San Juan Commission talks dispatch, childrens justice center
by David Boyle
Members of the San Juan County Commission discussed 9-1-1 dispatch, approved the 2023 tax rate, and talked about operations of a children’s justice center at their latest meeting.
During the July 18 meeting members of the San Juan County Commission discussed the work of the Children’s Justice Center (CJC) including beginning the steps for the county to run its own CJC separate from Grand County.
The Utah Children’s Justice Center program is administered in the state by the Attorney General’s Office. With locations throughout the state, CJC offices offer a space for trained individuals to respond to allegations of child abuse.
Children’s Justice Centers provide a place for children who are alleged to have been victims or witnesses of violent or sexual crimes to be interviewed in a child-focused location aimed at minimizing trauma for children. Those interviews are conducted by trained experts in a quiet safe area and are recorded to prevent children from having to share traumatic experiences repeatedly. The necessary information from those interviews is then shared between responding agencies including child protective services, law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim advocates among other entities
San Juan County currently provides CJC services with Grand County, however, County Administrator Mack McDonald proposed to the commission that the county begin offering its own services rather than continue to share with Grand County.
Currently, San Juan County operates a satellite location in Blanding and operates under the supervision of the fully operational center in Grand County. McDonald reports San Juan’s CJC has had varying levels of attention from Grand County CJC directors at different times.
McDonald pointed out that when the latest individual to manage the CJC was let go San Juan County was not involved in those discussions.
“We had no idea that Grand County had terminated employment and then we found out after the fact. That’s typically been our management of CJC, our management was done through Grand County.”
McDonald shared concerns that cases are being undercounted and underreported in San Juan County and recommended San Juan begin the process to operate its own Children’s Justice Center. McDonald proposed the county work with the state to fund a part-time or full-time individual to run a county CJC.
As part of making that a reality members of the county commission unanimously voted to sign a memorandum of understanding to work with other local agencies to operate a CJC in San Juan County. The county will be seeking support from other agencies including the county attorney and county sheriff’s office, San Juan Counseling, Navajo Nation Police, San Juan School District, and other entities to bring the CJC along.
Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs shared her support of efforts to address childhood abuse and recalled a story from when she previously operated child care center in the county. Commissioner Stubs shared that training helped her recognize and report the abuse of a child who was being abused by one of their parents; Stubbs later learned that parent had been abused by their parent.
“Three generations. If they had stayed in town, and gotten help how much better their life could’ve been. I am for something like this.”
Commissioner Jamie Harvey also shared his support “the CJC initiative will be a critical piece in efforts to make a more stable and reliable reporting system.”
Harvey shared that he has been working to increase reporting of both child and elder abuse in the county especially on the Navajo Nation where reporting to the Navajo Nation may not be shared with the state and vice-versa. Harvey recommended that reports of abuse need to be shared with both entities to increase reliable information and along with it resources to address issues in the county.
At the meeting members of the commission also approved an agreement to have participating parties pay for 9-1-1 dispatch services. McDonald explained last year San Juan County migrated their 9-1-1 dispatch services to Price. The proposed agreement would make sure that other participating entities in the county pay the state directly for their services. Those entities include Blanding City, Navajo Nation Health Services and the National Park Service as they use the 9-1-1 dispatch services in their respective areas.
While the commission approved the agreement to help share the costs of operation, the commission did raise concerns about the move. Harvey expressed concerns about cell systems making the calls to the right dispatch center as well as concerns with dispatchers being unfamiliar with local terrain or especially isolated areas in the county, in particular on the Navajo Nation.
McDonald explained the change was made last year as 9-1-1 dispatch call centers have been consolidated across the state, as the county looked at the costs of maintaining required technology as well as hiring dispatchers a full-time staff they recommended the dispatch be moved to Price.
“We knew there would be lag in individuals that wouldn’t know McCracken Mesa-the dispatchers in Price-Hoping through the GPS system and the GIS mapping tools that (...) info gets uploaded and tracked in the system so as they become more familiar with us it helps aid in locating our people.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams recommended that the Sheriff’s office come speak with the commissioners in a work session
“They went through an extensive process to make a decision to recommend to the county commission that we switch to Price. We’ve been with them about a year now, maybe it’s time to take a look at how things have worked this past year.”
At the meeting members of the commission also approved the 2023 final tax rate. County Clerk/Auditor Lyman Duncan explained that the proposed tax rate is given to the county by the Utah State Tax Commission. The commission uses a combination of the Real Property Value, Centrally Assessed Value, and Personal Property Value to help determine the Property Tax Rate Value for the county which helps them to determine the certified tax rate. The commission’s recommended rate attempts to keep the county revenue neutral each year. So when values go up rates go down and vice versa.
Real Property values increased by about $27 million from 2022 to 2023 and Personal Property values increased by about $7 million from 2022 to 2023. Meanwhile, Centrally Assessed properties decreased by about $31 million from 2022 to 2023.
Adams shared he continues to be disappointed in centrally assessed properties values decreasing. “It seems like they just continue to go down and shift the tax burden to the individual property owners and it just doesn’t seem like any of our efforts to whine about that fall on any ears that care.”
At the meeting members of the commission also approved continued participation for the public health department in a number of programs including Women Infants and Children (WIC), Tobacco cessation, Building Resilient Inclusive Communities, and other needed amendments to continue participation in health programs.