Commission adjusts budget, approves grants , appoints board members

by Joe Boyle
Staff writer
The San Juan County Commission approved a bundle of grants and volunteer board appointments/reappointments during their February 7 meeting.
Members of the commission started by holding a public hearing for proposed changes to the 2023 budget. The proposed adjustments were discussed and presented at the end of 2022 regarding salary adjustments for county employees.
Among the approvals is a two percent increase in salary for sheriff department employees serving as corrections and patrol corporals, search and rescue supervisors, task force commander, and drug court coordinator.
At the meeting, members of the commission also approved payroll adjustments totaling $1.8 million for employees throughout the county. The adjustments were made following the results of a county-ordered wage study.
County administration ordered the study to ensure that wages at the county remain competitive with job opportunities in the surrounding area.
Much of the funds for the adjustments came from $8.69 million the county received through the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Funds. Those funds made up missing payments by the federal government to the county of Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
The funds have few restrictions and are made available as part of the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Additional ARPA funds with more strict guidelines were used to help fund adjustments for Public Health employees.
While the majority of the adjustments made were directed at payroll, other adjustments were made to the budget for contracted services and equipment.
During the review of payroll adjustments, Chief Administrative Officer Mack McDonald expressed concern with the current financial situation in the county public health department.
McDonald explained that the county, through taxes, matches the money provided by the state, and San Juan County missed that minimum funding by $5,000 two years ago and $100,000 last year.
Those minimums are covered out of the general fund as McDonald notes part of the issue for last year was related to increased available state funding.
The more grants and contracts the county takes on, the higher that minimum quota grows in financial compensation owed to the state.
McDonald advised the commission that county officials are working to identify health priorities in their spending, saying: “We want to make sure that this glass slipper really fits San Juan County, that we’re not just taking on contracts and grants that we may not need.
“That is increasing the amount that the state is giving us, and the amount we have to contribute. We’ve got to be fair with our actions here in the county.”
The commission unanimously approved the payroll budget adjustments.
The commission approved four public health grants over the course of the meeting. Public Health Director Grant Sunada explained the department is 90 percent funded by state and federal contracts, including the four approved federal contracts at the meeting.
These projects include a maternal child health grant to promote developmental health and support mothers suffering from postpartum, a tuberculosis prevention grant, an HIV prevention grant and a grant to build inclusive communities supporting food pantry efforts in underprivileged communities.
Bluff Mayor Ann Leppanen voiced support of the inclusive communities grant to help fund the Bluff food pantry, which the Mayor said has a positive impact in Bluff.
Planning and zoning administrator Scott Burton made presentations for subdivisions throughout the county following approval process from the planning and zoning commission.
Among the projects included an 18-lot subdivision on 165 acres northeast known as the Peaceful Valley Ranch subdivision, seven five-acre lots in the Jensen Subdivision south of Monticello, with an additional 130 acres for possible future development, and 12 1.29-acre lots in the Sturgeon Subdivision north of Monticello.
County Visitor Services and Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler made a presentation to license agreements with the Geographical Information System (GIS) to provide information to potential investors looking to bring opportunities to the county.
Gizler also presented agreements with Go Travel to continue hosting the county travel website, with lead generation for those interested in visiting the county. The company is also working with the county to create additional recreation trail content on the website.
The county agreed to a partnership with Utah State University Eastern to replace the outdated HVAC system at the old Blanding clinic. The university uses the site and equipment for classes and agreed with the county to pay for the replacement if the county manages the project.
The county appointed/reappointed 13 members of county boards for four-year terms. This includes Eric Linscheid and Craig Simpson to the Wilson Arch Special Service District.
Allen Barry, Paul Sonderegger, Steve Simpson, and Stephen Williams will serve on the Health District Service Board.
Ryan Burraston, and Levi Sjoblom are on the Spanish Valley Special Service District.
Kristl Johnson and Mariah Robertson are appointed to the La Sal Recreation District board.
Marx Powell and Amer Tumeh will serve on the Bluff Water Works board and Nancy Kimmerle is on the San Juan Historic Preservation Committee.
A memorandum of understanding was made, between San Juan County and County Attorney Brittney Ivins, which will allow her to use country resources, such as already maintained subscriptions and office supplies, as she acts as the City of Monticello prosecutor.
Because this is separate from her position as the county attorney, Ivins will pay a $100 monthly fee to keep in line with Utah codes.

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