San Juan County held a regular Commission meeting outside of Monticello for the first time on Tuesday, June 2 at the Monument Valley Welcome Center.
After a work session and a spirited half hour of public comment, Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy introduced Oljato Chapter President James Adakai, who addressed an audience largely of Monument Valley residents.
“Welcome to beautiful Monument Valley,” he began. “It’s an honor to go before the San Juan County Commission, the staff, and the people of San Juan County.
“I want to express my appreciation and a warm welcome. I look forward to a strong future establishing some dialog between our communities and with the county government.
“We have a lot of work to do in terms of roads, economy, health care, education, and so forth. It’s the county’s fiduciary responsibility to take the meetings to various locations, including the Navajo Nation.
“It is important that Native American voices are heard to express our interests and our values. We have been underrepresented for a long time.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams took an opportunity to address fellow commissioners, staff, and audience members.
“It’s good to be back here,” he said. “I was the county commissioner representing the Oljato Chapter for 12 years. As I listened to the people in the Oljato Chapter and worked with James [Adakai] and others, I appreciated my relationships with those people.
“One of the first projects we worked on together was to get a paved road all the way around to the old chapter house.
“Another project that has come to fruition that I’m proud of, and I’m sure James is too, is the new paving from Mexican Hat all the way to the Arizona State line on 163 with new signs, guardrails, and paved pullouts.
“Driving down today I was excited to see that, and I’m sure the chapter people are grateful to UDOT, to the state of Utah that provided the money, for Senator [David] Hinkins, Governor [Gary] Herbert, and myself who worked hard with UDOT to get that road upgraded.
“There have been other improvements made in this area, especially with the high school and elementary school the county has provided here. The county has a fire station here and a UNHS medical facility.
“All of these things have happened, not because of me, but while I was serving here, and I was more than happy to see them happen and try to do my part to help.”
Adams concluded, “I want to thank James for the good work that he does as a chapter president and for the concern that he has for the people here in Monument Valley, and I want to thank you for letting me represent you for the 12 years that I represented you here.”
Both men received hearty applause following their addresses.
During public comment, Monument Valley resident Devina Smith offered a heartfelt speech. “This is a historic day,” she said, “because we are now able to speak to the issues of what’s happening in every different location, not only Monument Valley, but in Navajo Mountain and Aneth.
“I see a number of my fellow community members here because this is important for us. Roads, water, health care, education – those are things that we are always left and not able to speak to.
“Having these commission meetings abroad in San Juan County is the next step of us working together. We need to be mindful and respectful of unity because that is important.
“We shouldn’t have a division. We need to respect everyone equally. I respectfully and thankfully welcome you in hopes that we move forward.”
Several concerns were also addressed during public comment at the meeting, including the cost to the county to hold meetings outside the County Seat and the language barrier at such meetings.
Wendy Black said that while traveling to remote meetings, county employees will put unnecessary miles on vehicles, incur unnecessary fuel costs, and remain on the Reservation for hours following the meeting rather than going back to work.
Black requested that a cost analysis be performed to determine how much it costs taxpayers to hold meetings outside Monticello.
Addressing the language issue, Shanon Brooks suggested that a translator be present at commission meetings so all in attendance can understand what is being said.
Other concerns expressed during public comment included a lack of water pressure at the public water station in Monument Valley, a lack of a library and good parks, and the need for a recreation or wellness center in the southern portion of the county.
The commission completed several items of business during the relatively short meeting on June 2.
They approved a Reimbursement Agreement with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA)
for planning work in Spanish Valley.
Interim County Administrator David Everitt said the agreement is “basically a way to fund the Landmark Design work that’s happening in Spanish Valley.”
Everitt explained that the county will reimburse SITLA for costs associated with the design process that is in response to the moratorium on the Highway 191 commercial area in Spanish Valley.
In other business, the commission approved the State Certified Tax Rate of .003605 for 2019. It is slightly lower than the 2018 rate and is anticipated to produce almost $2.87 million of property tax revenue for the county.
County Road Supervisor Ben Musselman reported that the county received grants from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, State Office of Outdoor Recreation, and San Juan Public Entry and Access Rights (SPEAR) to replace the toilet facility at the Hook and Ladder Trail Head.
A new enclosed public toilet and picnic tables will be placed at the Hook and Ladder OHV staging area. Musselman said that because of grants, the $47,000 project will cost the county less than $450.
Commissioners ratified a letter addressed to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requesting that the county become a consulting party in the BLM Canyon Rims Travel Management planning process.
The commission will also send a letter to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands in response to the draft Colorado River Comprehensive Management Plan and Mineral Leasing Plan.
The letter states that the county finds the plan “consistent with the goals and policies of the San Juan County General Plan.”
In other matters, Everitt said that twelve applicants have expressed interest in the county administrator position. Screening of the applicants will now begin in earnest.
A meal was served after the meeting. The July 16 commission meeting has been cancelled. They won’t meet again until August 6.