County supports EEA effort to bury utilities

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission spoke about buried utility lines, heard comments on the Bears Ears draft plan, and canvassed Presidential Primary elections at the latest meeting.
At the March 19 meeting members of the commission approved a letter to Empire Electric Association in support of the power co-op’s efforts to seek grant funding to aid in efforts to run electric lines underground rather than overhead where possible.
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained in addition to the letter of support EEA asked the county to help them partner with other entities.
“If there’s projects–say for example burying of fiber optics lines–if we can give them a head’s up so that they can partner with those other entities to as they go to bury those lines and somebody already has an open trench, maybe there are some cost benefits if they partner with them so that each entity doesn’t have to bear the full burden of those costs.”
When asked by Commissioner Bruce Adams, McDonald clarified that there’s no resource commitment from the county to bury electrical lines, just that the county would alert Empire Electric of projects that the co-op could partner with to help both a contractor and EEA share costs in a project to bury utility lines.
Members of the commission unanimously approved the letter of support.
At the meeting the commission heard one public comment from county resident Josh Nielson who operates Sunrise Outfitting-Scenic Adventures in Blanding. 
Nielson spoke to the commission about the recently published Bears Ears Draft Management plan and identified alternatives in the plan. A 90-day public comment period on the plan is open through June 11. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service will be holding public meetings regarding the plans with local meetings to be held at Utah State University in Blanding on Tuesday, April 23 and at Monument Valley High School in Monument Valley on Thursday, May 16.
Two virtual meetings will be held, the first on Tuesday, April 16 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and the second on Thursday, May 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
At the March 19 meeting, Nielson addressed the council on his concerns with the plan in particular with the identified preferred alternative.
“There’s leverage that the county can use, and I’d love to see them do what they can to stop anything drastic from happening.”
Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs thanked Nielson for his comments,
“I think that we feel the squish, being squished and it’s sad because its outside influence that’s dictating to us things going on in the county.”
Adams said that after the draft was published he shared his frustrations with BLM representatives with the draft and the preferred alternative.
“I expressed to him my frustration as I’ve just expressed to you and he said ‘you know the final draft is not yet set. Even though we’ve identified a preferred alternative we really want comments from the public, the county, and anybody who has an interest. We want to hear your comments because  we have the ability to change the final decision on what’s going to happen.’”
Adams recommended Nielson share his comments with county staff and recommended the public weigh in on the plan.
Commissioner Jamie Harvey added his final thoughts. “There’s no dissension here among us, we’re here, we support the citizens. Your remarks are important, I know we’re going to come up with some important comments that we will have to bring forth to approve. Every public comment is important so thank you for bringing yours forward”
At the meeting each commissioner also provided a report on activities. 
Adams reported on a water conference he attended in St. George related to the allocation of water from the Colorado River and plans to readdress the allocation of water. 
Adams reported to state officials the importance of the river which serves as the border for the entire western side of the county, noting economic impacts related to visitation when levels at the lake are low. 
Stubbs reported that she had visited the Children’s Justice Center in Carbon county to see the center as San Juan County prepares to open its own devoted center in Blanding.
Stubbs also reported meeting with the seven county coalition where the members learned of a fund that is being underutilized by almost all of the seven counties.
Harvey reported attending the recent ribbon cutting ceremony at the Food Bank in Montezuma Creek. The Utah Food Bank held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new food bank in Monument Valley on the same day; the pantry in Montezuma Creek is now open. Harvey also reported that he had been assigned to represent the county as part of the Bears Ears Monument Advisory Committee.
At the meeting members of the commission also approved the 2024 Presidential Primary Election Results.
County Clerk/Auditor Lyman Duncan reported on the Presidential Primary Election held on March 5.
Duncan shared the county had voting locations at the county building in Monticello, in Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain. In addition ballot boxes were available in Aneth, Montezuma Creek, Mexican Water, Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain and the county building in Monticello.
Duncan reported 612 ballots were cast for the candidates in the Democratic Presidential Primary with Incumbent President Joseph Biden earning 459 votes which is 75-percent of the votes, Dean Phillips securing 74 votes (12-percent), Marianne Williamson with 46 votes (seven-percent), Gabriel Cornejo with 18 and Frank Lozada with five votes.
Members of the county commission unanimously approved the election canvas.
In the state of Utah, the Republican Party opted to hold a Presidential Preference poll which was conducted on March 5 at party caucus meetings. Party officials reported 353 county Republicans participating in the poll, with Donald Trump receiving 272 votes (77-percent) and Nikki Haley earning 80 votes (23-percent).

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