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DIXIE TOWN GETS LESSON ON GAINING MONEY

The tiny southern Utah town of Washington has to be feeling somewhat like the neglected stepchild.

When Washington City officials approached the Community Impact Board Thursday about a $96,000 grant to develop a planning strategy to deal with 10 percent annual growth, the board politely refused.After all, the Community Impact Board is charged with dividing money generated from mineral development - money that is supposed to help communities affected by the development of natural resources like coal, oil and gas. And the Washington City planning proposal was targeted at the impacts of growth unrelated to natural resources.

"This board deals with mineral-development funds, not snow-birds," explained board member Paul Lyman. "I think you are in the wrong place, doing it the wrong way."

Funny thing, though, the Community Impact Board later voted to grant Grand County a $1 million loan at 3 percent interest to build a new, high-capacity garbage dump. The reason the county needed the board's funding?

"Tourism is the tax base for Grand County (and) the amount collected is not sufficient to provide the waste disposal needs of the community," Grand County's proposal states.

Grand County averages 36.5 tons of garbage a day (compared to a national average of 16 tons a day for a community that size). During peak tourist seasons, the amount of garbage increases by three times.

So what makes the Washington City and Grand County proposals all that different from each other? Grand County - often credited with having one of the most scenic garbage dumps in America - couched its request with the phrase "there is renewed interest in the oil and gas industry."

Washington City has no oil or gas or coal, which makes a big difference in the Community Impact Board's decisions to give away money. For example, Kane County wanted $300,000 for hospital equipment and got it. Justification for the request included statements about the community impacts of coal mining near Big Water - coal fields that are years away from actual development.

Duchesne City requested $122,000 for a new fire truck and building purchase. That was a no-brainer decision for the Community Impact Board considering Duchesne County has a lot of oil and gas development.

Less clear cut was the board's decision to give Piute County a $1 million loan and a $665,000 grant to build a new courthouse - at an average person cost of $1,400 in the county of 1,300 people. There are no current mining operations in Piute County.

Perhaps more puzzling was the board's decision to delay action on a request by Emery County for $2.6 million to build a senior citizen center, a community center and an equestrian park.

Over the past five years, Emery County coal production has put more than $19 million into the fund from which the board makes grants and loans. The county, the largest contributor to the fund, has received back about $9 million.

County officials told the board that coal reserves will not last forever and they are trying to diversify their economy and to provide infrastructure needs for the residents whose heritage is tied to the mines.

But CIB board members sent Emery County officials back to Castle Dale with an order to prioritize the three projects and come back next month. One, maybe two of the projects will be funded.

Funding for the Kane County hospital, the Duchesne fire truck, the Piute County courthouse and the Grand County dump will not become official until the December board meeting when all prioritized projects are weighed against projected revenues. Board members say the revenue from mineral development has been very good and that most, if not all, prioritized projects will be fully funded in December.