A new health services office in Blanding was the focus of a public hearing at the September 15 meeting of the San Juan County Commission.
San Juan Public Health District Director Worthy Glover, San Juan Health Services Administrator Clayton Holt and San Juan Mental Health Director Tammy Squires were representatives of the three entities who plan to have offices housed in the new facility.
All three groups are San Juan County entities and feel as if they can carefully coordinate efforts if they are in the same building.
Jones and Demille Engineering presented a proposed floor plan and virtual drawings for the building. They worked with the architect of the San Juan Clinic in Monticello, which was built on the campus of the San Juan Hospital.
The architect was asked to estimate the cost of the building and his numbers came in high because he included equipment needed in each of the offices.
However, each of the offices already have most, if not all, of the equipment they need. It can simply be transferred to a new location.
Based on that information, the estimate was adjusted to $5 million.
After the public hearing, an application to the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB) was approved. The application will ask for a $2.5 million grant, a $2 million loan and a $500,000 cash infusion from the three entities.
The application will be sent to CIB in October and presented in November or December. The hope is to receive approval so building can be completed next year.
In other matters at the September 15 meeting, San Juan County Surveyor Sam Cantrell reported on several items he felt Commissioners should know about.
First, employee Jacob Regalado has been deployed to the Middle East with his National Guard Unit for one year.
Cantrell and deputy Ben Musselman said they will get by through the winter but would like to hire a temporary employee for the summer and begin work in May, 2016. The temporary employee would work from May until Regalado’s return in October.
Second, grants are available for monument replacement. Cantrell serves on a committee overseeing the funds. He asked for commission support as he pursues the funding.
Third, Cantrell reported on his work with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to identify the B and D roads in the county that need easements through SITLA land.
Cantrell has identified the roads, entered them in the county database and recorded them in the recorder’s office. Cantrell shared documentation of the project to this point. The commission is pleased with his efforts.
Linda Larson spoke to the Commission about raises for several county employees. She said she had heard the word “dedication” used as a reason to consider a raise for the two directors of nursing at the public health department.
Larson said it would be unfair to give the raises without also considering the dedication of dispatchers, law enforcement and EMS. She said they are the “lifeline” employees where decisions are made that impact life and death.
Larson has worked as the EMS director for 15 years, and during that time, she has had to return to her office and her day job many times with little or no sleep because of ambulance calls she was involved in.
She added, “Those nurses have only worked for the health district for six months.”
Larson also said there is longevity and dedication in other departments that are not being considered for a raise.
Commission Chairman Phil Lyman said he does not want any employee to feel they are not valued. He gives credit and recognition to all. However, the county policy is to give raises for changes in job descriptions. The proposed raise is for a change in the job description of the two nurses.
Lyman said the two employees had been employees of SEUDHD (Southeastern Utah District Health District) for much longer than six months. They had been uprooted from their previous employer by the creation of a San Juan County Public Health District with no consideration of benefits they had accrued with SEUDHD.
These positions are mandated by the state for the public health district. Therefore, the jobs are important functions of the health district and require a change in job descriptions.
Commissioner Rebecca Benally said commissioners need to look at the county policy for raises. She added that the recent contamination of the San Juan River was a public health issue, but she did not see anyone there from the health district handing out water.
Many other county departments had representatives there caring for people and handing out water. Benally thanked Linda for “the wakeup call”.
In the action item portion of the commission meeting, a new phone system was approved for the public health department, but the request for the two raises failed again. Lyman passed the chair to Rebecca to make a motion in favor of the raises, but the motion died for lack of a second.
The $7,500 phone system can be transferred to the new office in Blanding if that becomes a reality.
Sheriff Rick Eldredge received approval of a county dog ordinance. The old ordinance had “no teeth in it” and the need was there to protect responsible dog owners.
The new ordinance gives the ability to cite owners of aggressive and nuisance dogs. This ordinance is for county residents only, as the cities each have their own animal ordinances.
Eldredge also obtained a signature needed for a $23,000 grant to help screen and report information on each inmate booked into the jail. Recent legislation moved some drug offenses from a felony to a misdemeanor, pushing more inmates into drug court and out of the state prison system.
This change puts a large burden on county jails and will also impact San Juan Mental Health. The grant will help defray some of the costs.
Eldredge said the legislation has increased by 10 the number of people in the county drug court.
Eldredge would also like to increase, from one to two, the number of officers who oversee the drug court participants. One officer would oversee the north part of the county and the other would oversee the south part.
Eldredge was asked to have an action item on the agenda if there is a raise involved.
Tammy Gallegos presented an Emergency Plan for Commissioners to review. This is the first update of the plan since 2004. Gallegos said it is for departments to use in case of a disaster. There is a family preparedness booklet available on the county website.
Commissioner Benally said she has been sharing the family preparedness booklet at chapter meetings. Commissioners unanimously approved the document.