Castle Valley Comments

The Castle Valley Town Council held its last public meeting of the year on Dec. 18. It was also the last meeting for Council Member Alice Drogin, as her term in office expires at the end of the year. She was honored during the meeting with a certificate of appreciation and a certificate for a night out on the town.

ron drake
Ron Drake

The meeting began with a public hearing to receive public input on Ordinance 2019-3, which is an ordinance granting Emery Telecommunications and Video, Inc., a franchise for a communications system in Castle Valley. In response to a question, Brock Johansen, the CEO of Emery Telcom, explained that state law requires a franchise agreement with the town and the town has a right to control the public right-of-way. This process establishes the requirement.

Some were concerned about the visual impact of the system, to which company officials answered that the black wire would be about the size of a little finger. The wires will be connected to the established power poles, which are owned by Rocky Mountain Power (RMP). State law also requires that the new fiber optic lines are to be a certain distance below the power lines and also a certain distance from the ground. RMP previously stated that they were replacing some of their shorter and older power poles to accommodate the wires that will be installed by Emery Telcom. Emery Telcom will do an aerial installation where RMP already has aerial power lines.

Emery representatives said that the fiber optic installation is a result of a “Community Connect Grant” that they received from the United States Department of Agriculture, and that the USDA wouldn’t have funded the grant if they had to go totally underground.

In response to a question about running the lines to the homes, they said that they would personally work with each individual homeowner to find the best route to the home. He said that they might not be able to offer their services if they can’t find an agreeable path to the home. They also said that they will remove all of the equipment in the event that they have to abandon the valley for some reason. There were some questions from the audience but no opposition, and one resident even said that Emery Telcom services are valuable and needed in Castle Valley and supports Emery and the town council. Later in the meeting, the town council approved the ordinance with the few changes and clarifications that were mentioned in the public hearing.

During the open comment period of the regular town council meeting, former mayor Bruce Keeler spoke about the Utah Public Service Commission that is considering rates for excess solar generation. This proceeding will determine the compensation that Utah residential solar customers receive for electricity generated by solar panels that the household does not use that is then exported to Rocky Mountain Power’s grid and ultimately sold to other customers.

Keeler said that everyone with net metering received a letter from RMP informing them that a study of solar customers in Utah is sought by Vote Solar. According to the letter from RMP, Vote Solar, a non-profit organization advocating for solar power, has intervened in the proceeding and seeks data concerning RMP’s solar customers.

“Specifically,” the letter states, “Vote Solar seeks information from RMP and solar installers about the specific equipment, location, and energy usage of RMP’s solar customers. Vote Solar plans to use this information in a study it will present in the proceeding.” The letter furnishes the website, where customers with solar systems can opt-in and allow RMP to furnish the information.

Keeler’s advice was to “do it.” He said RMP doesn’t want your information going into the study and they make it sound like RMP can’t control how the information is used. The study seeks to find out if a more equitable compensation on the household solar generation is in order.

In other business during the meeting the council also backed Mayor Duncan’s recommendation to appoint Lee Stoddard for the position on the Planning and Land Use Commission. Council member Harry Holland was also appointed as deputy treasurer. The council passed a resolution to support Utah House Bill 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act.

The council agreed that there is a lot to think about and discuss, but by passing the resolution they will “have a seat at the table and have a say on how it is run and charged.” The council has the right to opt-out at specific times during the process. The council also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Castle Valley Fire District for the town to use the well on Lot 13, which is owned by the fire district. The town will pay the fire district $7 per thousand gallons.