DUTCH JOHN, Daggett County — The local guides here will tell you that the fishing is some of the best in the world.
The same can't be said for the economic opportunities. The financial future for this town with 175 year-round residents is relatively bleak as well.
In January 2013, the federal government will make its final stipend payment to Daggett County for the upkeep of Dutch John. The stipend began in 1998 when the town — built in the '50s to house workers constructing nearby Flaming Gorge Dam — was privatized.
Over the years, the amount coming into the county coffers has risen to about $380,000. Losing that much money would be a major blow for a county with a limited tax base.
"Ninety percent of the land in the county is public land," said Daggett County economic development director Brian Raymond.
Much of the remaining 10 percent is in Greenbelt, which further reduces the property tax revenues the county could raise, Raymond said.
"We have no economy of scale, so to speak, so it's really tough," he said. "We have businesses that are competing on the same few things and it's really hard."
The economic boom that was expected to materialize following the privatization of Dutch John never occurred for one reason or another, Raymond added. The money paid to the county by the federal government was initially placed in a fund to help pay for maintenance and repair of the community's infrastructure, but was eventually needed to provide county services in other areas as well.
Raymond and other Daggett County officials met earlier this month to discuss some new ideas for economic development in Dutch John. They talked about the need for worker housing and the possibility of attracting someone to build condominiums or a destination resort on some of the 2,400 acres the county has available for development.
They also discussed the prospect of an airpark similar to the Grassy Meadows Sky Ranch Airpark in Hurricane. The airpark would be built around the recently resurfaced tarmac at the Dutch John Airport and allow its residents to park their private planes next to their homes.
The discussions could best be described as brainstorming by the county commissioners and the two dozen residents who attended. No concrete plans were made for the future.
Dutch John resident Dave McDonald was among those in attendance. He has been a vocal critic of some of the commissioner's recent plans for improving the local economy. They've refused to listen to residents' concerns and have been too willing to give land away to prospective developers, he said. McDonald, however, said he was encouraged by what he saw at the meeting.
"The tone of today's meeting is very different," said the retired developer who has lived full-time in Dutch John for the past two years.
"Maybe they're coming around a bit to a bottom up approach to government, as opposed to a top down (approach)," McDonald added.
He said he's not opposed to new economic opportunities, he just wants them to come about in a way that places the financial burden on developers and not on area residents.
"I think we should be developing Dutch John," McDonald added. "It's a beautiful place in the world and it's got great assets that people should be interested in."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: GeoffLiesik
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