Broadband project may bring hi-tech connections to isolated areas throughout San Juan County
Mar 08, 2016 | 4422 views | 0 0 comments | 146 146 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Roma Young

The Six County Coalition has turned their focus on San Juan and Daggett counties for a fiber-based broadband project. These two counties have been identified for broadband capability needs, specifically at Manila High School and Flaming Gorge Elementary School in Daggett County. The need in San Juan County is at all schools south of Blanding.

Listed on the project paperwork are Bluff, Montezuma Creek, and Tse’bi’nidzisgai elementary schools, and Whitehorse, Monument Valley, and Navajo Mountain high schools. It is also proposed that the service be extended to the communities in White Mesa, Montezuma Creek, Bluff, Mexican Hat, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain.

Brian Barton, of Jones and DeMille Engineering, presented the proposal to the county commission. He said, “Broadband has become almost as necessary to education as transportation and other such services.”

The proposal is for a 1-gigabyte service line to be run from Blanding to Navajo Mountain and all points listed between.

Barton met with commissioners from the counties in other states that border the two Utah counties. The project in San Juan County has received support from Montezuma County, CO, as this would help them connect rural services in their county.

The proposal cost is between $10 and $12 million, with nearly two-thirds spent in San Juan County. Barton sought the support of commissioners and sought input and advice regarding the project. The commission agreed to draft a letter of support by March 11. The project is up against tight deadlines for federal funding.

The group will approach the Community Impact Board (CIB) for matching fund to facilitate the process. If the project moves forward, Commissioner Rebecca Benally had some advice on contacts and ways to obtain funds from the Navajo Nation and the Utah Navajo Trust Fund.

Regional infrastructure is the main goal of the coalition. They are interested in having as many partners as possible, so they thanked Benally for her advice.

This proposal was an exciting prospect for commissioners, as there is significant need in the south end of the county. Commissioners said they would like to see a level playing field for all residents and welcomed the proposal as a step in that direction.

A public hearing for proposed rate changes at the landfill was held and there was actually an attendee with concerns. The public hearing began with a presentation by Landfill Manager Randy Rarick, which spelled out the proposed rates and gave examples.

All landfill permits will be replaced with a punch card. The punch card, which will be difficult to counterfeit, will allow 16 bags of trash to be dumped over the course of a month for $10. Rarick said each visit should have four bags or less.

For larger landfill users, the fee will be $6 per cubic yard. Rarick has developed a sheet which gives guidance on measuring and calculating the fee for a load. The fee to dump a refrigerator, freezer or other appliance with freon will be based on the charge to have a certified expert come to the landfill and remove the freon. The policy on the county website will match the information at each landfill site.

The public was represented by Enoch Foster, who resides at the Rockland Ranch, northwest of Monticello. The nearest landfill to the ranch is in La Sal. Ten family units live at the ranch, with more than 100 people in the family units.

Foster hauls a trailer full of garbage bags to the landfill between two and three times per month. He said the previous rates were too low because they did not cover the cost of transferring dumpsters to the landfill, but added that the new rates are too high.

Foster asked if the county could put a dumpster near their community. Rarick discussed the similar needs in other areas of the county and suggested that the residents could contact a private company to place a large dumpster at Rockland.

Commissioners accepted the rate changes as proposed, to become effective on April 1. Commissioner Phil Lyman said he would like to see an agreement with Rockland Ranch for rates.

County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Linda Larson discussed the agreements between ambulance crews from neighboring agencies.

In the past, the organizations had separate agreements with one another, but the ambulance providers decided it would be best if there was one state-wide agreement for every county. The signed agreements at the county level will be compiled by the Utah Bureau of EMS.

County Attorney Kendall Laws reviewed the agreement and is supportive. The agreement was approved unanimously and signed by Commissioner Lyman.

There will be one exception to the statewide agreement. The county will keep an interlocal agreement with Grand County since they work together often to cover events which overlap county lines.

Larson also made a formal request to write off $35,000 in uncollectible accounts for the ambulance service. Factors in uncollectible amounts include a patient’s inability to pay, collection agencies deadlines, deceased patients, etc. The possibilities are pretty much endless and every case is different.

Commissioner Bruce Adams asked why the amount is so low this year since it has been up to $200,000 in the past. Larson said it started at $82,000 but a collection agency collected $47,000. The write-offs were approved unanimously.

Sheriff Rick Eldredge and County Attorney Kendall Laws requested that Susan Delorme, who works as the domestic violence advocate for the county, work under the direction of the county attorney rather than the sheriff.

While the sheriff’s office deals with the perpetrators of domestic violence, the attorney works with the victims. This is more the focus of the advocate office. Commissioners approved the transfer of work, with the budget concerns to be addressed later.

Two part-time positions were filled in the maintenance department, including a 20-hour per week custodial position for John Husted and a three-day per week maintenance position for Courtney Kelly.

County Administrator Kelly Pehrson presented the new county newsletter. Commissioners said they want to be more transparent and keep the public better informed. The newsletter is available at the county Facebook page. Hard copies will be sent to each chapter house.

Commissioners will have the opportunity to share with the public and a different county department will be highlighted each month. Natalie Freestone was credited with getting the newsletter completed.

Commissioners approved the purchase of a trail cat for the road department, in addition to a custom trailer to haul it.

The commission accepted a letter of resignation from the Bluff Water Board. The position will be advertised to determine interest before an appointment is made.
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