Commission approves five resolutions, delays suit
During more than four hours of often contentious meetings on April 16, the San Juan County Commission passed five resolutions.
Commissioners unanimously approved two resolutions regarding employment opportunities in northern Arizona. The Kayenta Black Mesa Mine and the Navajo Generating Station may close, impacting approximately 800 jobs, including many San Juan County residents.
The resolutions support employment opportunities at the sites and will be sent to Navajo Nation agencies.
Commissioner Willie Grayeyes moved to suspend consideration of a resolution to file a lawsuit against County Attorney Kendall Laws “until next month’s meeting.” The motion passed 2-0, with Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy abstaining.
The resolution would have authorized the Commission to hire outside legal counsel.
Laws told the Commissioners on April 2 that he had sought the opinion of the office of the Utah Attorney General before implementing a resolution to withdraw San Juan County from a legal relationship with the Mountain States Legal Foundation.
Laws said he would follow the recommendation of the Attorney General’s office.
Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “Let’s ask the AG office to review the resolution and give a recommendation.”
Adams added, “I don’t know if one elected official can sue another elected official.”
Commissioner Maryboy said, “I was hoping that we would pass it today. Certainly we’ll try to reach those in the appropriate areas, but I still do feel that we have been shortchanged and have lost a lot of money.”
Before Commissioners addressed resolutions regarding Bears Ears, Commissioner Adams called for a referendum to ask voter opinion on the divisive issue.
“The Bears Ears issue is very important to the citizens of San Juan County,” said Adams. “I am uncomfortable with the three of us trying to make decisions on Bears Ears. We ought to get a vote of the people.
“I will abide by it. I will not object to the voice of the people.”
Commissioner Maryboy referenced an issue several years ago when he asked for a referendum on the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and was told that it costs too much.
Adams suggested that if the referendum happened during a general election, “it is not a great expense to add another line to an existing ballot.”
Commissioner Grayeyes said there were two options: first, a special election which would have costs, and second, wait until the next regular election.
Adams sought a vote on the idea, stating that he would like to consider it before the Commission voted on Bears Ears issues.
Since it was not a part of the agenda, it could not be considered as an action item.
The Commission went ahead and passed three additional resolutions:
A resolution to ask the state auditor to review legal expenses since 2009 passed 2-0, with Adams abstaining;
A resolution to withdraw county participation from the Mountain State Legal Foundation passed 2-1 with Adams opposing;
A resolution opposing the State of Utah position on Forest Service Roadless Areas passed 2-1 with Adams opposing.
A motion supporting a bill before Congress involving the Antiquities Act died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Willie Grayeyes asked for information about implementation of the previous resolutions that were passed by the Commission, stating, “I have no idea of the status of the prior resolutions.”
Commissioner Adams introduced a resolution that would request a change in how oil and gas royalties are distributed from properties in San Juan County on the Navajo Nation.
Currently, 37.5 percent of the royalties are distributed to the Utah Navajo Trust Fund by the State of Utah. The remaining 62.5 percent are sent to the Navajo Nation in Window Rock.
Adams suggested the funds could be distributed in a manner similar to the State Community Impact Board, which distributes oil and gas royalties to communities and counties in Utah.
Commissioner Maryboy introduced a resolution that would hold Commission meetings outside of the county seat in Monticello on an occasional basis.
Four meetings are initially proposed, during the first week of June, August, October and November.
A Navajo translator would be provided for meetings in the southern part of the county.
A similar resolution was considered but not passed after County Attorney Kendall Laws said state law requires commission meetings to be held at the county seat.
Commissioner Grayeyes said, “If something needs to be decided by a judge, so be it.”
An additional resolution was proposed that would restrict a county official or employee from representing a policy unless it had been approved by the Commission.
Commissioner Adams said, “We don’t want to muzzle people from doing their job. Will this be handcuffing ourselves from being able to do our jobs?”
Commissioner Maryboy said, “We have time to work on this,” and suggested that his concerns were directed in part at Commissioner Adams, who had approached the Utah State Legislature in January with a request to use state funds to help pay for county legal expenses.
“You were saying ‘We, we’ in the request and I didn’t know anything about that,” said Maryboy.
An additional resolution was introduced that, if approved, would create a six-month moratorium on commercial development along Highway 191 in Spanish Valley.
A Love’s Truck Stop is being considered on property managed by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). A group of people have signaled concern about the project.
The lengthy text of the resolution included several statements that irked Commissioner Adams.
“I am a little offended by the statement that San Juan County has completely ignored Spanish Valley,” said Adams.
“We have spent two years and found $13 million for a new water and sewer system that just about everyone in the area is joining. I think we have been very involved and very concerned.”
In county business matters at the meeting, Tammy Gallegos presented year one of a four-year plan for the aging programs run by San Juan County. She will seek a signature from the Commission as an action item in May.
Monte Perkins, the noxious weed supervisor for the county, discussed the weed program.
The $100,000 budget for the program included $83,000 in grants, including $20,000 for the spray days grant in area communities, $50,000 for work along the San Juan River, and $13,000 from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Perkins anticipates that the BLM grant will total $30,000 next year.
Perkins would like to purchase Kubota equipment for areas where the spray trucks cannot go. The equipment will cost approximately $20,000.
Road Foreman Ben Musselman discussed the biannual bids for batteries, synthetic oils and filters. Low bid for batteries and filters is Kenworth Sales, while JC Hunt provided the low bid for synthetic oils.
Musselman said a road collapsed in the Cottonwood Wash area, and the county will hold a public hearing to abandon that section of the road.
The county is working with the BLM and hoping for a speedy resolution to the issue.
Commissioners approved phase 23 of the Flat Iron Mesa subdivision.
A three-year jail maintenance contract for the jail control system was approved at a cost of $11,900 per year.
Asa Bradford was approved for a corrections officer position and Lucia Regalado and Emma Squires were approved for dispatch positions.
Commissioners also approved out-of-state travel for the health department.
Jerry McNeely discussed issues in northern San Juan County and said they expect 100,000 people in the area for the Jeep Safari.
“You have to see it to believe it,” said McNeely. “Moab is nothing but jeeps and dust right now.”