The San Juan County Commission worked through a full agenda in record time at their June 4 meeting.
There is growing concern about the maintenance of roads on the Navajo Reservation in San Juan County. In recent years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) have restricted county access to roads.
Reports are growing that adequate maintenance is simply not occurring on the vital roads.
Hank Stevens, of the Navajo Mountain Chapter, said the road issues “are really impacting the community. This jeopardizes community safety.”
Stevens said the Piute Canyon Road, which allows access to Piute Mesa, is particularly problematic. He reports that local residents are forced to use their own equipment to maintain the road.
Stevens suggested the answer is to “get back to the partnership with the county that was established by your predecessors. That partnership worked well until BIA and NDOT decided to take over the roads.”
Public Works Supervisor Ben Musselman stated that the county is having difficulty with road issues, particularly related to a contract with the BIA.
BIA stated that the county does not have a right-of-way with the roads, but Commissioner Bruce Adams said the county should claim the right-of-way for maintenance and get the B Road funds from the state that would pay for the maintenance.
“We need to claim the B Road funds and do what we have always done,” said Adams.
Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy agreed and added, “We have been playing nice enough. It’s about time.”
A number of citizen comments were presented, all with a strict three-minute limit.
Comments ranged from Spanish Valley residents concerned about growth in their community to a Navajo Mountain Chapter official concerned about road maintenance issues in his area.
Other comments included a request for funding for a student group that is traveling to Florida and a plea for support of efforts to stop oil and gas exploration on public lands in San Juan County.
Monticello resident Kim Henderson addressed the Commission, saying she was expressing concerns she has heard from county employees.
Henderson pleaded for additional time to fully address her concerns, but she was held to the strict three-minute limit. She read several comments that she said where submitted by county employees who wished to remain anonymous.
Employee morale has been low in recent months as the new Commission has struggled to find its footing. Public meetings have been contentious and communication between the staff and commissioners has been limited.
At the end of the meeting, Commission Chairman Kenneth Maryboy addressed some of the concerns, while thanking citizens for expressing their concerns.
Maryboy said, “Bruce (Adams), Willie (Grayeyes), David (Everitt), and I have talked about working more closely with the staff. I don’t think that the staff needs to run to anybody to ask for any voice.
“I believe that these are good workers. I stand behind them and have worked with them for so long. Nothing should change. They shouldn’t worry, everything is going to be ok.”
The Commission agreed to changes in the County Administrator job description and decided to re-advertise the new position. Everitt said the position will be open for “three or four weeks.”
Three applicants had applied during the previous period. Everitt said they have been contacted and invited to reapply.
Changes to the job description include making the position exempt to civil service regulations. The new position is listed as an “executive-level, at-will, career service-exempt appointee who serves at the pleasure of the Commission in a confidential capacity.”
In addition, the position will no longer include specific oversight over emergency management responsibilities. Prior administrators also served as the emergency management coordinator, with a portion of the salary paid by federal emergency management grants.
Everitt explained that the emergency management responsibilities will be assigned to staff, with oversight assigned to the current EM assistant.
Commissioners approved an 18-page document which outlines policy and procedures for the Commission meetings. Everitt went through several changes that were made to a draft document that was presented at a previous meeting.
Commissioner Bruce Adams reported on the slow but significant progress on legislation before the US Senate to address the Navajo Water Rights Settlement. Adams said Senator Mitt Romney is taking a lead with the settlement. He suggested that the settlement could total $200 million.
County Attorney Kendall Laws informed the Commission that USIP, the liability insurance carrier for San Juan County, will handle the litigation filed by Rose Chilcoat.
Chilcoat sued Laws, San Juan County, and others in federal court, alleging she was harassed when charges were filed against her in a livestock case. The charges were eventually dismissed.
Laws explained that USIP provides coverage for elected officials and employees who are sued while working their official capacity.
In other matters before the Commission, Karah Nay discussed the San Juan Stampede Pro Rodeo, which will be held June 13-15 at the San Juan County Fairgrounds in Monticello. Nay stated that the rodeo, in its third year, continues to grow with world-class talent participating.
Saxon Sharpe, of the Humane Society of Moab, discussed the ongoing efforts to provide services in San Juan County. The county contributes to the efforts each year.
Mark Boshell, of the Governor’s Public Land Coordinating Office, introduced himself to the Commissioners.
Tammy Gallegos discussed Senior Citizen and Veteran Services contracts with Commissioners.
Commissioners approved a $180,000 loan for construction of a maintenance building for the Monticello Cemetery District. The loan will be paid over 30 years at 2.5 percent interest.
Monte Perkins asked for approval of a full-time position in the weed department. Perkins reports that a part-time position has been difficult to fill.
Nick Sandberg discussed a request for an easement for an irrigation line at the Dugout Ranch. The easement crosses land owned by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
Jerry McNealy reports that the Spanish Valley Sewer and Water Project is progressing. He states that there have been delays associated with roads and hookups to the existing infrastructure in the valley. July is the estimated time of completion of the project.
The Commission plans a joint meeting in coming weeks with the Grand County Council at the Spanish Valley Arena.