Commission opposes oil, gas lease sale

The San Juan County Commission voted to oppose an upcoming oil and gas lease sale on land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management near Hovenweep National Monument. The vote came at the September 3 Commission meeting.

The resolution calls on the BLM to “defer the sale to prevent the degradation of cultural heritage resources, dark skies, natural resources, visitor experience, water quality, and air quality in the area.”

The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner Bruce Adams opposing the motion.

The resolution outlined the concern of the Commission with oil and gas development in the area, stating “allowing oil and gas development near Hovenweep... would not be an appropriate balancing of multiple uses in the area.”

Adams said the resolution was “reckless.”

“If we go on record saying we are opposed even to the sale of the leased land, then we are opposing the money that we are trying to access later on,” said Adams.

“I don’t see how the sale puts us at risk. It is when the application to drill is received that the risks can be addressed. I want to protect the integrity of the CIB. A lease sale does not put us at risk.”

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes explained his support for the resolution by asking, “How do we guarantee that these things are protected? We are talking about water, and culturally-sensitive sites. There has to be some control.”

In other matters, Commissioners approved adjustments in the pay schedule for employees in the Sheriff’s Office.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Department recently lost two trained employees to neighboring agencies.

The new schedule includes steps for deputies, sergeants, lieutenants, and chief deputies.

Sheriff Jason Torgerson said the new schedule includes performance advancements, rather than simply seniority.

After dealing with the issue in law enforcement, the county may hire an outside consultant to complete a comprehensive employee compensation study. Interim County Administrator David Everitt estimates it will cost up to $20,000 to complete a study.

“We recently looked at public safety,” said Everitt. “Now we want a comprehensive look across the board. This will provide a road map moving forward. This new study will identify who San Juan County is competing with.”

Karah Nay met with Commissioners to discuss the San Juan Stampede Rodeo. Nay said the annual rodeo was a success.  

The timing of the event and the payout to participants are part of the challenge. Commissioners expressed interest in finding a way to increase the payout.

“Everyone likes our rodeo,” said Nay, who added that it was nominated for small rodeo of the year.

Library Director Pat Smith approached the Commission to state that the Library Board is considering asking for a tax increase for 2020.

“We have had no increase in more than ten years,” said Smith. “Costs are up in every aspect.”

The library board meeting to discuss the issue is Wednesday, September 11. Truth in Taxation hearings would be required if the changes are above the certified rate.

Commissioners approved a contract to authorize outside legal counsel to appeal property tax issues. The company represents up to 20 counties in Utah in the Centrally Assessessed Tax Appeals.

Laws encouraged the contract, stating large centrally-assessed companies “have lots of resources at their disposal and some almost consider it a sport” to appeal and fight the assessment every year.

Public comment was expressed by several area residents, with most from the Spanish Valley area. 

A group in Spanish Valley seeks the creation of an ad hoc Spanish Valley Development Advisory Committee to advise the commission.

Commissioners received the annual audit from Jon Haderlie of Larsen and Company. 

The Public Works department purchased a Chevrolet medium-duty mechanics truck. The vehicle has a 5,000-pound crane.

“The current truck is undersized,” said Public Works Director Ben Musselman. “It is time to replace it.” Bids were from the state contract. The previous truck will be sold.

The county signed a contract for road work and cattle guard installation with the Forest Service.

San Juan Record

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