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County, NRCS discuss details on how grant will be used

Although funds have been approved for projects to improve areas in two special service districts, there is still some question over who exactly will directly receive them.

Box Elder County Commissioners welcomed representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to their meeting this morning to discuss a grant that has been approved to restore flood damaged areas in Hansel Valley and Blue Creek.
Commissioner Brian Shaffer has been working closely with the NRCS and members of the special service districts in those two areas to hammer out the details, and had a number of questions regarding the contract.

Shaffer said his main concern was that the contracts should be between the NRCS and special service districts themselves for the majority of the work, with the county only resonsible for road projects that would take place.  That’s a point he felt was made clear in meetings with NRCS officials.

“I think we, as a county, have tried to express to you that we wanted the service districts to handle this and we didn’t want to be the sponsor,” he said.  “We’ve met with you on several occasions, and I don’t think that’s sunken in.”

NRCS officials said there was some hesitation to work directly with the special service districts due to the fact that they don’t know their exact financial situations  and policies and if they could meet the strict NRCS requirements for entering into this type of contract.

“If we are going to hand you $6.7 million dollars, we need to feel comfortable that those policies are in place,” NRCS official Bronson Smart said.

Commissioner Jay Hardy asked if there was a way the county could work as a “flow through” for the funds, in which the contract would be made directly with the county, who would in turn disburse the funds to the special service districts.  That seemed to be a more viable solution to all involved.

Other issues that were brought up included liability issues for faulty work on the land, and whether or not land that was improved using these funds could still qualify as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in the future.  Commissioners decided to table the issue and meet with representatives from the district and NRCS before making a final decision.

In other news, commissioners reported today that the lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been filed in both the 10th Circuit Court in Denver, Colo., and in the United States District Court in Washington D.C.

Commissioners once again stressed the potential impacts the EPA’s non-attainment designation on Box Elder County’s air quality would have, including mandatory emissions tests on vehicles, dust restrictions and the costs it could mean to local businesses and future development in the county.

“Box Elder County is not opposed to clean air, that’s not the bottom line here,” Commission Chairman Rich VanDyke said.  “The biggest controversy here is there have been numerous studies done by private companies in the county that indicate a completely different scenario than what the EPA has come up with.”

Commissioners approved a motion to set a cap on county spending on the lawsuit at $13,682, a number that was agreed upon with the law firm representing the county, Parsons and Latimer of Salt Lake City.

“Our county is doing all we can to get out of this air quality non-attainment situation,” Shaffer said.

In other news, Shaffer reported the new county bookmobile trailer has been received and is in use.  The cost came in $25,000 lower than estimated and, according to Shaffer, will be an important tool in helping county residents have access to books, magazines and other materials.

“It will be a wonderful addition to the library system of the county,” he said.

The trailer is 36 feet long and features a heating and air conditioning system.  Shaffer said it is expected to last 30 years, while the truck that is used to pull the trailer has a life expectancy of 10 years.


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