At their regular June 1 meeting, the Grand County Commission heard presentations from county agencies and departments and approved a letter expressing continuing opposition to a proposed highway through the Book Cliffs.
Biga Metzner, director of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, reported a busy and productive year for her agency. Film locations like Los Angeles and New York remained shut down after COVID-19 restrictions began to ease in Utah, prompting film makers to venture into the intermountain region.
Metzner recounted a variety of film shoots that took place in the Moab area over the last year, including several car commercials, a BYU-TV series called “Survivalist”, a docuseries about highlining from the Discovery Network called “Pushing the Line,” and episodes of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” among others. Metzner emphasized the economic benefit the film industry brings to the region.
“What they leave is money: that’s pretty much it,” Metzner said of the impact of film and production crews. “Most of them have film permits in place, so they have to do it properly—we can control film crews, we can’t control the other types of civilian tourists that come to town.”
The highway that won’t die
Commissioner Trisha Hedin reported that she attended a recent meeting of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition at which the coalition voted to reactivate the previously suspended Eastern Utah Regional Connection project, more commonly known as the Book Cliffs Highway. [See “Book Cliffs Highway project suspended,” Dec. 19, 2020 edition. -ed.] The Grand County Commission sent a brief letter to the chair of the SCIC reiterating Grand County’s longstanding opposition to the project.
“The majority of citizens in Grand County are opposed to the creation of a highway through the Bookcliffs in Grand County and have been consistently opposed for three decades,” the letter reads. “The cost of the Eastern Utah Regional Connection far outweighs the benefits it will bring to the region. It is a controversial project and will face considerable opposition.”
Weed Department honored
New director of the Grand County Weeds Department Izzy Weimholt gave an update, noting the discovery of African Rue, an invasive species not previously reported in Utah, at the intersection of the 7-Up Mountain Bike Trail with an oil pad off the Gemini Bridges trail. The department’s response was quick, earning the local Weed Board the Weed Board of the Year 2020 award.
“This project is going to require both chemical treatment but also cultural control, such as a fence and signage and pamphlets and education about this plant,” said Weimholt.
Sales and use tax growth “more substantial than anything we’ve seen in the last 20 years”
Commission Administrator Chris Baird gave the commission an update on sales and use tax revenue so far this year, highlighting a substantial increase over 2019 figures for the same time of year. Revenues this year are 153% compared to 2019 figures, with transient room tax accounting for most of that income. Compared to 2020, this year’s revenues are at 213%, but because of the anomaly of the coronavirus shutdowns, that comparison is not as indicative of trends.
“These are actually fairly unusual statistics—I’ve got about 20 years worth of sales and use tax data and in some of the higher years we’d see close to 20% growth, and that’s annual. So if this type of growth persists, roughly 53% growth over 2019, it’s really substantial—much more substantial than anything we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” Baird said.
Baird also advised commissioners that they will soon be asked to consider a commitment to match funds with the City of Moab to support a pilot transit program, one of the projects considered as part of a state grant funding package called the Recreational Hotspot program. For the proposed five-year pilot program, the state would provide $1.5 million, and another $1 million would be required. Officials anticipate being able to secure $500,000 from the Federal Transit Authority; the remaining $500,000 would be split between Moab City and Grand County over the last two years of the program. No decisions were made on the county’s commitment, but Baird gave a guarded recommendation that the county make a contribution to the project.
“I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t a more equitable split of that money between county and city projects, but I do think that in the long run if this transit program does have the capacity to relieve congestion, then it’s going to be universally applicable to all the residents in the county,” he said.
The Grand County Commission meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. Meetings are streamed online at the Grand County Youtube channel. Schedules, agendas and opportunities for public comment can be found at www.grandcountyutah.net. Residents can email firstname.lastname@example.org to automatically reach each County Commission member, the commission administrator, the associate commission administrator, and the county attorney.