Commission changes meeting policy

The San Juan County Commission is instigating a new policy in an attempt to more effectively “transact the business of the county,” according to Commission Chairman Bruce Adams.
“Our meetings are open to the public, but they are not public hearings,” said Adams at the September 24 commission meeting.
Members of the public will not be allowed to speak, unless they are invited or during public comment periods. Public comment is limited to those who fill out a form and will be limited to three to five minutes.
A member of the public can reserve a spot on the commission agenda if they contact the county clerk by noon on Friday.
“Commission meetings are not a forum for political grandstanding,” said Adams, “and not a forum for lengthy expressions of personal opinion.”
Recent commission meetings have been marked by sometimes lengthy and wide-ranging comments by members of the audience. It has clearly been a source of frustration for Commissioners and other audience members alike.
The first order of business on the agenda was by Blanding resident Marilyn Boynton, who asked that the commission record budget work sessions and put official commission communications on the agenda.
Adams responded tersely, “We will refer the matter to our attorney and will abide by the law” before moving on to the next item on the agenda.
County Assessor Howard Randall asked the commission to address three property issues in the Board of Equalization (BOE). Commissioners approved lowering the value of a mobile home that caught fire early in the year and zeroing out taxes and abating previous taxes for a property that does not exist on the ground.
Commissioners rejected a request by Design Build Bluff to abate taxes on a property, primarily because the application window had passed. Commissioners suggested that they could be exempt from property tax in future years.
While in the BOE, Commissioners also adjusted the valuation of the car wash in Blanding owned by Shelby Seely.
The valuation listed nearly $200,000 in equipment at the car wash. Seely argues that the equipment does not exist.
Commissioner Phil Lyman expressed frustration at the process, stating that he thought it had been resolved in the past, but it keeps coming back.
Lyman mentioned that questions about the valuation had triggered an audit by the IRS. Seely is a client of Lyman’s private accounting firm.
“We need to get specific because this issue hinges on a specific piece of equipment that does not exist,” said Lyman.
Commissioners agreed to lower the valuation and refund taxes and penalties that had been paid on the property.
In other matters, Kim Palmer and Lisa Rarick were appointed to the Blanding Cemetery District.
Shane Shumway was appointed to a board that will make a recommendation for a new justice court judge in Blanding. Jim Harris will retire as judge in December.
County Clerk Norman Johnson outlined the process to prepare property tax notifications. After the BOE process, the tax rolls will be prepared, abatements will be applied, and notices sent to property owners by mid-October. Property taxes are due by December 1.
Johnson added that general election ballots have been mailed to overseas residents and military personnel.
Commissioners determined that the Utah Navajo Fair Board is responsible for expenditures related to the annual fair. Some fair board members are concerned about banking accounts held by the fair, which receives $50,000 from the county to help operate the Bluff-based event.
Commissioners suggested that the fair board is responsible for expenditures and added that if people have concerns, they should be referred to local law enforcement agencies. County Administrator Rick Bailey suggested that if the use of funds is questionable, the county may withhold funds for future fairs.
The fair board is set to meet on Thursday.
Commissioners approved how $912,795 in Safe Rural Schools (SRS) funding will be applied by the county. Of the total, 85 percent will be sent to the transportation service district, eight percent for US Forest Service RAC for transportation projects and the remainder for local projects such as laptop computers for fire vehicles and funds for community wildfire projects.
The county will forward $150,000 of the $223,000 due for a new Viper 911 system that is currently being installed by Frontier Communications.
The project is nearly complete, with a handful of items still on the punch list. Officials state that the new system is working well, with a few glitches.
Bailey stated that the signal for local Salt Lake City television stations will be interrupted overnight on October 13-15 for maintenance. The signals were also interrupted over the past weekend.
Commissioners submitted a letter to Senator Hatch asking to suspend US Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules in order to help local ranchers impacted by drought conditions.
The USDA can help defer the costs of shipping water to livestock in three of every ten years. Since local ranchers have used the program in 2006, 2007 and 2009, they are not eligible this year. Commissioners argue that the “3 in 10” rule was created to deal with flood conditions and not drought conditions. They ask that the rule be suspended.
Adams read a letter responding to Lyman’s letter last week regarding a November, 2011 commission letter of support to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Lyman had rescinded his support of the 2011 letter, stating that he wasn’t aware the letter addressed the sale of private land owned by Adams.
Adams said that Lyman was fully aware of the sale of Gunnison sage grouse habitat to the Nature Conservancy. He added that there was “no attempt on my part to misrepresent any aspect of the project”.
He added that the effort to take steps to avoid a federal designation is consistent with local efforts for the past 15 years and said he is hopeful that Lyman will reinstate his support for the project.
Adams said it was “nothing more than clumsy political drama to suggest that there is a conflict of interest.”

San Juan Record

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