Navajo Utah Commission asks for state designation for Red Mesa road, approve resolution for funding Montezuma Creek shopping center
Members of the Navajo Utah Commission approved resolutions requesting Red Mesa Road be designated a state road, a resolution requesting funds for a feasibility study for a shopping center in Montezuma Creek, and received reports as part of their latest meeting.
At their February 14 meeting elected tribal leaders passed a resolution requesting San Juan County to recognize N35 Red Mesa Road as a transportation priority in the county and to assume an active role in determining the feasibility of seeking state road designation for N35 in collaboration with the Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
The Red Mesa Road is a paved roadway branching off Highway 160 in Red Mesa Arizona and connects Red Mesa and Montezuma Creek, over 20 miles of the roadway is located in Utah.
The resolution notes challenges in maintaining the road include a lack of funding and coordination between NDOT, BIA, and the county.
The resolution reads that the “Navajo Utah Commission understands counties have authority to nominate certain roads in the county for designation of state roads if certain requirements are satisfied.” And further reads that “designation of Red Mesa road as a state road may be the only other option to consider since transportation appropriations are not forthcoming and the road continues to deteriorate at the expense of commuter safety.”
Members of the commission unanimously passed the resolution.
At the meeting members of the commission passed another resolution requesting $80,000 from the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program to conduct a business feasibility analysis for a proposed shopping center in Montezuma Creek.
The commission passed the resolution ahead of the February 28 deadline. Noting that the “Aneth chapter is proposing the development of a shopping center in Montezuma Creek in collaboration with the Navajo shopping center.”
The US Department of Agriculture administers the RBDG program with the project applying for funds set aside for Tribal Nations.
The Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Incorporated manages ten centers on the Navajo Nation including ones in Shiprock and Kayenta, where they lease space to businesses.
The company is completely self-operational without any Tribal department influence, although the organization operates as a Tribal Enterprise of the Navajo Nation.
At the meeting members of the commission also passed a resolution requesting President Buu Nygren appoint an elected tribal representative to represent the Navajo Nation Utah Tribal Leaders. The group of eight federally recognized tribes to discuss shared concerns and work with the state on issues and projects.
At the meeting members of the commission also heard a report from Tony Dayish the Executive Director of the Utah Navajo Trust Fund.
Dayish gave a report on available funding for chapter projects from the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and the Navajo Revitalization Fund.
Members of the commission expressed particular interest in addressing housing needs for Navajo Utah families. The Commission and Dayish made tentative plans to meet in the future to go over information in greater detail.
At the meeting members of the commission also received a report from Utah state officials on preschool services and broadband connectivity.
At the meeting, Rebecca Dilg, Director of the Utah Broadband Center explained that with billions in funding being made available to address broadband connectivity across the nation the state is working to secure those funds for Utah communities.
Dilg explained that broadband connection serves important roles in commerce, employment, education, telehealth, and social connection. Dilg added that the funding will first go to unserved areas with additional funds going to underserved areas.
Additionally, the digital equity act is meant to serve those who may now have access to broadband but may still have issues such as affording devices or education on using the internet.
With a focus on covered populations including seniors and veterans Dilg reported a high percentage of San Juan County is eligible for the affordability connectivity program with $75 a month discount for internet services on tribal land, and $30 a monolith ono nontribal lands plus up to $100 off for a one-time purchase for a device including laptop, desktop or tablet. Approval and eligibility can be checked at ACP.Utah.Go
In addition, Dilg asked to schedule a consultation with the Navajo Utah Commission to create a five-year plan in order to submit for federal funds to work with internet service providers to build additional infrastructure in Utah.
At the meeting, the commission also received a report on Preschool Development Grant Opportunity from the Utah Office of American Indian/Alaska Native Health & Family Services.
At the meeting members of the commission also received an updated report on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) projects for Utah Chapters.
Calvin Castillo, Executive Director Nominee for the Navajo Division of Community Development shared that of the hundreds of projects submitted by chapters thus far only 66 have been reviewed, approved, and signed off by the President, most of those in Chinle area.
Utah Chapter ARPA projects are working their way through the system. Projects will need money obligated to them by June 2024, with the entire projects closing out by the end of September in 2026.