Council members spar over appointments to some boards, committees, including planning commission
by Molly Marcello
The Times-Independent
Jan 26, 2017 | 4114 views | 0 0 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print

During the first two meeting of 2017, the Grand County Council has approved volunteer appointments for 12 different county boards and commissions.

Although the council primarily approved the recommendations made by members of those boards, some council members disagreed regarding several appointments, including the Grand County Planning Commission, which received nine applications for two vacancies.

The planning commission submitted three names for those two spots — Moab Holiday Inn Express General Manager Jeramy Day, Utah State University Adjunct Professor Rachel Nelson and Real Estate Broker Bryon Walston.

But council member Mary McGann, the council liaison to the planning commission, instead recommended Nelson and restaurant manager Abigail Scott — a second-time applicant — for the planning commission. Scott’s application lists educational and research experience in public policy and planning, as well as GIS mapping.

During the meeting, council member Curtis Wells described McGann’s recommendation as a “partisan” move.

“I think it’s important that we not play partisan politics with this entity and that we have balance,” Wells said. “The motion by [McGann] is a very partisan attempt to line the planning commission with kindred spirits.”

Advocating for Day, Wells suggested the planning commission needs business-minded people as it considers certain proposals regarding affordable housing.

“I think given the sensitivity of the issue and affordable housing and a lot of the anti-business proposals that are being forwarded, I think it’s important to have a business person in this entity,” Wells said. “They’re being kind of bullied and demonized, and to load a body like that with like-minded, left-leaning people I think is irresponsible to the county.”

McGann said her recommendation was intended to bring balance to the planning commission, motivated by the gender dynamics of the traditionally male-dominated board. Only one woman, Christine Green, currently serves on the planning commission.

“I made the motion because I read the applications, I sat in on the interviews and I saw Abby Scott and she was exceptional ... I thought it would bring balance to [have] three female and four males on the planning board,” McGann said. “It was not a partisan move.”

Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said the council should also consider certain conflicts of interest when it comes to business ties and the planning commission.

“In making your decisions in these particular boards, I also think it’s important to think about are there people on boards that because of their business or various things they’re involved in will actually have conflicts where they won’t be able to vote on certain things. That’s something to consider,” Fitzgerald said.

Wells made a motion to recommend Day and Nelson, which failed 3-3, with council member Greg Halliday abstaining from voting.

Council member Rory Paxman then made a motion to recommend Day and Walston, which failed 2-4, with only Paxman and Wells in favor, and Halliday again abstaining.

Council members finally voted 5-2 to appoint Nelson and Scott, with Paxman and Wells opposed.

The Moab Area Travel Council Advisory Board also generated some discussion The board received eight applications for one vacancy, recommending Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA) employee and Moab Information Center (MIC) Manager Sharon Kienzle.

But Wells made a motion to recommend applicant Kent Green, owner of the ATV/UTV outfitter Moab Cowboy Adventures, noting his significance in the “Throttle Down in Town” campaign.

“He’s a conservative willing to take on an issue that’s not widely popular from the OHV community,” Wells said. “He’s put skin in the game as a good corporate citizen to the community.”

But Travel Council Executive Director Elaine Gizler advocated for Kienzle, saying it was a tough decision but made sense to have her perspective on the board.

“We had a lot of great candidates,” Gizler said. “We looked at the pros and cons of each one and having [Kienzle], who we selected, made a lot of sense ... because we support the MIC, we’re partners with CNHA ... The MIC is the first line of defense to tourism. They see over 200,000 tourists a year.”

Wells’ motion to support Green failed 2-5. The council then voted unanimously to appoint Kienzle.

Council members also unanimously voted to appoint former council members Ken Ballantyne and Elizabeth Tubbs to the Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District (CHCSSD) board.

The CHCSSD board unanimously recommended Tubbs and Ballantyne, although there was a third applicant, Doug Fix, who has years of experience on the board.

“My understanding is Doug Fix did put in an application and he wants to stay involved but not at that level,” said council chairwoman Jaylyn Hawks.

Tubbs will also join the Public Health Board, which serves the Southeastern Utah District Health Department, along with Sam Cunningham.

Other appointments approved by the council included Jim Lewis and Kathy Wilson to the Grand County Recreation Special Service District board, Kevin Fitzgerald to the Grand County Solid Waste District board, Marsha Marshall to the Cemetery Maintenance District board, Audrey Graham on the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah district board, and Pebbles Patterson with Rick Thompson to the Thompson Springs Fire District board.

During the council’s Jan. 17 meeting, four appointments were made to the Grand County Council on Aging — Joe Chacon, Donna McNeely, Adrien Taylor and Sandy McKimmey — and Kathleen McHugh was appointed to the Grand County Library board.

The council also voted 6-1, with council member Baird opposing, to appoint Charlie Harrison and Rob Welch to the Grand County Transportation Special Service District board. The two open positions received three applications, the third being William Love.

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