Sen. Dixie L. Leavitt, R-Cedar City, has introduced a bill to set up a $5 million revolving loan fund to pay claims such as those sparked by the Quail Creek disaster.
SB207, the Disaster Relief Loans Bill, would enable state relief coordinators to make loans to political subdivisions, such as the Washington County Water Conservancy District, owner of the Quail Creek Reservoir. The subdivision would then use the money to pay off valid claims on damage to private property.Payment can be made if it would result in settlement, compromise or otherwise dispose of potential or pending litigation, the bill says.
Leavitt said the Legislature has funded flood disaster relief at least twice this decade, appropriating money after major floods.
When the Quail Creek flood ripped through downstream parts of Washington County - plus parts of Nevada and Arizona - state officials looked at those earlier appropriations to see if any money was left over that could be used to pay the 1989 claims.
"We found that there was over $2 million that was not yet spent," he said. However, all of this money is committed to pay for pending claims, once they're settled.
So Leavitt drafted the new bill, which would appropriate $5 million to the Disaster Relief Board. He said he believes the bill will pass.
A federal-state assessment team estimated damage from the flood at around $12 million. That includes more than $1 million damage to private residences, $590,000 to businesses, $5.8 million to state and local government property including loss of the dike itself, $2.4 million to federal highways, and $2.1 million to agriculture.
Each of the three states where damage occurred could have two different court jurisdictions involved in suits, he said. "And so if this thing were allowed to continue to go on, you could be dealing with six jurisdictions."
Leavitt said the longer any cases are hung up in litigation, the bigger the attorney fees. Also, the longer it takes to settle with farmers and get their land back into production, the more they can claim.
Under his bill, the political subdivision officials would meet with each claimant and determine whether the claim is valid. If so, it would then go to the board for the loan.
The political subdivision would repay the board by raising its mill levy to the maximum, and, if possible, by collecting money through suits of its own.
"I'm in hopes that on Thursday I can make an arrangement for both caucuses, House and Senate, to hear the conservancy district" on the subject of the bill, Leavitt said.