“We believe the wild land fire season has begun,” County Administrator Rick Bailey told the San Juan County Commission at their June 4 meeting. Bailey reported that seven fires were started by lightning strikes on public lands between Monticello and Blanding over the weekend.
Bailey said smoke jumpers, air tankers, and helicopters were used to keep the fires under control. “I anticipate it will be a hard wild land season for us,” said Bailey.
Bailey went on to advise the commission that he feels the county is in the midst of a severe drought. He recommended the commission consider declaring a state of emergency in order to make services for assistance available to farmers and ranchers.
Commissioner Bruce Adams said they should notify the governor’s office of the situation as most of the farmers he has been in contact with are already having their crops burning in the sun and will suffer heavy losses.
Bailey also reported to the commission that they will be completing the final phase of the Lisbon Valley road project this year. Bailey said Commissioner Adams had been successful in getting the Joint Highway Commission to transfer $183,000 that is left over from a previous phase back to the county for the final phase.
Bailey said the project is $700,000 short of the engineers estimate on funding. The county plans to go to the transportation district to secure the funding so no B road funds, general fund money, or borrowing of funds will be needed to complete the road.
Commissioner Phil Lyman asked Sheriff Rick Eldredge about cameras and invasion of privacy issues. Lyman had a trail camera owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that a member of the public brought to him. Lyman questioned the use of cameras where people have an expectation of privacy.
Eldredge said the BLM and Forest Service routinely use cameras in areas where there has been vandalism or similar issues. Eldredge said his understanding is that they can be used as long as it’s not on private land.
Lyman said that if cameras are being used by the BLM, there should be signs placed at trail heads to inform the public that they may be photographed. Lyman said he ask the BLM about the camera at an upcoming coordination meeting.
Commissioner Lyman also asked for clarification regarding commission responsibility for oversight as it relates to the San Juan Health Care Board. Lyman specifically expressed concern over the district borrowing money and if that type of activity should be approved by the commission.
Adams expressed his understanding that the health care board is a separate entity from the commission, and the only authority the commission has is to approve members to the board. Lyman said his understanding is that the health district has complete control of their actions and the management of health care, except for levying taxes and borrowing money.
“I feel like when it comes to borrowing, the commission, since we are elected by the people who ultimately bear that risk, I think there should be some control from the commission and some accountability for just that element,” said Lyman.
Lyman praised the board for their management of the health care system and did not want to micromanage their work, but added, “I would like to see the commission at least assert our interest in the borrowing.”
Rick Bailey said special service districts are independent government entities created by the county and have the right to sue and be sued and are insured separately from the county. Bailey said this is to remove the county from any potential liability resulting from actions of those districts. Bailey suggested that the county seek outside advice on the issue of special service districts and their functions and what authority the commission has.
In other business, the commission appointed Guy Denton to the San Juan County Health Care Board and Kristen McKinnon to the Planning and Zoning board.