Navajo Commission discusses proposed shopping center

The Navajo Utah Commission received a report on a proposed shopping center, ongoing building projects, and an update on educational opportunities in the Utah portion of the Navajo reservation at their June meeting.

At the meeting, members of the commission heard from Nick Taylor who acts as the CEO of Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Inc.

The Navajo Nation Shopping Centers became incorporated in 2003. Their website explains as a result the company is completely self-operational without any Tribal department influence, although the organization operates as a Tribal Enterprise of the Navajo Nation.

The corporation manages ten centers on the Navajo Nation such as the centers in Kayenta and Shiprock. Taylor explained to the commission that their primary function is to take care of building and land and work with tenants, meaning businesses in their shopping centers.

Taylor further explained they do not oversee operations of those businesses, like the Bashas’ Dine Markets located in several shopping centers but they work with those businesses to provide spaces to lease.

With the promise of Federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, Taylor told the commission they are looking into possibly determining a new site in Utah for commercial development.

At the meeting members of the commission offered suggestions for potential locations including Red Mesa, Mexican Water, Oljato-Monument Valley, Montezuma Creek and Aneth. 

No definite decision was made at the meeting, but Taylor did say before they conduct a feasibility study they’ll start with a preliminary overview, looking at census data, demographic data, and traffic volumes. Once they’ve identified the appropriate chapter the company will work with the chapter to identify some commercially zoned land ahead of a feasibility study.

Taylor added that the shopping centers try to work with Navajo business owners to lease the locations.

The commission also received a report on capital projects linked to the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and the Navajo Revitalization Fund. The report came from Tony Dayish, Administrator of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. 

Dayish relayed that there were six projects underway, including the Navajo Mountain Chapter building renovation, the Oljato Chapter replacement, the Red Mesa Chapter administration building, the Aneth warehouse project, the Montezuma Creek community center project, and the Westwater powerline project.

About $1.9 million has been set aside for the Navajo Mountain Chapter building renovation. So far, about $150,000 has been spent for architectural work, with drawings at about 80 percent. 

The Oljato Chapter house project has $2.3 million set aside with no expenditures yet. The size, location, and need for a possible land exchange are still being worked out.

A reported $2.2 million has been set aside for the Red Mesa administrative building, with about $250,000 spent so far for architectural work.

The Aneth warehouse project is well underway with cement poured and plumbing, sewer and telecommunication lines all installed for the project, which has set aside $1.1 million.

The Montezuma Creek recreation center involves the formerly county-owned swimming pool building, which will be transformed into a community wellness center. So far, just $165,000 has been set aside for the project. No official cost estimate has been developed, but it is anticipated the project will cost somewhere in the $2 million range.

The Westwater power project was also discussed. Of the $1.2 million collected for the project, $200,000 came from the Navajo Trust Fund, with $500,000 coming from the Utah State Legislature, and an additional $500,000 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. An additional $840,000 has been pledged from Indian Health Services and $35,000 from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

The Commission also approved a resolution asking the Navajo Nation to appropriate some of their incoming American Rescue Plan Act tribal allocation towards the Westwater utility infrastructure projects.

Navajo Utah Commission Executive Director Clarence Rockwell shared that the Navajo Revitalization Fund has pledged to set aside $90,000 for the Montezuma Creek Post Office building project.

The commission also received reports on the proposed new Utah State University building in Monument Valley, as well as an expansion of Facilitators of Innovative Education, Leadership and Sustainability (FIELDS) programs in Montezuma Creek. Both projects received approval from the commission.

The commission also received a report on Utah American Rescue Plan Act appropriations and priorities from Dustin Jansen, who is the Division Director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

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