Blanding City Council approves road improvement contracts, authorizes energy entitlement increase
Jul 16, 2019 | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Alene Laney The Blanding City Council approved two contracts for road improvements at their July 9 meeting last week. There was quite a bit of discussion on the difference between the high-density mineral bond and the chip seal coat used to preserve asphalt streets. The council awarded a $133,200 contract to Holbrook Asphalt Company for a high-density mineral bond coat and a $295,180 contract to Kilgore Companies DBA LeGrand Johnson for a chip seal coat. The two projects are set for completion by the end of August and mid-September.  The council approved a resolution authorizing an increase in the participants entitlement share under the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) sales contract for the lay-off power sales agreement associated with joint use module plant (JUMP) operations at the CFPP.  In plain English, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is developing Nu Scale Small Modular Reactors. There is potential to get free, clean energy with infrastructure built by the Department of Energy (DOE) that would be used for research and development purposes for 15 years before being turned over to the city. The resolution opens the door to get as much of this energy as possible.   City Engineer Terry Ekker gave the water report. At this time last year, water levels were at 38 percent of normal. This year, the city is at 170 percent of normal. All reservoirs are full and Recapture Dam stopped spilling over this week. Police Chief J.J. Bradford reported on recent activities involving the police department. Officers participated in trainings on search and rescue, suicide awareness, report writing, and advanced alcohol and drug interdiction (which is how to find more drugs and alcohol in cars and on drivers).  Mayor Joe B. Lyman and Councilwoman Cheryl Bowers both commented about the number of compliments the department regularly receives for their effective handling of difficult situations.  Blanding City recreation numbers continue to grow. The wellness center recorded more than 5,500 visits during June. Recreation Director David Palmer reported on the wrapped baseball season, where a Blanding team played in every championship game in a league that includes Monticello and Moab. The council also heard details behind the pool closure July 1 and 2. The circulation pump went out and while there was a spare pump, the seal was unable to be used again which held up repairs. Palmer gave recognition to Energy Fuels, who dropped what they were doing to rebuild the motors in just a few hours. A team spent most of the night putting it back together to be able to open as soon as they could.  The council heard Councilman Robert Turk’s report of the Independence Day celebration.  “It was a major success,” he said. “We live in a good town. People step up and volunteer.” The council commented on the generous sponsorship from Dr. Joe Wilson, who makes the impressive fireworks display possible.  The council passed a resolution to allow electric motors on the Fourth Reservoir and to disallow any watercraft with gas engines. Councilwoman Bowers expressed the desire to do more with the visitors center in Blanding. She suggested looking for ways to improve the experience and the possibility for it to generate revenue for the city. Councilwoman KD Perkins spoke about the difficulty of maintaining a gift shop and the unfair advantage it would have over other local businesses selling similar items. There is also concern with the lack of curator for the museum to properly preserve items.  Mayor Lyman reported the city council elections will be canceled this year after Trent Herring withdrew his name from contention for a council seat. With three seats up for grabs and three vying for those seats, those people will be deemed elected, and a formal process will be followed.
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Tenth Circuit Court upholds San Juan County voting boundary decision
Jul 16, 2019 | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously affirmed the voting rights decision that resulted in a Navajo-majority control of San Juan County. In its ruling, the appeals court upheld the Utah District Court’s decision that San Juan County had violated the constitutional rights of residents in drawing gerrymandered voting districts. The court affirmed the redrawn San Juan County districts that were created by Federal Judge Robert Shelby in 2017 as a culmination of a multiyear voting rights lawsuit between the Navajo Nation and the county. After Judge Shelby sided with the Navajo Nation in 2017, he appointed a special master to draw new districts, at which time San Juan County appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit in Denver. The appeals court earlier declined an injunction sought by the county that would have stopped a court-ordered special election last November under the new voting boundaries. In the November election, Willie Grayeyes and Kenneth Maryboy, both Democrats, were elected to the first ever Navajo-majority Commission along with incumbent Commissioner Bruce Adams, a Republican. In its unanimous decision, the Tenth Circuit Court rejected all five objections the county made to Shelby’s 2017 ruling in its appeal. Writing for the court, Judge Nancy Moritz said, “We find no error in the district court’s well-reasoned rulings.” Under the new districts, Native American voters hold a strong majority in two of the three Commission districts and in three of the five school board voting districts. Until this year, Native Americans had never held more than one Commission seat or two school board seats. Judge Moritz added that San Juan County violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act when it drew previous voting districts that packed most Navajo residents into a single district. Barring further appeal, the case now goes back to district court, where Shelby will rule on whether the county will be forced to pay over $3 million in attorney fees requested by the Navajo Nation under Voting Rights Act provisions.
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Kristian Olsen is excited to return to his hometown of Blanding where he will lead the local campus of USU as associate vice president.      Courtesy photo
Kristian Olsen is excited to return to his hometown of Blanding where he will lead the local campus of USU as associate vice president. Courtesy photo
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Monticello Council gives county control of elections
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The Monticello City Council voted to enter an inter-local cooperation agreement with San Juan County during their meeting July 9 that will allow the county to conduct vote-by-mail elections for the city. Monticello City Recorder Cindi Holyoak said the action item came about when the State of Utah began encouraging counties to conduct all elections in an effort to maintain consistency. She added that it’s difficult for city recorders to manage an election with the many other items on their plates. Another issue with cities handling vote-by-mail ballots is that cities don’t own the state signature database, so it’s impossible for the city recorder to verify signatures when mail-in ballots are received. The cost the city will incur for election services provided by the county was unclear based on sample invoices available during the July 9 meeting and will be determined conclusively at a later date. Holyoak confirmed that the city has gotten increased voter turnout since moving to the vote-by-mail system. In other business, the council heard a report from Jason Nguyen, Monticello Site Manager for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management in Grand Junction. Nguyen gave details on the DOE five-year review report for the Monticello Mill Tailings Site (MMTS) that was completed in 2017. The DOE conducts five-year reviews for the MMTS because contamination remains in place that prevents unlimited use and unrestricted exposure for portions of the site. Nguyen stated that equipment buried by the DOE to test ground water is still functioning satisfactorily and gave Monticello a positive report in that regard. He added that the DOE keeps three employees at the MMTS to monitor groundwater treatment. Based on the review report, the contamination removal is functioning as intended and continues to be protective of human health and the environment. He detailed DOE efforts to work alongside Monticello governing bodies on an ongoing basis. The council discussed the possibility of an open house to allow Monticello residents to speak with Nguyen regarding his work on the MMTS. The council also discussed the possibility that Nguyen could visit area schools to provide educational opportunities for local students. The due date for the next DOE five-year review report of the MMTS is scheduled for June 30, 2022.
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Kristian Olsen appointed top administrator at USU Blanding campus
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Kristian Olsen is excited to return to his hometown of Blanding where he will lead the local campus of USU as associate vice president.		    Courtesy photo
Kristian Olsen is excited to return to his hometown of Blanding where he will lead the local campus of USU as associate vice president. Courtesy photo
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Kristian J. Olsen has been named associate vice president by Utah State University (USU) to lead its Blanding campus. Olsen comes to Blanding from USU Eastern in Price, where he served as the director of students. “We’re thrilled to have Kristian transition to this leadership role in Blanding,” said Larry Smith, interim vice president of USU’s Statewide Campuses. “He’s been a great asset to USU Eastern for the past six years, and his experience and familiarity with the USU system will allow him to hit the ground running in Blanding,” Smith said. “Both President [Noelle] Cockett and I are very confident in Kristian’s leadership and abilities. We look forward to working with him more in this new role.” According to Smith, Olsen’s role will be to provide leadership for staff and students; promote the innovative growth of teaching, research, and supportive infrastructure; enhance and extend university and community collaboration; and promote advancement and fundraising. Olsen grew up in Blanding where his father managed Edge of the Cedars state park. After graduating from San Juan High School he attended the College of Eastern Utah San Juan Campus (now USU Blanding), before transferring to Southern Utah University and completing a business degree. Upon graduation, Olsen served at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Stamford where he oversaw student life and activities. While there he also earned a master’s degree in higher education leadership. Following his time at UCONN, Olsen worked for private businesses in Oregon and Utah providing marketing and recruiting services to higher education clients and began working for USU Eastern in 2013. In his current role, he oversees recruiting, admissions, advising, counseling, housing, and all other campus student services. “I’m honored to be chosen for this role and continue serving USU and its students, and to do so in the town where I grew up and love is a very exciting opportunity,” said Olsen on his new role. “This campus, and the communities it serves, are important to USU. “I look forward to working with both the campus and the community to ensure we’re serving their needs and providing the best university education and services in the four corners region.” Olsen will relocate to Blanding with his wife and two children, beginning his new role on August 1.
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