By Kelsey Keener
CEDAR CITY–An economic review for Iron County was held last Tuesday morning at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Breakfast was served to those in attendance, and Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff, Representative John Westwood and Senator Evan Vickers each addressed the audience with their economic reports.
Commissioner Brinkerhoff discussed the number of building permits issued and inspection services provided, the renovations to the courthouse, and said that Iron County is debt free in respect to the General Fund. He also mentioned that the jail is struggling with some aspects of its infrastructure and the county may be looking to relocate it. He discussed efforts regarding wild horse herds, the Old Spanish Trail and helping to protect Kanarraville Falls.
The county worked out a contract with the state to build a public safety building. The state will pay the debt service and the building will be owned by Iron County and provide revenue for the county. Additionally, the Iron County Water Conservancy District and Beaver County have agreed on a water contract.
Rep. Westwood started by saying that 533 bills passed legislation and that the legislature received an A grade. He said there was $17 million budget created to help with the homeless housing reform and suicide prevention. He added that the suicide rate in the state is increasing. He also discussed several tax reforms, including an increase to educational funding. He mentioned that improvements are being made to transportation infrastructure and the possibility of an inland port, which would bring in additional revenue. Representative Westwood also discussed funding for the Shakespeare Festival, the Summer Games, the Livestock and Heritage Festival and for low pressure sprinklers for farmers. He reported that income tax in the state has been reduced and funding for crisis hotlines has been approved. There was also an expansion to Medicaid, which will require those who are able to work.
Rep. Westwood said his goals include increasing revenue and employment and to grow and support local Utah businesses. There is an incentive program being put into place that will pay off student debt for students who graduate from universities in Utah and remain in the state afterward. This is response to the desire to keep graduates in the state. He also discussed the goal of having 25,000 new jobs by 2020 in 25 rural counties in the state, as well as upcoming necessary improvements to infrastructure due to the predicted population growth.
Sen. Vickers started by saying he started the session as the Higher Education Appropriations Chair, and ended it as the Vice Chair of Executive Appropriations. Then he reviewed a presentation provided by Economic Development Coordinator Brad Abrams, which provided a breakdown of the budget, where funds come from and how they are used. He discussed funding for social services, public education and mental health crisis hotlines.