MD’s Moab City Council Meeting Preview 2020-09-22

[Editor’s note: Both Mike Duncan and Rani Derasary have graciously agreed to let MADAR reuse their regular email updates to constituents. Despite the overlap, we are running both versions of the MCC previews. Readers can choose to read both, either or neither of the previews.]

To watch the meeting via YouTube, which starts at 7 PM:

Proposition 8: Recreation, Arts, and Parks Tax (RAP) Public Comments (this is the only agenda item)

This time is allotted to the general public for comments “for” or “against” the RAP Tax question that will be on the upcoming ballot, Proposition 8. You may participate in several ways as follows:

Join the electronic meeting with Zoom:Use the following link:

Meeting ID: 821 2405 5519     Passcode (if needed): 279552

Or join the electronic meeting by phone.Dial: 1-669-900-9128. Meeting ID: 821 2405 5519     Passcode (if needed): 279552

When joining the meeting, you will be placed in a waiting room and will be added to the meeting by the moderator. Once you are added to the meeting, please state your name for the record. 

And/Or submit written public comments.

And/Or write City Council (anytime, on any subject):

Here’s the letter I wrote to the newspapers a couple of weeks ago on the subject:

Prop 8 – vote YES to help ensure rec centers, sports programs and parks stay open

You may remember that when Covid hit and sales tax revenues plunged, the city closed the swimming pool/gym. We city councilmembers got a world of complaints. The MRAC is the city’s most popular amenity and unfortunately the most expensive to run. It’s always lost money despite user fees. (It’s now partially open.)

It turns out there is one more sales tax the city can impose if residents so approve: Proposition 8, also called the Recreation, Arts, and Parks (RAP) tax. It’s quite modest: 0.1% or a dime for every $100 spent at a local shop, restaurant or overnight accommodation. Since unprepared food  and gasoline are exempt, it will most heavily hit visitors. In a normal (non-Covid) year we expect it will raise $300-400K. While it may be spent on city recreational, cultural or zoological programs or facilities, expect it to go towards the MRAC, MARC, sports programs and parks. You can participate in its distribution, as always, during the city’s annual budgeting process. The tax expires after 10 years and may only renewed with additional voter approval. 

In my two and a half years on Council, I constantly see how we all love our recreation amenities, but we much prefer that somebody else pay for them. That implies that visitors pay the bills, which in turn begets hotels, short term rentals and choked roads, a downside of industrial tourism. This proposed sales tax will cushion the revenue that supports recreation in the event of unusual loss of visitation like this year. Much the same argument can be applied to a potential modest future municipal property tax (virtually every other city in Utah has one), but that is a public discussion for another day. 

Nobody likes taxes. But this one is largely paid by visitors, is not burdensome and helps the city where it most needs help, keeping popular public recreation, arts and parks healthy.

I encourage you to vote FOR Proposition 8 on your November ballot. Support local recreation!

Update on other issues not on the agenda

Hotspot Downtown Off-Main-Street parking.Taken from a “median-parking” concept used in Lancaster, CA (among a number of other concepts used around the world) that Moab’s Matt Hancock reported on and conceptually designed for downtown, city chief engineer Chuck Williams presented his conceptual design to the entire City Council Sept 8 which would add more than 100 new parking spaces to the downtown area. Communications Director Lisa Church also presented results of a survey that more than 200 residents responded to. The survey showed a landscaped version of median parking which is a lot prettier and cooler than plain old white angled stripes in the middle of the street. Council recommended revisions (among others) to Chuck’s concept to that end. Public outreach is planned. Cost remains to be determined, critical to UDOT who is funding this project. 

Water.Phillip Gardner (along with other authors), a USGS hydrologist and one of the authors of a widely-read 2018 study estimating Spanish Valley’s culinary-quality aquifer at roughly 11 to 13K acre-feet/year, has released a “journal pre-proof” version of a follow-up study Rethinking a groundwater flow system using a multiple-tracer geochemical approach: a case study in Moab Spanish Valley, Utah, Journal of Hydrology (2020). In it, he has taken advantage of geochemical, stable isotope and carbon 14 dating to clarify where water comes from, where it goes, how much and how long it takes to get there. 

  • Here’s the start of his abstract: The Glen Canyon Group Aquifer (GCGA) is the sole source of public water supply for the city of Moab, Utah, a domestic and international tourist destination. Population and tourism growth are likely to target the GCGA for future water resources, but our analysis indicates that additional withdrawals [over 3600 ace-feet/year] would likely be sourced from groundwater storage and not be sustained by recharge. [annotation is mine].
  • Utah state law requires that aquifers may not be mined, that is their withdrawals cannot exceed their recharge. 3.6K acre-feet/year is about what we’re withdrawing now and much smaller than the previously estimated 11-13K. Thus this paper will seemingly have a substantial impact on Utah Division of Water Rights upcoming Groundwater Management Plan meetings to come.

Hope this helps, 

Mike Duncan, MCC Councilmember