County Weighs Renewed IPP Impacts
Impact Mitigation Committee meets to discuss way forward for mitigation efforts
Taxes on hotel rooms and school buses. New sheriff’s deputies and a fire truck.
All are some of the items in the county’s formulation of impacts for which it could seek compensation from Intermountain Power’s growing construction project outside Delta.
Last week, members of the county’s new Impact Mitigation Committee met for the second time to review some of the potential impacts on local government services from the growing number of construction workers residing in the county, even though it is only temporarily.
The committee grew out of negotiations over Intermountain Power’s updated conditional use license, which allows the county to recoup certain costs – both planned and unplanned – of Intermountain Power’s construction of its new natural gas and green hydrogen.
Commissioner Bill Wright led last Tuesday’s meeting, guiding various entities — the sheriff’s department, tourism, school district, local fire departments and others — to come up with areas of concern worth raising. the attention of Intermountain.
Perhaps Sheriff Richard Jacobson illustrated the county’s needs better than anyone.
Plagued by a labor shortage and the prospect of increased calls for service as hundreds more construction workers and many of their families move into the county, IPP hopes to house approximately the half of its construction workforce, about 600 workers, in on-place RV parks.
The sheriff said he meets regularly with IPP officials and construction officials to discuss safety issues, contingencies, etc. So far, he said his deputies’ interactions with workers have mostly been through traffic stops, although an incident of criminal behavior has recently been encountered.
“We have good experiences there. MPs have good conversations with some of the workers, some of the tenants (at IPP’s RV park). I hope all of us in the county and the communities can look forward to building friendships from all of this,” he said.
But Jacobson said the fact was his department was simply understaffed and in an intense battle to recruit new officers, competing with law enforcement agencies large and small across the state.
Even with recent salary increases and bonuses approved by county commissioners during last year’s budget process, he fears his department may need more resources to fill out its roster.
“It’s too early to call the ball. Are we going to need more than that? asked the sheriff.
Jon Finlinson, president and chief operating officer of IPP, asked the sheriff directly if he planned to ask Intermountain for additional help because of the labor issues.
“We’re ready to pass the collection plate to LA, Jon,” Jacobson said, referring to LA because that city’s water and power department is LA’s largest electricity customer. ‘PPI.
“It is planned and expected, the project plans to take care of these impacts and obligations,” Finlinson replied.
But it’s not just the sheriff’s office that is likely to see its resources drained due to the construction project.
For example, the school district may soon need to create a new bus route to the plant to pick up school children living there, but the district has struggled this year to find drivers and doesn’t really have the additional buses for a new route. .
Millard School District Business Administrator Corey Holyoak and District Transportation Supervisor Zach Bryan explained the district’s needs if loads of school children suddenly need to get to school. The construction workforce is expected to peak at 1,300 starting this summer and stretch for several months before declining.
Holyoak said the state will cover about 85% of the costs of a new bus line once a minimum of 10 children need to be transported to area campuses — three children already live there. IPP and others are planned.
Holyoak said the district, instead of creating a bus route for fewer than 10 children, generally reimburses parents for their transportation costs. This financial impact was not originally anticipated, as IPP originally did not expect workers to show up with their school-aged children.
Bryan said the other issue would be providing a bus and a driver if more than 10 school children end up at the IPP during the project.
He said the district has three additional buses, which are regularly used as substitutes for buses that break down or require maintenance. A new bus route to IPP would reduce that to two extras, he said.
“A bus is the problem, yes. We could use extra buses,” Bryan said, proposing that he would probably have to take the driver’s seat if the district couldn’t find an extra driver if needed.
The needs of the district increase according to the population of workers bringing their children. The impact is easy to define and ask for help paying once the kids are there.
But not all impacts can be so easily detected. Some just need to be mitigated, whether they happen or not.
Fire suppression is one such impact.
Delta Deputy Fire Chief Travis Stanworth reminded the committee that the city’s primary engine is the one IPP purchased for the city about 40 years ago. He said it was still in good condition, but the department was concerned about the unexpected—does it have adequate resources in the event of a real emergency at the plant during construction?
It’s a hard-to-quantify impact on a form that commissioners must approve or disapprove of, but it’s significant nonetheless from a community safety perspective, officials agreed.
Wright said he thinks some of the things each department needs can be done outside of the county’s overall responsibilities, which he described as bringing specific impacts to the IPP for help.
At one point, Wright said he didn’t think the committee needed to meet more than a few times this year, hoping he could use regular reports from departments to map out impacts and ask for help to them.
“What this committee is going to do is explore all of these things. We will make recommendations to the commission and the commission has to approve,” he said, later adding of the prospect of a monthly meeting that he “didn’t want to beat this thing to death.”
However, it was clear that some managers – in order to actually mitigate impacts before they happen – thought it best to deal with issues more frequently.
Wright seemed to realize later that it was indeed helpful to address some concerns sooner to mitigate the possibility of unintended impacts.
Adam Richins, the county planner, agreed to design a standard form for county departments and other entities, such as the school district, to begin documenting their needs and providing them to commissioners.
One clear impact that won’t be difficult to document is the number of workers staying at hotels and motels and RV parks outside of the IPP and the potential effect on county transient resort tax revenue. .
The county collects a 4.25% tax on stays at hotels, RV parks and Airbnb. But only collects this tax once per 30-day period. Technically, if construction workers stay longer than a month, which many will, then this tax is not collected in subsequent 30-day periods. IPP agreed to recoup that lost revenue — the county earned about $272,000 in room tax revenue in 2022.
Kevin Morris, the county’s director of tourism is responsible for monitoring these impacts on behalf of the county. He said it was quite simple, since hoteliers agreed to move workers monthly even when staying long-term at their properties. He said RV parks have programmed the tax into their monthly billings and the state tax commission tracks revenue closely, providing monthly and quarterly data to the auditor’s and county treasurer’s offices.
“They know who’s long-term, whether they’re here for construction or not…it’ll be an easy report for us to process,” Morris told the committee. “We are doing our best to try to collect this data to have what impact this has on Millard County.”