adopting proposed resolution amending the Planning Commission bylaws – Passed unanimously.

* Approving purchase of trucks and equipment for the Road Department, for a total of $387,460.56 – Passed unanimously.

* Approving purchase of Ford F-350 truck, flatbed, and ATV trailer for the Weed Department, for a total of $47,956.47 – Passed unanimously.

* Adopting a Resolution declaring ravenna grass a Class IV County Noxious Weed – Passed unanimously.

* Approving a bid for five shade structures at the Sand Flats Recreation Area – Passed unanimously.

* Adopting proposed amendments to Resolution No. 3143 to designate the Budget Officer – Passed unanimously.

* Appointing Quinn Hall as an Interim Clerk/Auditor through January 4, 2021 – Motion passed, 4-2 with Rory Paxman and Greg Halliday in opposition. Jaylyn Hawks abstained from the vote.

* Approving proposed job description of the Assistant Council Administrator (Grade 21) – Revised, passes 6-1 with Rory Paxman in opposition.

* Approving proposed updated job descriptions for Council Administrator and part-time Council Office Assistant – Passed unanimously.

* Approving proposed annual ethics pledge for all Grand County Officers and employees – Passed unanimously.

* Approving the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) for areas not covered by other plans. The motion was postponed until the council could review the plan.

* Adding an agenda item in regular Council meetings to hold a second Citizens To Be Heard session at 6:00 p.m. – Revised, passes unanimously as request for a staff proposal.

* Approving proposed resolution, pending legal review, expressing opposition to Bureau of Land Management’s preliminary oil and gas lease parcels near the Sand Flats Recreation Area  – Passed unanimously.

Approving proposed letter of support for the new Utah Raptor State Park, located at the Dalton Wells / Willow Springs area  – Passed unanimously.