Supporters of the proposed Ellis Hall wind farm, approximately eight miles northeast of Monticello, say the project is back on track, aided by a recent ruling by the Utah Supreme Court.
Tony Hall, a representative of Ellis Hall Consultancy, appeared before the Commissioners to ensure that the county is still in support of the wind farm project. Hall said the first phase of the Ellis Hall wind farm will include 13 turbines.
The project appeared to be moving forward several years ago, receiving a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the county planning and zoning commission, and completing some preliminary work on the site.
However, Rocky Mountain Power subsequently rescinded a preliminary power purchase agreement with Ellis Hall and refused to proceed with negotiations.
The recent Utah Supreme Court ruling states that Rocky Mountain Power has a duty to proceed with good faith negotiations, using an indicative pricing proposal from 2012.
County officials state that the previous CUP and building permit are still intact and add that they support additional wind farms in San Juan County.
The 27-turbine Latigo Wind Farm began operations this year. The Latigo project recently paid $1.2 million in property taxes to San Juan County.
The outcome of the negotiations between Ellis Hall and Rocky Mountain Power is not guaranteed. The Supreme Court adds, in a closing note, “…Ellis Hall has won a short-term battle. It remains to be seen whether it will prevail in the larger war.”
In other matters at the September 20 Commission meeting, it looks like San Juan County might host a Pro Rodeo in 2017.
Karah Nay, the new USU Extension representative, discussed with Commissioners the potential of having a Pro Rodeo in mid-June, 2017.
“We haven’t had a Pro Rodeo in San Juan County in ten years,” she said. “I think it is time we had one.”
Nay has completed preliminary work and hopes to get the event sanction by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
She adds that a lot more work will be required to bring the event about. The Commissioners, particularly Commissioner Rebecca Benally, seemed very much in favor.
“Our arena has never been in better shape,” said Commissioner Bruce Adams. But in order to attract name riders and major sponsors, the arena will have to meet strict specifications.
“We need to ensure our area meets the PRCA specs,” said Commissioner Benally. Some work on the area will have to be done. Nay added, “We particularly need to ensure the dirt in the arena is correct.”
The fees to sanction and operate the rodeo were discussed, with a preliminary budget proposed by Nay. Some fees will need to be paid in advance. The cost will also vary depending on the prize money offered.
The Commissioners requested that Nay continue to pursue this event, formalize the costs and return with a working budget.
The County Public Safety building needs a new roof and an updated intercom and security system. In addition, an elevator in the county administrative building was also discussed.
“It would be nice if the county building could be restored while other work is performed,” offered Commissioner Phil Lyman. “Perhaps we could look into that.”
Commissioners requested these considerations be researched and brought back to the Commission for review.
Vehicle diagnostic systems were approved by the Commission for both the north and south road shops. The $15,000 purchase will help ensure that the county fleets are maintained.
Commissioners approved a $3,000 marketing grant proposed for the Bluff Arts Festival by the Visitor Service department.
Several new hires were announced by Crystal Holt of the Human Resources Department. Positions are Sandy Strom as a Road Office Clerk, Marlana Patterson as a Justice Court Clerk and Holly Hyde for a Health Educator Position.
The Public Health Department will re-advertise for the Health Director Position and also proposes the creation of several part time positions to address the intergenerational poverty problem in San Juan County.
The purpose of the program is to assist parents in getting children ready for school. The program and positions will be funded by a $50,000 grant.
Commissioner Benally expressed dismay that money designated by Congress for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to improve bus routes on Native American lands was funneled into a general fund for use by all tribes across the country. As a result, San Juan County will not receive any funds to help repair their roads.
“We will probably not get any money for our bus routes,” said Benally.
(Staff writer Eric Niven contributed to this story.)