Commission approves Bluff land transfer with HIRF

The San Juan County Commission decided unanimously to transfer 3.88 acres of land that the Hole in the Rock Foundation owns for 2.18 acres the county owns at their Nov. 20 meeting in Monticello.
The county approved the transfer despite public comment stating that many residents were against the land transfer.
Jim Sayers opened the public comment portion of the meeting to address the issue of the land transfer prior to the commission making a motion. Sayers represented Bluff as a resident and a town councilman at the meeting.
“My message is simple and one that I have made here before,” Sayers said. “I just want to convey, as a member of the Bluff Town Council and a longtime property owner in Bluff with a lot of ties in the south part of the county, that we are opposed to trading this land off if that is what this topic is about.”
Commission Chair Bruce Adams confirmed for Sayers that was indeed the topic associated with the agenda item labeled “Bluff Land Transfer.”
“We’re just opposed to that,” Sayers told the commission. “The transfer station, as it is right now, works very well for us and for people south of the river.
“We believe that you’ve got a resolution from the Mexican Water Chapter stating as much. And as I have pointed out before, the people to whom the trade is being considered are not long-time residents of this county, many of them.
“It appears that it is strongly connected to a church mission, which I have no bias one way or the other except for the separation of church and state.
“And many of these people are not residents of the state of Utah, whereas all the people I have talked to are residents and many of them have lived in Bluff all of their lives. All are opposed to this transfer, this trade.”
The commission thanked Sayers for his comments at the beginning of the meeting before moving on to the next agenda item. They eventually arrived at the land transfer item and unanimously passed a motion to transfer the land.
Sayers gave public comment at a commission meeting in September along with other residents who gave similar comment.
The commission thanked them for their comments in September and informed them the commission would need more time to make a decision on the matter.
In September, Wes Shook, a member of the Bluff Service Area Board since 2015, said he opposes the transfer of the land.
He reported that a 1993 agreement between the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS) and San Juan County shows the Navajo Nation paid $30,000 for half the construction cost of transfer stations in Bluff and Mexican Hat.
He alleged the agreement stipulates the transfer stations would serve residents within 30 miles of the stations.
Shook reiterated that in past discussions involving the land transfer, the HIRF indicated they would fund construction of a new transfer station at a different location if they acquired the current Bluff Transfer Station property.
Shook asked in September how the county would continue to uphold the NAIHS agreement if the HIRF has no plans to follow through with a new transfer station.
Shook questioned whether the land transfer is in the best interest of the county and asked why Bluff residents should have to travel further away to dump trash.
“We’ve been considering this for a couple months now, transferring land that the Hole in the Rock Foundation owns with land that the county owns,” Adams said when the commission began discussion on the subject again at the Nov. 20 meeting. “We’ve previously closed the transfer station in Bluff pursuant to our treatment to Monticello and Blanding cities.”
Adams then asked if there was a motion to approve the transfer and commissioner Phil Lyman then made the initial motion to “trade the land with the foundation.”
“I think after much discussion and taking a look at the pros and cons, I’ll second that motion,” Commissioner Rebecca Benally said before seconding the motion.
After the transfer of the land was made official by a unanimous vote, Clerk/Auditor John David Nielson and County Administrator Kelly Pehrson were tasked with preparing the paperwork to get the transfer done, “as quickly as possible.”
No date for the completion of the transfer was specified during the meeting.

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