County Commission discusses Utah Navajo Trust Fund, jail expansion
Apr 23, 2008 | 1253 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The San Juan County Commission added their opinion to controversy surrounding the Utah Navajo Trust Fund (UNTF). The State of Utah’s trusteeship of the fund is set to expire on July 1. It may be several years before the federal government names a new trustee.

The trust fund is set up to benefit Utah Navajos with a significant amount of oil field royalties. The health, education and general welfare of Utah Navajos are specific areas that the fund has focused upon.

While the Commission did not recommend who should be the future trustee, it did express concern that Utah Navajos continue to be the beneficiaries of the fund.

Commissioner said that they heard from all of the chapters, and from the Navajo Utah Commission while creating the resolution.

Once the state withdraws as trustee, Commissioners explained that existing contracts will be honored, but no new expenditures will be authorized.

The trust fund currently has approximately $600,000 in scholarship commitments and between 80 and 90 students. The current commitments will be honored and new scholarships will be funded for two years.

The UNTF Board of Trustees and Dine Committee will be discontinued on July 1. Commissioners explained that the Utah Office of Administrative Services, Governor’s staff and State Auditor will invest the incoming royalties until a new trustee is named.

The local UNTF office in Blanding will remain open with a small staff.

The physical properties owned by the trust fund will remain as part of the trust fund, and some could possibly be sold.

In other matters at the April 21 Commission meeting, the Commissioners said that there may be road blocks to expanding San Juan County jail to house more state prisoners.

“There seems to be a certain lack of enthusiasm for moving state prisoners in any great quantity back out to the counties,” said Commissioner Lynn Stevens. “Unfortunately, we are being painted with the same brush as the other county jails. We are moving forward trying to prove that we do not fit in that category.”

In two separate instances in 2007, state inmates escaped from county facilities in other areas. As a result, the state completed an audit and moved all first-degree felons back into state-operated facilities.

The Commissioner seeks a letter of support from the state government before moving ahead. Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “If we float a 20 or 30 year bond to fund the project, we want some indication of economic success. We don’t see it at this time.”

The Legislature approved an 80-bed expansion of the Garfield County jail, but Garfield Commissioners have yet to approve the project. Local officials state that if Garfield walks away from the project, San Juan County may be interested in pursuing the funding.

In other matters, the county has earned a five percent insurance premium credit from the state for the highly successful risk management and workers compensation programs. This represents a savings of approximately $15,000.

San Juan County is one of three counties to earn the credit. Risk management supervisor Cyndi Eldredge reports that claims have decrease from $150,000 to $5,000 in three years.

County economic development coordinator Charlie DeLorme reports that motel room revenues were up 52 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007. He adds that property owners report that there is a significant increase in visitation from the Wasatch Front.

DeLorme also reported on progress on the reconstruction of the swinging bridge east of Bluff. The bridge was destroyed in a flash flood in 2006. DeLorme reports that fund raising is continuing, engineering plans are being developed, core samples are being drilled in the surrounding sandstone and progress is being made. He added that risk management realities are that the replacement bridge will not be a “swinging” bridge.

There was no action on a draft dog control ordinance. Commissioners expressed support for the concept of a dog control ordinance, but added that how to enforce the ordinance is the big question.
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