$25 million secured to remodel county jail

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission got a report on the eclipse, sent a letter to the BLM regarding a travel management plan, and approved receipt of a grant and loan to remodel the county jail at their latest meeting.
As part of their October 17 meeting, members of the county commission approved the receipt of a grant and loan from the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) to remodel the county jail.
The county had requested $26 million from the CIB to help finance a remodel of the county jail. San Juan County was awarded a $4,689,695 grant and a $21,366,000 loan at two percent interest rate. 
The CIB awards grants and low-interest loans to cities, towns, and counties from funds directed to the CIB from mining and oil and gas extraction on federal land in the state of Utah.
County Administrator Mack McDonald presented the CIB award to the commission, adding, “We are ecstatic to get the funding in general, super ecstatic that there’s a grant portion on there and the two-percent interest rate on the CIB loan is pretty unheard of in today’s day and age with financing so we’re excited for that.”
McDonald added that the county has also been seeking funds through the state legislature but that avenue didn’t ever gain much traction.
In 2021, the county used Federal CARES funds to commission a feasibility study for a remodel and expansion of the county public safety building in Monticello.
Issues highlighted in the study included health concerns for building systems including electrical, plumbing, mechanical and control systems.
Other concerns relate to courthouse safety, lack of an isolated medical unit and other concerns.
The expanded capacity to house inmates would expand the county offering of a sex offender therapy program. The San Juan County jail is one of two in Utah that offers the program. The county also could possibly begin housing federal inmates from the Four Corners region.
The report had a projected potential revenue of $2.58 million between the federal and state programs. Additional information can be found in the October 12, 2022 issue of the San Juan Record.
At the most recent commission meeting, Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs expressed support for the expansion noting that the project will get rid of some county liability in the building and increase revenue.
Stubbs also expressed support for including a receiving center in the building. Receiving centers are often staffed by therapists, nurses and counselors to provide short-term treatment for individuals in substance use or mental health crisis.
Acting as the building authority, members of the commission unanimously approved the CIB award and authorized McDonald to begin solicitations for the county jail expansion.
Members of the San Juan County Commission also approved a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the recently completed Labyrinth Rims-Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan. 
County Public Lands Coordinator Nick Sandberg shared that contrary to news releases and environmental documents, the plan does include some roads in northern San Juan County. The management plan included some roads that end in San Juan County. The staff report counted six to be closed with two remaining open.
The letter sent to the BLM Canyon Country District office states the county was surprised to learn county roads were part of the plan.
“We don’t recall being informed that the planning effort involved San Juan County lands and we were not invited to participate in the planning effort as a Cooperating Agency. This omission of an invitation to be a Cooperating Agency (CA) is particularly troubling in light of BLM’s recent invitation to and approval of Grand County as a CA in the Bears Ears Monument (BEM) planning effort.
“San Juan County clearly has land area and roads in the subject Travel Management Plan (TMP) and was not invited to be a CA whereas Grand County has no land area in the BEM and yet was invited and approved as a CA long after planning had begun.”
In other Grand/San Juan County related news, Commissioner Bruce Adams noted that during the annular eclipse county trail stewards were in San Juan County.
“They were doing good things, they were encouraging people to take the trash out, to clean up the trails, stay on the trail, those kinds of things. But I’m concerned that we don’t have any kind of (Memorandum of Understanding) with Grand County to have those people from Grand County in San Juan County. The concern is liability.”
Commissioner Adams recommended the county write a letter asking for an MOU with Grand County if trail stewards come to work in San Juan County.
At their latest meeting, members of the county commission also heard an informal report on the annular eclipse that took place on October 14.
County Emergency Manager Tammy Gallegos shared that the county had about 90 responders located at four posts throughout the county.
The Sheriff’s office, Utah Highway Patrol, Utah Navajo Health System, County EMS and Fire with partners from the state were also on standby.
Gallegos shared they had just two incidents that day, with EMS responding to one non-eclipse related event as well as responding to a wreck on Hurrah Pass.
Gallegos noted that the highways had lots of traffic but spread out through Thursday, Friday and Saturday with many people leaving spread out over Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“A lot of people that came in brought campers and they camped. When Utah Highway Patrol did a flyover of the site as they were coming in, everything up top Fry Canyon, Muley Point, Valley of the Gods all of it was full with dispersed camping. Anywhere there was a two-track there was a car off the side of the road with a camper. So they came in two-days before, they left two days after.”
Gallegos added they heard a report of 1,000 visitors at Goosenecks State Park on the day of the event with an early estimation of 6,000 to 10,000 dispersed campers.
County Economic and Visitor Services Director Elaine Gizler shared her office working for about 18 months with local municipalities, and land agencies to prepare for the event.
“I think our preparation so far in advance really assured us that we were ready for whatever they might throw at us.”
Gallegos and Gizler both had high praise for the highway patrol and sheriff’s department preparation as well.
Gallegos also presented a grant from homeland security and an updated 400 page multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan. Both the plan and the grant were approved by the commission unanimously.
At the meeting, members of the commission also approved a contract with Points Consulting for a Housing and Community needs assessment for San Juan County.
The $84,000 contract will help the county in identifying housing needs throughout the entire county.
Gizler noted her support of choosing Points Consulting with their familiarity of working with Indigenous populations as Gizler added the assessment will be for the entire county.
Once the assessment is completed in Spring 2024 the county can use the document to seek funds from the state as well as other organizations and foundations, Gizler added
“Especially with our companies like Energy Fuels and Lisbon Mines that are looking to expand employees and we don’t have housing so in the future this will help us with that development.”
At the meeting members of the commission also appointed Shanon Brooks and Barry Lee Woolley to the San Juan County Library Board.
The commission tabled the appointment of Ann Austin to the San Juan County Economic Development Board. 
Adams, “I’m not sure that she qualifies under a business owner, I’d like to do a little further in-depth”.

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