Commissioners move forward on projects
The San Juan County Commission signed a contract to create new signs, moved forward on a project to bring water to Westwater, and sent letters of opposition to two Utah state house bills authored by the elected house representative from the area.
At their March 1 regular meeting, the commission agreed to act as a fiscal agent of funds exchanged between the Utah Division of Drinking Water and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.
The Division of Drinking Water has authorized a loan of $457,000 with 100 percent principal forgiveness to be used for the final design of the Westwater Community Water Supply Project.
The agreement means the county will effectively act as a pass-through for state funds to help move forward on a project to bring utilities to the Westwater community.
The Westwater community includes about 30 homes located west of Blanding on Navajo Trust Lands. The lands are owned by the Navajo Nation but located on non-tribal lands in San Juan County.
At their March 1 meeting, the commission also signed a contract to create wayfinding signage in the county.
Landmark, the company awarded the contract, will receive $49,780, with $46,615 coming from the Utah Department of Transportation and the county covering the remainder.
The company will create a cohesive wayfinding system for the county. This includes road signs for towns, major attractions, and directions in the Bears Ears National Monument.
Elaine Gizler, Economic Development and Visitor Services Director for the county, presented the contract to the commission. After reviewing four proposals, Gizler recommended Landmark, based in part on their past experience creating a wayfinding plan for Uintah County and other Utah cities and towns.
At the meeting, the commission also approved a contract for computer data storage.
The commission approved a $1,040 monthly contract with Trinsio Data Management to back up county information to a remote location.
County Information Systems Manager Trae Bushore explained the need for an off-site backup of county data in case of the physical destruction of local county servers through an event like a fire.
The contract also acts as a backup in case of a ransomware attack on the county.
Ransomware is when malicious parties gain control of an organization's database, through an email scam or other means, and threaten to delete all information unless a ransom is paid.
The final 8.3 miles of the 16-mile West Summit road reclamation stabilization project was approved at the commission meeting.
West Summit road branches north of Highway 491 near the Colorado border east of Monticello. The first half of the project was completed last year.
Because the road is used as a school bus route, the county earmarked federal funds to help with the project. The estimated cost to complete the project is $943,000, which is within the county budget for the project.
During their meeting, the commission signed letters in opposition to two bills in the Utah State Legislature. Both bill were sponsored by Representative Phil Lyman of Blanding.
One bill, HB371, aimed to amend voting procedures and laws. The other bill, HB285, aimed to impose a criminal penalty on elected officials that exclude a member of the public from an open meeting.
Lyman presented HB371 in a house government operations committee meeting at the state legislature on February 23.
At the meeting, Lyman emphasized the key points of the bill, including a requirement to have the Lt. Governors' office hire an independent party to perform an audit of precincts each election.
Speaking in hearing, Lyman said, “In Utah, whether we have a gold standard or not, we do have a crisis of confidence. In a public company setting, they address that with external independent audits.”
The proposed bill also eliminated universal mail-in voting as the primary voting method in the state. Instead, it would allow certain qualified voters to specifically request a mail-in ballot. The bill also prohibited drive thru polling locations, absentee drop boxes, and required security features on ballots.
The bill saw support from groups including the Utah Liberty Council, Utah Election Integrity and Secure Vote Utah.
Speaking against the bill in committee were the Director of Elections of the Utah Lt. Governor’s office, the Clerks Legislative Committee, the Utah Association of Counties, the American Civil Liberties Union, and representation from the Navajo Nation Council.
The bill did not pass favorably out of committee by a vote of three in favor, seven opposed.
HB285 did not receive a committee hearing and did not pass.
In passing the county resolution against the already defeated bill, Commissioner Willie Grayeyes said HB371 would limit voter participation.
“It’s totally out of this world,” said Grayeyes. “It doesn’t matter who writes the resolution, we have been confronted our constituents from the south are being totally blocked off if this bill was to pass.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams inquired about the author of the resolutions. County Administrator Mack McDonald informed the commission neither county staff nor the county attorney wrote the letter.
When Adams asked Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy and Grayeyes who wrote the resolution, they did not say who wrote the resolution.
The motions to sign both letters were passed two to one.
Commissioner Adams voted nay both times, stating, “I vote nay because we don’t know who wrote the resolution.”