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DRIVE TO ANNEX INTO JUAB MAY BE LOSING STEAM

If a meeting this week between the Utah County Commission and south county residents is any indication, the movement to annex Santaquin, Genola, Goshen and Elberta into Juab County is losing steam.

The meeting Wednesday night was sparsely attended, with 50 south-county residents in Santaquin's city activity center. Instead of producing expected fireworks between irate residents and the commission, the two sides exchanged ideas peacefully.In fact, the biggest clamor of the night came when one Santaquin resident told the commission that "Santaquin does not want to annex into Juab County," bringing a wave of applause.

Commissioner Gary Herbert told the crowd that the meeting was held partially for the purpose of increasing lines of discussion.

"We want to increase communication with residents, which is sometimes fragile at best," Herbert said. "We're willing to listen, and hopefully we'll be open-minded."

Also, Herbert said the commission wanted "to clear up a lot of misinformation." He added that he thought much of the debate over the proposed annexation came from misunderstandings between residents and county leaders.

"Most of it is nobody's fault," Herbert said. "Like marriage, it's better if you have the facts and nothing but the facts to judge upon."

During the meeting, County Assessor Ron Smith reiterated studies he performed concerning possible tax changes should the cities annex to Juab County. Among his findings were statements that vehicle registration and tax costs would be identical, because both are set by the Legislature.

Currently, Juab County does not require its residents to get emissions inspections, so "you can pollute the air all you want to," Smith said.

Also, the only residents who would benefit, taxwise, from the move would be in Elberta and others in the county's unincorporated south end, Smith said, since Juab County would not assess special service district taxes to provide fire and police services to those areas.

Santaquin, Goshen and Genola residents could see their overall property taxes increase by 78 percent, Smith said.

"The burden would fall more heavily on those living within city boundaries," he said, explaining that Utah County has "a heftier tax base and can afford to have a lower rate."

Elsewhere, County Surveyor Clyde Naylor addressed residents' questions concerning improvement works on their roads and questions concerning the Santaquin Canyon debris basin.

The basin, which was built in 1955 and had an expected life of 30 years, could be reconstructed before this fall, Naylor said.

The surveyor also explained that the county spent nearly 14 percent of its roads budget on county roads in the south county, and that public works has prioritized a list of projects, "but unfortunately we can't get to them all."

Though some south county residents currently have to use long-distance to dial either the sheriff's office or the commission office, County Sheriff Dave Bateman told residents they can dial 911 or a toll-free number (1-800-633-1419) for emergencies, and that central dispatchers can also transfer calls to the commission.