Navajo Commission talks Navajo Mountain chapter house, road maintainence
by David Boyle
Members of the Navajo Utah Commission passed a resolution asking for matching funds for the Navajo Mountain Chapter Building Renovation project and also discussed road needs on the Navajo Utah strip at their latest meeting.
At the August 22 meeting of the Navajo Utah Commission, commissioners passed a resolution requesting the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement to appropriate $350,000 in matching funds for the Navajo Mountain Chapter Building Renovation project.
The resolution passed unanimously, Naatsis’áán (Navajo Mountain) Chapter President Patricia Blackhorn expressed gratitude to the commission for the vote.
The Naatsis’áán chapter house was built in the 1950’s and serves around 700 residents in the area. The project began in 2015 with the chapter accumulating over $1 million in funding for roof repairs, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and kitchen updates.
After receiving preliminary work from Jones & DeMille Engineering, the Chapter is now in need of acquiring more funds to complete the project, otherwise, building work will need to be scaled back.
The Navajo Utah Commission resolution asks the state to approve $350,000 in matching funds to the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement.
At the meeting, the commission also passed a resolution requesting the Utah Navajo Revitalization Fund Board of directors to approve and authorize a two-year grant extension for four grants allocated from non-chapter NRF appropriations.
The commission will consider approval of another resolution, regarding road maintenance on Navajo Utah at a special meeting of the commission scheduled for September 2.
The resolution could resemble a proposal by the Aneth chapter to have roads managed by the Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) to be handed by San Juan County.
Navajo Utah Commission Executive Director Clarence Rockwell explained the issue has been ongoing with the commission holding discussions and passing resolutions on the issue in April and June of this year.
In 2018, the San Juan County Road Department was notified by NDOT that it did not have a right of way to maintain the roads it historically maintained on the reservation.
For two years local residents complained that road maintenance has failed to meet previous standards.
In 2020 the county and NDOT reached an agreement to have the county maintain some roads that school buses travel with NDOT reimbursing the county for that work, but the work or lack therof being done on other roads is still an issue of concern for residents.
The April resolution of the Navajo Utah Commission supported negotiations between the county and NDOT.
Under the direction of the Navajo Nation Resources & Development Committee, NDOT was instructed to find about $1.5 million to maintain the roads.
NDOT was unable to locate the funds in its budget for the fiscal year 2022.
Rockwell explained that NDOT is seeking funds for the FY23 budget. But the funding decision hasn’t been made as the budget process is ongoing.
Some Navajo Utah leaders are advocating for NDOT to return the roads to San Juan County to maintain.
Aneth Chapter Vice President Emerson Phillips said it’s been difficult to get NDOT to respond to road issues in the chapter.
‘There are a lot of things out there that they are neglecting. These roads are some of it, last year we had some of those major storms. We the chapter had to send our equipment out there.”
Other members of the commission expressed similar sentiments at the meeting.