The regular San Juan County Commission meeting was held at Navajo Mountain, an area in the extreme southwest of the county bordering Arizona. The meeting is part of a new commitment to improve access to county government for citizens living in rural areas of San Juan County, which covers over 7,800 square miles and is the largest county in Utah. A citizen living in Navajo Mountain would need to drive over three hours to attend a regularly-held commission meeting in Monticello.
Hank Stevens, president of the Naatsis’áán Chapter of the Navajo Nation Reservation, welcomed commission members to the chapter house before beginning the meeting with a prayer in Najavo.
One item of discussion was of particular interest for the Navajo Mountain community: first steps toward building a radio tower to support emergency services in the area.
The Utah Communications Authority, according to its website, was created in 1997 to provide “statewide, two-way public safety radio coverage” to emergency services, law enforcement and backcountry travelers using “push-to-talk” radios.
As the highest summit in the area, Navajo Mountain is an attractive location for a radio tower to improve coverage in southwestern Utah, according to documents from the UCA. It is also a highly sacred site for Indigenous people and access to the mountain is regulated by the Navajo Nation.
In a letter dated Oct. 7 and signed by UCA Executive Director David A. Edmunds that was included in the Commission’s agenda, the UCA wrote that it “recognizes the sacred nature of Navajo Mountain and pledges its commitment, if permitted to construct a site, to act with the utmost respect for the mountain.”
Commissioner Willie Grayeyes, who lives in the Navajo Mountain area, recommended that the matter first be referred to the appropriate Navajo Nation tribal government offices.
“I think there needs to be quite a bit of discussion…in order to give our blessings,” Grayeyes said.
Commission Chair Kenneth Maryboy provided spectators with necessary explanations of Navajo Nation government and processes and looked forward to a formal meeting with the Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to encourage greater collaboration to serve San Juan citizens who reside on the reservation.
San Juan County Commission meetings are held every first and third Tuesday of the month and are live-streamed on the San Juan County Commission YouTube page.