Friday, August 14, 2020


Moab, UT

90.2 F

    2019: A year of mosquitoes, moisture and moratoriums, Part 1

    Featured Stories

    Survey: Local parents want daily in-person teaching

    “I really don’t think that 40% of all people are not going to send their kid to school.”

    Tales of Trails: Savor spectacular views from thrilling Shafer Trail

    In the 1890s, Moab pioneer brothers Frank M. And John S. Shafer developed the route from what had been a Native American pathway connecting what is now Canyonlands National Park to the river below.

    At 99, Moab man is knighted by France

    “The French people will never forget his courage and devotion to the great cause of freedom,”

    Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’

    Though I planned to return someday, whether as a Peace Corps volunteer or not, this experience proved that even the best-laid plans go awry.

    Leaving Guatemala, Part 3: Sudden departure came with painful goodbyes

    Men donned wooden masks and numerous layers of sweatshirts and ponchos then proceeded to hit each other with whips as they danced around the town square.
    Doug McMurdo
    Doug McMurdo
    Editor Doug McMurdo reports on news out of the Moab City Center, tourism, courts, change of government and more.
    year in review part one A
    The partial shutdown of the federal government at the end of 2018 and start of 2019 impacted Grand County in myriad ways. File photo

    The news came fast in 2019. The Grand County and Moab City councils took a dramatic and controversial stance against the proliferation of overnight lodging developments in the area. Both entities in response to overwhelming public pressure implemented six-month moratoria on such projects and when the clock ran out in August they both voted to ban them outright until elevated standards could be established – an effort that continues today.

    In other government news, the county’s High-Density Housing Overlay – its answer to address affordable housing – is a stunning success as developers take advantage of the special zoning.

    The first murder trial in more than a decade ended in a conviction for a defendant who weaved a bizarre tale for investigators.

    That was not the only court news to capture readers’ attention.

    The winter was wet and so was spring, bringing high water to the Colorado River and filling local reservoirs to capacity. That in turn led to one of the worst mosquito hatches in years.

    The Utahraptor made the news in 2019, but has no idea that’s the case. File photo

    New hotels opened and construction for major projects took place up and down Highway 191. The economy is humming, but there are signs the growth won’t be as dynamic as it has been in recent years.

    2019 Begins with Shutdowns and Snowstorms

    Jan. 3

    A snowstorm and the federal government conspire to shut down Arches and Canyonlands national parks as Grand County steps into 2019. A partial government shutdown hits many federal employees in the area, and national parks and monuments are without funding to operate.

    The shutdown, a tactic the Trump administration uses in an attempt to compel Congress to provide funding for a wall on the southern U.S. border, begins Dec. 22. The State Office of Tourism provides enough money to keep Utah’s five national parks and eight monuments open for nine more days – until Dec. 31.

    Even if the money continued, visitors were still out of luck Jan. 1 after heavy snow fell in the region on New Year’s Eve. The road into Arches ended at the visitors’ center. Past that point it was impassable; a traffic barrier and park ranger ensured the road went untraveled.

    Smooth Transition

    While it isn’t entirely without controversy, the City of Moab’s plastic bag ban goes into effect Jan. 1 and the change to paper or reusable bags is greeted with a shrug. City Market goes plastic-less New Year’s Eve after the store depletes its supply.

    Cisco alfalfa farmer Terill Johnston becomes one of Utah’s first hemp farmers. File photo

    Too Close for Comfort

    Safety concerns prompt the Town of Castle Valley to propose an amendment to its hunting ordinance to either expand its current no-hunting zone or to limit weapons to archery.

    Jan. 10

    Cause and Effect

    A shortage of affordable housing for the workforce leads to homes, mostly rentals, that are crowded with roommates and turn once quiet streets into busy – and noisy – roads. The city considers and then disregards a proposal to draft occupancy limits into city code.

    Then-Assistant City Manager Joel Linares advises the council that there are a number of issues in play. First and foremost is the amount of resources that would be required in terms of personnel, but Linares also says such a policy would create a litigation nightmare for the city “if you actually start trying to evict people under these restrictions, the due process and level of proof that’s required can get really intensive.”

    Shutdown, Week 3

    There’s no shortage of federal employees impacted by the government shutdown who want to talk about life without a paycheck. The trouble is finding one who’s willing to talk on the record.

    There are consequences to pay. One federal employee fears losing her job due to the need to take a mandatory training class, but the shutdown leaves her “unauthorized to travel” and she “cannot be reimbursed for the course” she paid to take but missed.

    Others, however, take advantage of the time off to ski, visit family – or take a tropical vacation.

    Tragedy struck in 2019 when Scott Pehrson of Monticello, 39, dies in an avalanche in the La Sals. Courtesy photo

    Housing Overlay

    The Grand County Council revives its long-anticipated High Density Housing Overlay ordinance two weeks after it was rejected. New Chair Evan Clapper ordered the proposed ordinance be listed as a standing agenda item for the foreseeable future.

    The decision would prove to be a boon for affordable housing developers, many who have been or are closing in on development approvals.

    Dark Skies

    A push to preserve the Moab area’s beauty after the sun goes down moves forward when the Grand County Planning Commission votes to recommend the county council enact measures to reduce light pollution.

    Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine announces the effort could bolster an effort at Arches National Park to obtain status as a Dark Sky Park, as are Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park and other Utah parks and monuments.

    Dual moratoriums effectively hit the pause button on new overnight lodging developments as the Grand County and City of Moab councils wrestle with unchecked tourism. File photo

    Grading the Schools

    Assessments handed down by the Utah State Board of Education show Grand County’s public schools are typical of schools elsewhere in the state. High school students perform poorly in mathematics, but excel in science. Forty percent of high and middle school students are considered “economically disadvantaged.” That percentage jumps to 54 percent at Helen M. Knight Elementary, where the area of concern is the growing number of students struggling to learn English as a second language.

    Goodbye, Miss Charlotte

    Grand County Library staff and patrons bid a fond farewell to Charlotte Hurley, or Miss Charlotte, as children knew her for nearly 15 years. “I hope everyone has a chance to have a job they love so much they feel guilty getting paid for it,” she tells well wishers.

    Jan. 17

    Hallelujah for Housing

    A statement from Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells proves prophetic when he has this to say about passage of the High Density Housing Overlay ordinance at the Jan. 15 meeting:

    “I think this is going to be the most significant thing that either the city or county – anybody in the region – is going to do to address affordable housing.”

    Recycling efforts in Grand County shifted as Monument Waste has become a participant. File photo

    Shutdown Week Four

    The parks and monuments reopen, no thanks to Washington, D.C. The Utah Department of Transportation tends to snow- and ice-covered roads in the state’s parks, sending plows and operators to each of Utah’s parks. Meanwhile, the Canyonlands National History Association sets aside thousands of dollars to pay salaries for some of the parks’ staff.

    Criticism Comes with Territory

    Former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson’s defamation lawsuit against then-Grand County Council Member Chris Baird and others ends in failure after the State of Utah Court of Appeals determines that public officials in the U.S. are subject to being criticized, often sharply and even falsely.

    Judge Ryan Harris affirms now-retired Seventh Judicial District Judge Lyle Anderson’s ruling.

    This is not the end of this particular story.

    Jan. 24

    Hemp Dreams

    Cisco alfalfa farmer Terill Johnston becomes one of Utah’s first certified hemp growers after lawmakers legalize the crop in 2018.

    Johnston intends to grow industrial hemp and could add medical marijuana to his operation.

    The winter of 2018-2019 was one of the wettest on record in southeastern Utah. File photo

    Single-stream Recycling

    The Moab City Council delays a decision on its recycling plan in order to give citizens a chance to weigh in on a proposal to go to a single-stream plan.

    The end goal is to improve the percentage of items that are diverted from the county’s landfills.

    In Honor of MLK

    Moabites celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by providing service to the community. The event was inspired by Grand County High student Madison Johnson and her classmates, who advocated for a day of service in 2016.

    Jan. 31

    Deadly Avalanche

    Tragedy strikes when a Monticello man dies in a massive avalanche in the La Sal Mountains.

    Scott Pehrson, 39, was snowmobiling with friends in Dark Canyon when the incident occurred. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

    Back to Work

    The longest partial shutdown of the federal government in history ends without a deal for President Trump, but it’s only good until Feb. 15 if border funding isn’t provided.

    Meanwhile, local federal workers head back to work, hoping a compromise can be made.

    Congestion at Arches National Park leads to discussions, but no solutions, in 2019, File photo

    Crime and Punishment

    A preliminary hearing for accused murder Omar Guerro reveals a large amount of allegedly stolen methamphetamine was behind the shooting death of Moab resident Edgar Luna Najera, who was killed inside his older trailer at a Walnut Lane trailer court.

    Two men who were with Guerro that night in late October – and when he was captured in Arizona three days later on Halloween – are among those who testify against Guerro.

    Timeshare Project Breaks Ground

    Dirt work begins at the former Doxol site at 1431 N. Highway 191 next to the Slickrock Campground. Infamous for the deadly propane explosion that killed four people, including two boys, who were at the campground on July 31, 1981.

    Zwick Construction will build the 150-unit timeshare development for WorldMark Wyndham.

    Feb. 7

    New Form of Government

    One of the key stories that defined 2018 also plays an outsized role in shaping 2019 after Judge Don Torgerson rules in favor of Grand County over which entity controls the process in changing Grand County’s form of government.

    The victory over the Grand County Republican Party leads to the establishment of a study committee tasked with creating a form of government that’s compatible with Utah laws.

    The Moratorium

    The Grand County Council votes 6-0 to impose a six-month moratorium on new overnight lodging developments in unincorporated Grand County.

    The action is in response to serious tourism pushback from residents who feel overwhelmed and frustrated. As with more than a few local government stories, this topic receives regular headlines throughout the year.

    Lawmakers in Session

    The Utah Legislature comes under fire after ignoring the will of voters, 53 percent of whom want to see Medicaid expanded in Utah following the 2018 election. Instead, they introduce a bill that waters down what voters approved. Education funding, an equally controversial medical cannabis bill, and a budget surplus also occupy lawmakers.

    Thayn is Sentenced

    Former hunting outfitter and Moab businessman Mark Thayn is sentenced to five years in state prison following his convictions on a host of drug and theft cases, as well as the illegal killing of wildlife.

    Feb. 14

    City Passes Lodging Ban

    Not willing to let their counterparts on the Grand County Council have all the fun, members of the Moab City Council enact their own moratorium on new overnight developments. There are currently more than 500 overnight lodging units in the planning or building stages in Grand County that are vested and will be allowed.

    The plan is to draft new, heightened development standards and possibly identify specific zones where hotel and motel developers would be allowed to build. Both moratoriums expire in August.

    Moab opts for opt-out recycling

    The city council enters into a new contract with Monument Waste Services, the private solid waste collection provider in the area. The unanimous vote leads to single-stream recycling that calls for a separate bin for recyclables, as well as a bin for items suitable for the landfill.

    Customers have the option of participating or retaining only the trash bin.

    Form of Government

    Rex Tanner, an appointee to a group tasked with choosing seven members to serve on the newly formed Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee, resigns before a meeting is held after learning of a rule that prohibits government officials from serving.

    Tanner is a member of the Grand Water & Sewer Service Agency’s board of directors. He is replaced by fellow conservative Jeramy Day.

    Moab Regional Hospital CEO Jen Sadoff addresses rural health care concerns when Rep. John Curtis comes to Moab. File photo

    Feb. 21

    Stormy Monday … and Tuesday and Wednesday …

    Punxsutawney Phil is a lying little rodent. Winter retains its grip on southeastern Utah nearly three weeks after the world’s most famous groundhog predicted spring would come early.

    Consecutive storms on Feb. 18 and 19 drop heavy and wet snow across the region, prompting authorities to close Highway 191 at Spanish Trail Road north of town in order to keep motorists from heading over the pass to Monticello.

    No Ordinary Dummy

    Classic Air Medical staff provides high-tech training to members of Grand County Emergency Medical Services and Moab Regional Hospital.

    Using a technologically advanced mannequin that could present how a body reacts to a variety of medical scenarios, participants receive free training. The mannequin is part of the air ambulance company’s Intensive Care Simulation Lab.

    (Don’t) Let There Be Light

    Grand County unveils an extensive update planned for the outdoor lighting code, one that calls for updated standards on sign illumination, encouraging citizens and businesses alike to use outdoor lighting that limits light pollution.

    People who find themselves in violation of the new regulations have five years to get in compliance.

    Study Committee Formed

    State law calls for a diverse membership when it comes to establishing committees to study a change in a county’s form of government. The makeup of Grand County’s newly formed committee meets the challenge.

    Leaders in both the Grand County Republican and Democratic parties are given a seat at the table with the naming of Jeramy Day for the GOP and Bob Greenberg for the local Democratic party. Republicans, Democrats and Independents round out the committee after Walt Dabney, Cricket Green, Steve Stocks, Marcy Till and Judy Carmichael are named.

    Ban the Bag Ban

    A Spanish Fork lawmaker introduces a bill challenging plastic bag bans in effect in Moab and Park City, citing an undue financial burden that businesses would face.

    House Bill 320, also known as the Container Regulation Act, fails to advance.

    March 7

    Storms, Quakes & Slides

    Heaven and earth move in Moab the first week of March. Drenching rains preceded a rockslide on Highway 128 near its junction with Highway 191 on March 3.

    The slide covers both lanes of travel and explosives are used to break up the rock to movable sizes.

    The next day, a mild earthquake with an epicenter 40 miles away in Bedrock, Colorado, jiggles southeastern Utah at precisely 10:23 a.m.

    Arches Congestion

    A proposal to implement a reservation system at Arches National Park could hit the Moab tourist economy to the tune of $22 million.

    “This is a big issue with big consequences,” says Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells. More on this later.

    The paving of 100 West revealed Moab’s infrastructure history as workers encounter old plumbing – some of it obsolete and some of it still in action. File photo

    A ‘Landmark’ vote

    Grand County joins the City of Moab in retaining the services of Landmark Design, a land use consulting firm that helps both councils draft new code. The timing is critical as the county and city stare down twin moratoria on new overnight lodging developments.

    March 14

    Study Committee Finally Meets

    Members of the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee holds their first meeting and members vow to be transparent and engaged heavily with the public. Attorney Steve Scott was elected chair and Marcy Till was elected secretary.

    Historic Winter

    While Moab’s winter is one of the wettest in years, the contiguous 48 states combined experience record rain and snowfall.


    The county council earmarks $19,000 for Landmark Design, which has less than five months to draft a new land use policy before a moratorium on new overnight lodging development expires.

    Watered Down Pad

    Meanwhile, the Moab City Council excludes most city subdivisions from its Planned Affordable Housing ordinance, which essentially would provide affordable housing and higher density neighborhoods.

    March 21

    No Reservations

    Traffic congestion at Arches National Park – and in Moab – results in a poor experience for visitors, but a plan to go to a reservation system already unpopular with the business community proves to be flawed due to insufficient data.

    While the idea of a reservation isn’t taken completely off the table, the potential economic hit, at least for the first couple of years it is in place, take it out of contention as a potential solution.

    Attack of the Giant Reed

    County officials target for eradication a noxious, invasive, native-plant killer named giant reed. Because the weed resembles bamboo and provides privacy, not everyone is willing to comply.

    March 28

    Curtis Gets the Full Moab

    U.S. Rep. John Curtis comes to Moab to meet with local officials and hold a town hall with voters.

    Local officials discuss issues that could be addressed with federal help. Residents want to know what Curtis was going to do about President Donald Trump’s behavior.

    During the town hall, a teacher tells the representative that her students would be suspended if they said many of the things the president has said or tweeted.

    “I don’t know how to satisfy you in that request,” replied Curtis.

    Attorney: HB 224 ‘obtuse and un-understandable’

    Salt Lake County Attorney Gavin Anderson comes to Star Hall to teach the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee what its four options are in choosing a new form of government.

    Dozens of residents attend the training, many taking notes and asking questions.

    Former Police Chief Jim Winder leaves Moab to take a position in Salt Lake County. File photo

    TRT Spending Rules Limit Travel Council

    Elaine Gizler, executive director of the Moab Area Travel Council, is painfully aware how overwhelmed by tourists residents feel.

    She explains in painstaking detail how state laws dictate how the agency spends every dime.

    Spanish Valley Growing Pains

    Forty residents living along Pack Creek in San Juan County successfully block the enactment of a development and zoning plan for Spanish Valley.

    Concerns over the plan’s lack of dark skies protections convinces new San Juan County Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes to vote it down.

    April 4

    Cop Out

    Citing family issues, Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder steps down after nearly two years at the helm. The popular chief is credited with restoring order to the department after a series of scandals.

    Dark Skies

    The Grand County Council, backed by overwhelming public support, amends its outdoor lighting ordinance to protect the night sky views. The vote comes after two years of studying the issue.

    EMS Needs New Digs

    The building housing EMS has served many purposes over the years, but time has taken a toll and the structure at 520 East 100 North has seen better days.

    The roof leaks like a sieve, ceiling tiles are missing and the carpet is ripped and frayed. Those are the good things. In response, the Grand County Council supports the EMS special service district’s goal to obtain Community Impact Board funds for a new building or, in the alternative, a multimillion-dollar remodel.

    One of the more controversial stories of 2019 is still playing out in Spanish Valley, where Loves Travel Stops plans to build a truck stop. File photo

    April 11

    No Love for Love’s

    Spanish Valley residents show up in droves to protest a state land sale to Love’s Travel Stops, which wants to build a truck stop on Sunny Acres Lane, just across the Grand County line in San Juan County.

    Protesters are livid after Schools and Institutional Trust Land Administration said the 13-acre sale is “basically a done deal.”

    Dark Skies South

    The San Juan County Planning Commission is reworking its development and zoning plan for Spanish Valley, promising to add dark skies regulations to its outdoor lighting ordinance.

    City Hall Shift

    The Moab City Council doesn’t have far to look for a new city manager. After David Everitt announces he will resign, the council promotes Assistant City Manager Joel Linares to the post.

    That Didn’t Take Long

    A few days after telling local media he was leaving over family issues and only had offers of work, former Moab Police Chief Jim Winder joins the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office as its head of Investigations.

    $45M Infrastructure Plan

    A failed sewer system puts the Center Street Gym on the list of public assets in need of capital improvement. A downtown parking structure also makes the list – this one thanks to $10 million from the State.

    Snow and Tell

    What a difference a year makes. The State of Utah has a “fantastic” snowpack after a dismal year in 2017-2018, with southeastern Utah at 203 percent of average compared to 45 percent 12 months earlier.

    The Red Rock 4-Wheelers hosted the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Sand Flats Recreation Area a week ahead of Jeep Safari. File photo

    April 18

    Off-Trail Accident

    A woman is critically injured during Jeep Safari when a Jeep driver left the trail for some reason before striking the woman, a visitor from Elko, Nevada, who is flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.

    Pipeline Problems

    The Utah Division of Public Utilities shuts down the Pacific Energy & Mining pipeline north of Moab after finding the company guilty of 11 violations. PEMC also is fined $100,000 for not addressing issues in a timely manner.

    Landmark Decision

    The consulting firm hired by both the city and county schedules the first of several public gatherings to take input from residents on future land use rules to address tourism’s impact.

    Book Cliffs Highway

    Hoping to siphon tourists from the Moab area, Uintah County officials meet with the Grand County Council to discuss the potential construction of the so-called Book Cliffs Highway.

    Local officials are cordial but the response is lukewarm on the highway. One concern cited is maintenance costs because most of the highway is in Grand County.

    April 25

    The Edge goes to Edge

    Longtime Moab police officer Bret Edge is promoted to chief after Jim Winder’s surprise resignation. Edge was a patrol officer for nine years before becoming a sergeant and then assistant chief.

    “I’m excited, humbled and honored,” he says.

    Davidson Settlement

    In a move that angers many residents, the City of Moab agrees to settle litigation with former controversial City Manager Rebecca Davidson, who sued the city and former Mayor Dave Sakrison, claiming civil rights violations.

    While the city prevailed in every step the case took, the city’s attorney recommends settling for $25,000 rather than continuing to pay the high cost of litigation.

    A plant grows on Delicate Arch, a small reminder of just how much precipitation fell in southeastern Utah. Courtesy photo

    100 West Construction

    Work to replace utilities and pavement on 100 West leads to a number of problems as workers continue to run into unforeseen broken pipes, compromised storm drains and other issues after decades of utility projects on the street.

    Rather than ignore the issues, the decision is made to address them as the project moves along, leading to cost overruns and missed deadlines, but ultimately saving the city funds in the long run.

    A plus? The installation of 3,000 more feet of shared use path for cyclists and urban hikers.

    Mail Mystery

    Longtime complaints about stolen mail come to a head after The Times-Independent investigates allegations of theft of packages arriving at and departing from the Moab Post Office.

    The newspaper receives a large number of missing mail stories and takes its information to the USPS Inspector General, who launches an investigation of its own.

    May 2

    Campers Gone Wild

    Locals aren’t the only folks feeling one of the negative impacts of a booming tourism economy. Too many tourists at designated campgrounds overwhelm the Bureau of Land Management and the 650 campsites it operates in its Canyon Country Region.

    A fast-growing population is engaged in primitive camping, causing even more of a headache for the BLM, particularly at federal and state lands near Arches National Park, where environmental damage has become commonplace.

    Love’s loves dark skies

    The controversial plans to build a Love’s Travel Stop on 13 acres of State Institutional and Trust Lands Administration property off of South Highway 191 and Sunny Acres Lane, just south of the Grand-San Juan county line, makes the news when SITLA officials and truck stop executives announce Love’s will comply with dark skies lighting regulations and other design standards.

    Property Rights

    The financial impact the city and county moratoria have on new overnight lodging developments is explained during a workshop with Landmark Design when a company executive tells county and city officials that overnight lodging is the highest possible use of property – and the reason is because the demand for more rooms increases each year.

    Davidson Settles for $25K

    The City of Moab proves willing to pay $25,000 in order to rid itself of a controversial former city manager.

    Rebecca Davidson agrees to drop her latest appeal – a quest to win a multimillion-dollar judgment in a civil rights lawsuit – in exchange for the city’s offer.

    May 9

    Arches reservation

    proposal falls flat

    In an announcement that would prove unpopular with the business community and others, National Park Service Superintendent Kate Cannon said officials are looking at a temporary “timed-entry” reservation system for crowded Arches National Park.

    Cannon, whose Southeast Utah Group of National Parks oversees Arches and Canyonlands national parks and a pair of national monuments, finds a strong ally in Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells, who sees the interim plan as something positive that could be done immediately.

    Potash Fined for Fatal Incident

    Intrepid Potash is fined $6,500 for “serious” safety violations that led to the deaths of three employees in November, 2018.

    Tunnel Vision

    A desire to get tractor-trailers off Main Street through the construction of a bypass is no closer to being fulfilled than it was when the idea was first proposed and shot down in 1993.

    With no local government officials on the record as favoring the use of eminent domain to build the bypass say, right through the heart of the Mountain View subdivision, the idea of going underground is considered, however briefly.

    Utah Department of Transportation Southeast Region spokesperson Kevin Kitchens cites prohibitive costs and environmental concerns as two big reasons a bypass tunnel could not work.

    Airport and TRT

    Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan defends the county, which is cited in a State Office of the Legislative Auditor General report of having spent transient room taxes inappropriately.

    The county used TRT funding on runway and terminal improvements at Canyonlands Field Airport in 2017, prior to Sloan’s tenure.

    She said the expenditure is “legal and justified under Utah law.” State auditors made their finding because such expenditures are not specifically listed as to what’s allowable. Clearly, Canyonlands Field’s customer base consists primarily of tourists.

    In a related matter, the county council supports additional flights to Moab during the peak tourist seasons and fewer during the winter and the hottest part of summer.

    May 16

    Officials seek impact

    fee from campers

    Grand County Council Member Mary McGann and other public officials retreat from a push to add transient room tax to federal campsites and instead seek an impact fee to users.

    Citing the burden of hundreds of occupied campsites on local resources, such as solid waste, law enforcement and EMS, McGann proposed a four percent hike to the current $20 daily rental fee, or 80 cents.

    Love’s Open House

    Residents living in the vicinity of a planned Love’s truck stop on 13 acres just across the San Juan County line don’t hold back when Love’s and SITLA hold an open house.

    More than 30 people attend the meeting to share their concerns. Homes are very close to the truck stop boundaries and people worry their quality of life will suffer.

    Goat Lawsuit Fails

    Litigation over the introduction of mountain goats in the La Sal Mountains that was initiated by the Grand Canyon Trust ends in failure after a federal court said the group, which claims the goats have migrated on to U.S. Forest Service lands, fails to cite a cause of action, or justification, for filing the lawsuit.

    Ambitious Deadline

    The Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee learns its goal to have a new form of government created in time to make the 2019 ballot – the final and approved optional plan would have to be ready by July 8.

    Edge takes Oath

    Veteran Moab Police Department officer Bret Edge takes the oath of office at a Moab City Council meeting. He replaces Jim Winder.

    May 23

    Vested Projects to Add 38% More Overnight Units

    Moratoria doesn’t cover hundreds of overnight lodging units that are part of development plans already filed – before the moratoria were in place – with the City of Moab and Grand County planning departments.

    The news is greeted with something less than enthusiasm by a public clamoring for such developments to be banned outright.

    The Mosquito Hatch

    will be Heavy

    Moab Area Mosquito Abatement Special Service District Manager Libby Nance warns residents that a wet winter and spring has flooded sloughs along the river corridor and especially in the Scott M. Matheson Preserve. She predicts – accurately, it turns out – that the floods will reawaken billions of larvae that have been dormant in recent dry years.

    Stolen Mail

    A 2017 investigation into alleged package and letter theft at the Moab Post Office goes unresolved. The service’s Office of Inspector General reveals it has conducted similar investigations at the Moab location for years and that at least one was compromised.

    May 30

    Overnight rentals are

    economic top dog

    Selling highway frontage property to overnight lodging developers pays the best, but one consequence is losing out on other types of business a community needs, according to a study.

    Murder in Moab

    Prosecutor Brent Langston cuts right to the chase in his opening statement to jurors in the murder trial of Mexican National Omar Guerro, who is accused of twice shooting Edgar Luna Najera inside Najera’s trailer on Walnut Lane.

    Langston said an examiner with the state crime lab will testify that Guerro’s fingerprints are on the bullets that killed Najera and the gun that fired them.

    Form of Government

    The Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee is eager to meet with the public to hear what they would like to see. Three open houses are scheduled in Moab, Spanish Valley and Castle Valley.

    Highway Improvement

    Work begins to improve Highway 128 from roughly milepost 20 to its junction with Interstate 70.

    City Council Pay

    An emotional and sometimes personal debate is held among Moab City Council members over a proposed salary increase – or health benefits in lieu of a pay hike.

    June 6

    Wettest Water Year

    Every watershed in Utah received greater than 100 percent of average precipitation during the water year that began the previous Oct. 1.

    Nowhere is that more obvious than at Ken’s Lake, which is at 218 percent of capacity, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Guerro Convicted

    A Grand County jury finds Omar Guerro guilty of killing Edgar Najera and guilty on one out of three counts of kidnapping.

    Judge Don Torgerson sets a sentencing hearing for June 11.

    Study versus Study

    It was a headline that angered many: “Study: More hotels ‘needed’ to match tourism demand.” Shortly after a separate study showed that robust hotel development was limiting business diversity in Moab, an economic consulting firm conducts a study that finds limiting overnight lodging development could hurt tax revenue.

    An Annual Ritual

    The Class of 2019 holds graduation ceremonies. It is the 100th class in Red Devil history.

    June 13

    High Water on the River

    Runoff is heavy after an historically wet winter and spring. The U.S. Geological Survey says it measured the Colorado River flow at 40,000 cubic feet of water per second near Cisco.

    Better Late than Never

    After months of virtual silence, property owners, potential overnight lodging developers and property rights advocates show up en masse to a Grand County Planning Commission meeting to object to a ban on overnight lodging development in unincorporated Grand County.

    Commission members let them have their say and then voted to recommend the Grand County Council ban such development.

    11 Seek City Council Seat

    Eleven city residents, including three incumbents, file to run for the Moab City Council in 2019.

    32 Years to Life

    “This was an execution,” said Seventh District Judge Don Torgerson before sentencing convicted killer Omar Guerro to a term of 32 years to life in a Utah prison.

    June 20

    ‘Don’t Get Moabed’

    After the Grand County Council in a 4-3 vote denied the Moab Area Travel Council $250,000 to market Moab to the greater Chicago area, the two groups hold a meeting to clear the air.

    Chair Evan Clapper explains the vote was the result of public input on the number of tourists visiting the area.

    In the meantime, the Travel Council prepares to launch its Do It Like a Local movement to get local involved in educating tourists.

    Slickrock Trail

    The Sand Flats Recreation Area teams up with documentary filmmakers Mark Finley and Kevin Christensen to make a film about the iconic Slickrock Bike Trail that Dick Wilson created in 1969 as part of Sand Flats’ upcoming 50th anniversary.

    City Follows County

    The City of Moab Planning Commission follows in the step of its counterpart at the county in backing a temporary ban on new lodging development. The decision doesn’t extend a current moratorium.

    Dog Rescued

    A dog caught in the fast-moving Colorado River clings to a branch while members of the Bureau of Land Management and Utah Department of Natural Resources mount an impromptu rescue operation.

    Reese the Dachshund is reunited with his grateful owners.

    June 27

    City Council votes to

    double its wages

    The Moab City Council in a 4-1 vote agreed to increase pay for members to $30,000 and to $34,000 for the mayor, a 250 percent increase. The increase is equal to current health insurance costs. Members have the option of joining the city’s health insurance plan or take increased pay.

    Half of Moab can’t afford to live here

    A study commissioned by the City of Moab reveals the least expensive home sold in Moab in 2017 was out of the reach of half of the city’s population.

    A separate study commissioned by the State of Utah reveals the news is no better for renters.

    River is High and so is the Cheatgrass

    Wet weather was not wasted on the pervasive cheatgrass, leading Fire Chief T.J. Brewer to worry about wildfire.

    He said the grass, which is three times higher than normal, is “like gasoline.”

    The Skeeters Have Arrived

    Nearly two months after she sounded the warning, Moab Mosquito Abatement District Manager Libby Nance grows frustrated when residents overwhelmed by mosquitoes demand something be done while other residents say fogging will kill too many creatures that aren’t mosquitoes.

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