San Juan County Commission discusses deputy policy, AmeriCorps, bids

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan County Commission approved a policy change for the appointment of certain county chief deputies, approved an agreement to bring an AmeriCorps volunteer to the county economic office, and awarded a bid for gravel crushing at their latest meeting.
During their March 21 meeting, members of the county commission approved a policy change giving appointment authority of county chief deputies to elected officials in the county.
For example, under the new policy in the Sheriff’s office, the chief deputy and undersheriff are appointed by the elected sheriff.
The sheriff can make appointments to fill or vacate those positions as long as the new appointee is qualified according to the position’s job description, that the individual meets Employment Eligibility Verifications, and that the position has been approved by the county commission as part of the adopted fiscal budget.
The new at-will employment policy applies not only to the Sheriff’s office, but chief deputies in the Surveyor, Recorder, Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor, Clerk/Auditor’s office as well as the Local Health Officer in the Public Health Department.
County Attorney Brittney Ivins presented the policy to the commission, noting it is fairly standard in counties across Utah. The policy will not impact the current chief deputies that have been hired and not appointed to their position.
Ivins explained the policy, “As we all know elected positions can become very political, like an example Mack (McDonald) gave to me, if I was running in the future and my chief deputy was running against me in the future and it got pretty heated politically during the election campaign and then you had to keep them as your chief deputy that makes it hard.”
At the meeting, members of the commission approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to bring an AmeriCorps volunteer to San Juan County.
Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler explained, “This Vista (AmeriCorps volunteer) will be focusing strictly on the Native American communities, have them engaged with individuals that are primarily unemployed individuals or those who’d like more training in specific areas.”
The county will contribute $4,500 from the Economic Development Rural Grant fund to the program. The County is partnering with the Moab Free Health Clinic for the Canyonlands VISTA Project Sponsor. The commission unanimously approved the MOU.
During the March 21 meeting, County Road Superintendent TJ Adair presented five bids for gravel crushing for the county. The recommended and approved low-bid contract was awarded to Brown Brothers Construction.
The commission also approved a budgeted purchase of dust suppressant by the road department. Adair also informed the commission that the county has worked with the US Forest Service to reimburse maintenance of about four miles of road leading to Nizhoni Campground north of Blanding.
County Commissioner Sylvia Stubbs presented a letter of support for the Blanding-based Kigalia Fine Arts Council. The Council is applying for a Utah Arts and Museum grant. 
The letter reads in part that the “(Kigalia Fine Arts Council’s) efforts here in the County is to nurture and promote local artists and performers. Through their efforts, they help build a sense of community.”
The council is back up and running after a few-year hiatus. The organization is sponsoring a family-friendly performance by the Utah Opera Resident Artists at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 31, at the Blanding USU Arts and Events Center.
During public comment, the commission heard from Josh Nielson of Blanding, who is opening the new building for Sunrise Outfitting with a grand opening on April 21 and 22.
Nielson noted UTV Utah contacted him to help organize a ride in the county with 65 machines, and more than 120 people registered to come to ride on April 14 and 15.
Members of the commission also received a report on the $50,000 grant the county has received from the State of Utah to assist in establishing an internet broadband plan for the seven Navajo Nation Chapters, White Mesa, and Westwater. 
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained the county will contract with Horrocks Engineering to provide consulting services. McDonald added the plan should help facilitate communication between local tribal needs and state and federal resources to bring broadband connectivity to residents throughout the county.
The county however held off on approving the contract with Horrocks at the meeting in order to address a proposal of costs over the grant amount awarded for the scope of work, including in-person meetings. The commission unanimously tabled approval of the contract.
The commission also approved a pay plan for San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies to keep pay competitive with other agencies.
Members of the commission approved an MOU between the county and the Bureau of Land Management to aid in the development of an environmental assessment for the Emery County Land Exchange known as the Dingell Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.
Commissioner Jamie Harvey reported on plans for Earth Day events at Navajo Chapters in the county. Harvey shared a request from chapters for the county to participate in picking up and disposing of filled trash bags along roadways as part of clean-up efforts by the chapters.
Harvey also passed on requests from the Navajo Utah Commission and Red Mesa Chapter asking the county to support efforts to maintain N95, the paved road between Red Mesa and Montezuma Creek.
The NUC requested to designate the road as a Utah state highway. Commissioner Bruce Adams suggested the commission write a letter of support for the efforts of the Utah Department of Transportation to help maintain the roadway.
Harvey also highlighted the need for infrastructure upgrades in the Utah portion of the Four Corners Monument.
During her report, Commissioner Stubbs highlighted items from local chapters, including plans for work at the Navajo Mountain Senior Center and a cleanup day in Westwater.
The report from Commissioner Adams included an update on an advisory committee for the Colorado River outlining some of the issues regarding sharing of water between the states in the Colorado River Basin.
Members of the commission also made plans for a field trip to the Lisbon Valley Mine, with Adams highlighting a letter of support for the mine.
Adams explained, “They are trying to get a USDA loan to expand their operation out there and they’d like a letter of support from the county.”

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