Historic election next week in Bluff, county

Bluff residents will head to the polls on Tuesday, June 26 to elect their first city council since voting to incorporate last year.

By Zak Podmore, San Juan Record, June 19, 2018

Bluff Sign1In San Juan County and across the State of Utah, voters will vote in a primary election that will help pare the list of candidates for the November general election.

The 2018 elections will feature races for all three Commission seats and all five school board seats after a federal judge recently redrew election district boundaries.

The San Juan County Clerk’s office has received nearly 800 election registrations, with the vast majority being duplicate registrations. They report that the new registrations are helpful to ensure that mailing addresses are correct.

The clerk’s office encourages any citizen who hasn’t received a ballot to contact the office immediately.

Six candidates are running for four council seats, and will serve either 1.5-year or 3.5-year terms.

Yard signs have sprouted up across town in support of the two mayoral hopefuls, Marcia Hadenfeldt and write-in candidate Ann Leppanen.

The election is the result of more than two years of work by a group of citizens who formed an incorporation committee in 2016. After collecting signatures from 20 percent of registered voters and from property owners representing 20 percent of the assessed property value in the proposed town boundaries, the committee submitted a petition to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office in 2017 to begin the incorporation process.

The Lt. Governor commissioned Bob Springmeyer of Bonneville Research, a Salt Lake City-based firm, to conduct a feasibility study. At a public meeting in August 2017, Springmeyer concluded that incorporation was feasible, meaning there will likely be “sufficient [tax] revenues if a town is formed to maintain current levels of service.”

On November 7, 2017, 80 percent of registered voters in Bluff turned out to approve incorporation by a 49-point margin, with 122 ballots cast.

Although Bluff is the county’s oldest settlement, the site of a large Ancestral Puebloan village nearly 1,000 years ago, and founded as Bluff City by the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers in 1880, it has remained an unincorporated service area except for a brief period in the 1970s.

In 1976, the San Juan County Commission approved the town’s incorporation after receiving petition signatures from 130 residents. A mayor and city council were elected, but in 1978 residents filed a disincorporation petition, alleging legal problems with the original incorporation process. Later that year, a district judge ordered the issue be put to vote and residents voted 67 to 44 to disincorporate.

Current incorporation supporters are confident that this time the effort will be more successful. Linda Sosa, former co-chair of the incorporation committee and current council candidate, said at a public meeting last year, “We set this up to be grassroots and inclusive. Fifty people joined committees in June 2016. The community involvement we’ve had has made this possible.”

More volunteer committees were organized in January to begin researching issues the council will face after candidates are elected, such as writing planning and zoning codes, managing roads, and providing services. The volunteers have met regularly for the last six months and will present their reports when the mayor and council take office in July.

Bluff’s approved city limits encompass 38.5 square miles and stretch from Recapture Wash to Comb Ridge and from the San Juan River to the Bluff Bench. Bluff is set to become the county’s largest municipality by footprint, and with only 265 residents, its smallest by population.

The city council will have six months to prepare before officially taking over management of the area at the beginning of 2019.

The incorporation effort has seen its share of criticism. In an October 2017 article in the San Juan Record, San Juan County Administrator Kelly Pehrson questioned whether the town would be able to afford the cost of providing services like road maintenance and law enforcement to such a large area. And Editor, Bill Boyle, spoke with anonymous Bluff residents who shared Pehrson’s skepticism.

Bonneville Research later disputed Pehrson’s conclusions, however, and stood behind its feasibility study. Springmeyer noted that Transient Room Tax (TRT) was not included in the report and that some tax information was confidential. The Bluff Service Area generates more TRT revenue than either Blanding or Monticello.

At a series of three recent public forums for Bluff City Council contenders, candidates largely agreed with each other on issues such as seeking an International Dark-Sky Association certification and cooperating with the county to provide city services.

Both mayoral hopefuls agree that Bluff Water Works, long a point of contention in town, should eventually be transitioned to city control. Leppanen said she would take steps to dissolve the water works immediately, while Hadenfeldt advocated for a more gradual transition.

Half the candidates are local business owners, including Hadenfeldt (Far Out Expeditions), Jennifer Davila (La Posada Pintada Inn), Luanne Hook (Recapture Lodge), and Amer Tumeh (Desert Rose).

The other four contenders – Leppanen, Jim Sayers, Brant Murray, and Linda Sosa – have experience working in local politics in Bluff and elsewhere. (Candidate profiles are on page 4 and 5.)

Leppanen, Murray, Sosa, and Hook were all members of the original incorporation committee.

Around 160 ballots were mailed in the Bluff election, but multiple Bluff residents did not receive their ballots earlier this month due to outdated mailing addresses.

Candidates encourage any registered voters who have yet to receive a ballot to contact San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson as soon as possible.

Voters can also register in-person on election day, June 26, at polling stations in Montezuma Creek, Monticello, Monument Valley, and Navajo Mountain.

Candidates for Bluff Mayor
Ann Leppanen
Marcia Hadenfeldt

Candidates for Bluff Town Council
Jennifer Davila
Luanne Hook
Brant Murray
Jim Sayers
Linda Sosa

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.sjrnews.com/view/full_story/27578255/article-Historic-election-next-week-in-Bluff--county?instance=home_news_1st_right


The Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will open in 2021, Wasatch Educational announced Tuesday

By Braley Dodson, Provo Daily Herald, 11/21/17

noorda“The presence of a medical school here in Utah, another one, will impact the entire western United States and it will be another solution to the shortage of physicians that has already been identified,” said Richard Nielsen, the vice president of Wasatch Educational.

An architect hasn’t yet been hired for the project but Wasatch Educational has already begun the search for the school’s founding dean.

The school is named after the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, which has put $50 million toward the project.

One in five medical students in the United States are training to be osteopathic physicians, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Physicians trained in the field address patients with a whole-body approach.

The school will be under Wasatch Educational and will be affiliated with the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo. The school will enroll 150 students a year for its first four years and then will have 175 students a year afterward. It’s anticipated the school will graduate more than 8,750 students in its first 50 years of operation.

Nielsen said the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will be transformational and innovating, using the latest technology and teaching students preventative care.

“We anticipate this will be a world-class medical school,” he said.

A few sites in Utah County have been considered for the school, with the preferred location located on 24 acres of the northwestern part of the East Bay Golf Course, pending approval from the Provo Municipal Council. The school is also looking to use the southwestern wedge of the course at least 15 years from now. The proposal includes relocating the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions next to the medical school in 2024.

The building’s plan includes having green space in and around the campus. Nielsen, who visited medical schools in seven states, said Wasatch Educational is leaning towards a traditional-style building.

“We want it to blend in with the existing architecture of Provo,” he said.

If the Provo proposal is approved, a groundbreaking will take place in the March of 2019 and the project will be completed in January of 2021, at which point the school will begin receiving student applications.

The Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will generate more than $62 million in construction business, provide more than 200 construction jobs and will bring more than 121 medical school jobs to Utah County, according to an independent economic impact study from Bonneville Research cited in a press release about the announcement.

The process of bringing a medical school to Utah County started seven years ago with a feasibility study and started to become a reality about three years ago.

The school will receive provisional accreditation through the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.

The creation of the school is in response to a shortage of medical professionals both in Utah and across the nation. The state needs 375 new physicians each year to meet the state’s need, according to the Utah Medical Association Council.

Nielsen said the idea is that it’s easier to educate students locally as opposed to recruiting them after they graduate from medical schools elsewhere.

The majority of osteopathic school graduates end up practicing in primary care.

A partnership between the school and a hospital could come after a dean is appointed.

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/education/college/details-announced-for-provo-medical-school/article_f99a2c1c-6760-5196-b293-3311edae4900.html

Utah’s third medical school secures $50 million in backing and could be enrolling 150 students by 2021, supporters say

By Luke Ramseth, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/21/17

(Courtesy of Wasatch Educational) The company behind a proposal to build a medical school in Provo, Wasatch Educational, says the look and feel of the facility would be similar to this Auburn, Ala. campus of The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Utah’s third medical school will be named the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine and the for-profit Provo campus plans to admit its first class of 150 students in August 2021, officials said Monday.

The company behind the project, Wasatch Educational, said it had secured $50 million from the Utah-based Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation. Ray Noorda was the CEO of Novell, a former software company based in Provo; the foundation has funded several Utah medical institutions.

Including construction, total start-up costs for the college are expected to reach $150 million, Wasatch Educational Vice President Richard Nielsen said in a Monday interview. He declined to reveal the names of other investors.

 A formal announcement of the college was planned Tuesday morning in Provo ahead of a presentation at the Provo City Council’s work session. The council has yet to approve the company’s preferred location — a site which would displace several holes of the city-owned East Bay Golf Course.

 The location has drawn strong opposition from golfers, including Provo City Councilman Kay Van Buren, who organized a rally against the project last month. A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

The college would be the third medical school in the state, alongside the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the recently-opened Rocky Vista University in Ivins, also a for-profit osteopathic school. Osteopathic medicine aims to put a greater emphasis on holistic care and promoting the body’s own ability to heal.

Nielsen said the new school would enroll 150 students per year for five years, then 175 students after that — a tally slightly higher than yearly enrollment at the U. and Rocky Vista. Wasatch Educational also is the holding company for the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, a small private medical training facility in Provo.

The company conducted its first feasibility study for a full medical school in 2010, Nielsen said. Initial project planning began in 2013. Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions would eventually move its operations onto the same campus, he said, though it would be managed independently.

Nielsen said demand for another medical school in the state was clear.

“We’re on a downward spiral in the state of Utah right now,” he said. “There is a huge shortage of physicians.” After successfully operating Rocky Mountain University for almost 20 years, the Wasatch Educational executive said, founding a medical school “is the next step in our progression and our growth.”

Indeed, Utah is in dire need of more doctors — requiring 379 new hires annually to keep pace with population grown and retirements, according to a 2016 report by the Utah Medical Education Council. The state relies on physicians trained out of state for 60 percent of its annual workforce needs, the report added.

Utah had 207.5 physicians per 100,000 residents in 2015 — the 43rd-worst ratio in the nation, according to 2015 American Association of Medical Colleges data.

“The state’s two new medical schools stand to possibly impact the state’s workforce in a variety of ways,” the Medical Education Council report said. “These students may be prime candidates for recruitment into the state’s medical workforce in the most needed areas if they can be tracked through residency and into the job market.”

The tentative plans call for building the school over 24 acres covering holes 10, 11 and 12, on the northwest corner of the golf course. Wasatch Educational has its eyes on several other Utah County properties if the golf course site doesn’t work out, Nielsen said.

Wasatch Educational says the project would provide $62 million in construction business and employ 236 workers in the construction phase, citing an economic impact study by Salt Lake City-based Bonneville Research. Once built, the medical school would employ 121.

The proposal for East Bay would see the three holes reconfigured and built elsewhere, with Wasatch Educational footing the bill.

But later expansions of the campus, in at least 15 years, could require moving at least another three holes on the course. Councilman Van Buren said Monday he worries that as the campus keeps growing, it will eventually “kill East Bay.”

“I’m very much against it and leading a group to help keep it from happening,” Van Buren said. “The golfers are really concerned. We’ve got a real asset here ... to sell it off and try and build [the medical school] on that property makes no sense to me and a lot of other people.”

Nielsen said the public hasn’t received the full picture yet about the proposal.

“I would hope once the public understands the details, they’ll see this is a win-win for the medical school and Wasatch, but also the public and golfing community,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors.”

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.sltrib.com/news/health/2017/11/21/utahs-third-medical-school-secures-50-million-in-backing-and-could-be-enrolling-150-students-by-2021-supporters-say/


137-year-old Bluff will become Utah’s newest town

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com  |  Nov 10th, 2017

twin rocks trading postBLUFF, San Juan County — The small community of Bluff in southeast Utah soon will become the state’s newest town after residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of incorporation this week.

Bluff, located in southern San Juan County near Bears Ears National Monument, has about 250 residents.

In Tuesday’s election, 90 people voted in favor of incorporation and 32 voted against, according to San Juan County Clerk John David Nielson.

Brant Murray, co-chair of the Bluff Incorporation Committee, said Bluff’s citizens are planning for the future.

“I think the people of Bluff are excited about this opportunity for self-governance,” Murray said.

Currently, Bluff is known as a “service area” that is governed by a board of trustees with limited responsibilities, Murray said.

Once it’s officially incorporated, Bluff will become the 247th municipality in Utah, according to the Utah League of Cities and Towns. It was first settled in 1880, and previously was incorporated from 1976-1978, according to the San Juan Record.

A town council election will take place in June. After the council is seated, local leaders will file for incorporation, Murray said. In the meantime, a general town plan will be created.

Having a town council will give Bluff residents more local control over services such trash collection and water, which currently are administered by San Juan County, Murray said.

It will be easier for Bluff to apply for grants as an officially incorporated town, Murray said.

Some of the area’s residents opposed incorporation, wondering if Bluff could support itself financially on its own.

Others were concerned about the town’s new boundaries, according to the San Juan Record. The new town of Bluff will cover an area of about 38 square miles, including the town center and several nearby canyons.

Murray said a financial feasibility study done by Salt Lake City-based Bonneville Research concluded that an incorporated Bluff could provide the same level of services to its residents without a raise in property taxes.

People in Bluff see that the area is changing, especially with the rise in publicity in tourism due to Bears Ears National Monument, Murray said.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Utah in December, and he might announce boundary reductions for Bears Ears, as well as Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The monument has made national headlines multiple times over the past year, and it’s drawing tourists to San Juan County who patronize hotels and restaurants in Bluff, Murray said.

“We see change is inevitable here with all the publicity with the Bears Ears coming or going,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent on the town of Bluff to try to get ready for the future and we can do that independently of the status of the monument. I think it’s going to be good.”

Once it’s established, the town council will work to gather input from residents on what they want Bluff to look like over the next 25 to 30 years, Murray said. They’ll start slow, moving the town forward at a pace the residents can afford, he said.

“We’ve got a really good group of folks that can make this thing happen in a way that’s going to keep Bluff, Bluff,” Murray said. “That’s our motto: Keep Bluff, Bluff.”

FULL ARTICLE: https://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=46196424

Bluff residents overwhelmingly support becoming Utah’s newest town

Incorporation backers prevail by 3-to-1 margin, calling it essential to guiding the historic town’s future as tourism grows in the wake of Bears Ears National Monument designation.

By Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune, November 8, 2011

BluffsWords carved into the sandstone signs welcoming those driving into Bluff indicate the Utah town was “established” in the year 650, a not-so-subtle nod to the Native Americans who built a civilization in the region’s canyons and mesas 12 centuries before Mormon pioneers settled and named Bluff.

Now, Bluff will be Utah’s newest town. By nearly a 3-to-1 margin, residents voted Tuesday in favor of incorporating their community at the doorstep of the new Bears Ears National Monument.

The incorporation drive got off the ground last year at the same time American Indian tribes built momentum for their successful campaign to convince then-President Barack Obama to designate the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears monument against the wishes of San Juan County leaders.

Incorporation leaders characterized municipal government as the best way to guide the town’s destiny in the face of tourism pressures, while critics were concerned about the costs of running a town and providing essential services currently provided by the county. The preliminary vote tally—89 for, 32 against—indicates residents are willing to shoulder additional costs if necessary.

Many see change coming, driven by growing interest in the region’s rich archaeology and stunning undeveloped landscapes that are expected to draw increasing numbers of visitors, according to Brant Murray, chairman of the committee that campaigned in favor of incorporation.

“We need to get in front of this dynamic of change,” said Murray, whose accent gives away his North Carolina roots. “It is such a special place, we want to maintain this desert charm that we have.” The retired auto parts store operator moved Bluff three years ago after visiting the region for the previous 30 years to explore its mysteries on foot.

Last year’s controversial monument designation guarantees Bluff will remain a magnet for tourists regardless of whether President Donald Trump redraws or rescinds the monument. Bluff has less than one-tenth the population as its neighbor Blanding, but visitors tend to find Bluff a more inviting place to stay, dine and shop than Blanding, whose residents re-affirmed a 50-year ban on alcohol sales on Tuesday.

President Trump is expected to travel to San Juan County next month to announce what will likely be a severe reduction to the Bears Ears monument, a move that would immediately be tied up in the courts.

With the addition of Bluff, Utah has 247 cities and towns. Incorporation won’t be official until voters seat a mayor and four town council members. A town treasurer and clerk will also be hired.

While Bluff has only 265 residents, the new town limits cover 38 square miles stretching along the north side of the San Juan River for several miles on either side of the town settled in 1880 by the famous Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition. That is vastly more territory than is covered by Blanding and Monticello.

Bluff was the subject of a student planning project, titled Listening to Bluff, led by University of Utah professor Stephen Goldsmith last year. Murray said he expects town leaders to glean insights from that project to help chart the town’s future.

FULL ARTICLE: http://www.sltrib.com/news/2017/11/08/bluff-residents-overwhelmingly-support-becoming-utahs-newest-town

UPDATE 11/07/2017: Bluff Utah votes 89 to 32 in favor of Incorporation. Bonneville Research did the Feasibility Study.


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