Interviewer: What are some innovative policies or practices that your community is trying out to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Amanda: Innovative policies or practices? I mean, it all feels innovative because it’s like, you know, learning how to host your meetings remotely and…
Amanda: … learning the legality of like requiring masks and what that looks like. No, this doesn’t… this doesn’t really answer your question because it’s not my community, but the biggest… yeah, sorry, I’m answering a different question. But the biggest need really that we’ve seen around here is that access to infrastructure like… like clean potable water or, you know, better roads or electricity and, you know, Wi-Fi access. And so, I have heard that with the CARES Act money that the Navajo Nation government is using, they’re putting that towards infrastructure projects, specifically looking at water infrastructure. And I do think that that is going to be critical in helping folks get through, not just this pandemic, but like future pandemics that we might have. I think it’s just ridiculous that people live in this country and they don’t have reliable running clean water.
And… and so, I think what’s really important to me is… is like, you know, Navajo Nation or other countries… like other communities are looking at policy solutions that… that they’re essentially leapfrogging and not trying to go back to what is normal, because what was normal was really not working for a lot of people. And so, the more that we can like leapfrog and have people starting from a better place going forward, you know, getting solar on folks’ houses or getting these… getting water lines dug or getting like, you know, temporary water tanks, the better we’ll be in the long run.
Interviewer: Yeah. Do you think just with everything that’s happening right now you guys have a better handle and by experience if this were to happen again? I know we’re still in the middle of it, but…
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think that everybody would just be more responsive with getting the sort of public orders in place and turning to remote meetings and being more effective in those remote meetings. Because I think that… I do know that the government, at all levels, has had a lot of troubles with the remote meeting. And so, that’s like slowing down people’s efficacy and efficiency. So, yeah, we’ll be more prepared in the future.
Oh my goodness, that’s pretty far. What are some innovative policies or practices that your community’s trying out to navigate to COVID-19?
Well, I would say probably the biggest step for all of us was going to video meetings. That probably sounds crazy. It sounds crazy. My daughter she’s like, you’re all just a bunch of old people. This is not a big deal. But for all of us, code, switching the video meetings and things like that has in trying at times, but everybody’s done it. And I think we’re all more or less kind of getting the hang of it. And to me, that’s been nice because I’ve seen a lot more participation in our local Government meetings now that we’re on video and people don’t actually have to leave their house to go to the meeting. So, that’s I think that’s been a great thing for us.
Speaker 1: Oh wow. That’s fantastic. That’s really good. So what are some innovative policies or practices that your community is trying out as you advocate through the COVID-19 pandemic?
Speaker 2: Well, I think probably I’m not sure we have any real policies other than trying to stay closed. I think that was probably good to see on our town councils part. I mean, it’s a hard decision to make, but I think it bought some additional time, which is good. But in general, like procedures, we’re really trying to push people to wear mask in public areas. Like I said, most of our restaurants are still seeking to takeout so that they’re, you’re not actually dining in and then hotels were doing, I’m not sure what the you’d have to ask the hotel owner, but originally they were doing like a delay between rooms. So if you like stayed and they’d have like a 24 hour, like, I don’t know, airing period, sanitation periods between those rooms. So it just to kind of increase time between visitors. So there’s maybe less chance of spreading
● What resources do they need? (80 words)
Interviewer: Okay. What does your town need from outside resources right now?
Amanda: We’re… we’re an interesting town because we are brand new. You know, we… we need expertise on things like, you know, town accounting and budgeting and planning and zoning and like, you know, creating a master plan for the town. So, we’re in a position where we actually probably need things that other towns already have in place. So, yeah, outside, you know, consulting is something that we really need, which… which we’re definitely trying to do and get creative with it. I think that’s one of our mitigation strategies is working with like volunteers and foundations and stuff to try to pay for things like… like a bike path and things like that.
That’s wonderful. What is your town need from outside sources right now? Do you feel like you need any outside sources, or help or any outside sources?
I’m sure we do. We are we are always looking for help from the outside in forms of grants and things like that. So financially for projects and stuff. We’ll continue to do that. It’s nice to have the expert of people who have more of a financial expertise or more of that kind of knowledge to come in and work with us. To help us to help us get through experts on finally, like load documents properly and things like that, just so that’s always nice. You know, sometimes it’s just nice to have a fresh pair of eyes to bring in some new situate or new examples and things like that of how things could be done a little differently as well. I know that we are still relying on food banks and things like that to help get out food supplies, things like that to our board meetings, members of the community and that’s always helpful. So items like that.
I think maybe more outside testing might be helpful too. Especially as things seem to be ramping up again a little bit and be nice to have some more outside push to get some more testing and things like that down here so we can make sure that we isolate people waiting to be isolated.
Speaker 1: What does your town need from outside sources right now?
Speaker 2: Well I think we need respectful visitation because our community is slowly opening. We do need that support to try to like get through the season. Because really
● Have state policies helped or hindered your community? (80 words)
Interviewer: How do you feel the county, State, and/or federal COVID policies have helped or hindered your community?
Amanda: I don’t know if you’ve been hearing about this from other communities, but there’s been quite a struggle between local county and State control that we’ve really seen played out in Bluff with… with Bluff to be a really respectful neighbor to Navajo Nation and to the Ute Mountain, Ute community which also had pretty like early on had imposed restrictions on travel and things. We, as a community have… have been trying to stay in like the red and orange zone for COVID, and we have seldom had county support on that. And several times, the County Public Health Department has actually gone against our wishes for what classification we’d like and have gone to straight to the Governor and asked for us to be yellow. So, I haven’t seen a lot of… I haven’t seen support for like locally-generated policy if it conflicts with the county or the… or the State-level policy, or national policy.
Interviewer: Okay. Has that been difficult as you get more tourism starting to happen right now?
Amanda: Yes, exactly. That… that was why we particularly wanted to stay in the orange or red zone is because we were seeing a lot of tourists come over here, especially once the county reopened, I think in early May is when like public lands camping was opened again. A lot of people were coming through and there weren’t restrooms available in town. And so, people were just like going to the bathroom anywhere on the side of the road, and people were coming without masks. And so, we wanted to enforce certain measures, but didn’t have the county and State support to do that.
Interviewer: Okay. Yeah, that sounds a little bit difficult because, yeah, when we… when we talked to the Mayor, she told us that you guys had been really wanting to stay within those zones. But of course, like there’s always a little bit of pushback from… from other places.
Amanda: Right, right.
Interviewer: But it’s very fascinating and very encouraging to see how your community has really united within themselves to… to agree on these things, because (unclear) [08:53] a little bit harder.
Amanda: Yeah. It’s definitely been nice having the businesses on board, because initially, we… we know the businesses were really hurt and we might… some businesses might not survive this, but they’ve really put… put safety first.
This’s wonderful. How have county state or federal COVID-19 policies help or hinder your community during this time?
Well, our county economic office has been incredible through the whole time. Our economic office director Natalie Randall has really gone out of her way to make sure that everybody was up to date on at least business wise on all programs that were available and really stepped up to provide us with any kind of help possible, business wise. Commissioner Wise, I haven’t really heard very much from our commissioners on the whole thing, but that could be my fault. That doesn’t mean they have been doing anything. I just am not in that. So I’m not sure what that one. With our public health director, I think he did a good job at the beginning to keep us all informed. We would have liked if he could have been a little more area specific with information because San Juan County is such a big County. It was hard to pinpoint whether we should really be nervous with COVID outbreaks or if they were still many miles away from us. So that’s one thing that I think all of us would appreciate a little [inaudible 06:59] to understand the need for privacy, but it seems like they could find a way to disseminate information without revealing names. So that would be helpful. And also at this point in time, they’ve kind of discontinued our public updates and things like that. Until they feel there’s a need, again, which there were several of us who were kind of upset about that. Just because it felt like a lifeline in communication of everybody talking and being on the same page. So we would like to see that changed a little bit, but
Speaker 1: I think that sounds pretty good actually. So actually that leads perfectly into the next question. How has the county state or federal COVID-19 policies helped or hindered your community during this time?
Speaker 2: Well, I’m not sure that they have, I’m glad that Utah issued a stay at home orders. I think that was the smart thing to do, but I think our community has kind of constantly been asked if we were not ready to open up. And so it’s been kind of a hard thing to push back against. So it would have been nice to have had a more unified closure earlier and then stayed closed longer, I think or stayed closed with more unified procedures maybe because as the County, the County has issued and I will give them credit for this they’ve issued like the San Juan Strong directives. But when you go out to our surrounding communities, because the San Juan County is huge, you don’t necessarily see that everywhere. You’re seeing those procedures followed more closely in the Southern part of the County, on the Navajo nation and not so much in the Northern part. So it feels like a mixed bag. Like if you’re a visitor, I’m not sure you would know that we as a County actually have protocols.
● How have they been communicating to residents on COVID-19? (60 words)
Speaker 1: How would you say you’re getting that information out to people because I know different communities have different things happening, but how is that communicated to people that are coming into your town?
Speaker 2: So businesses that are open have a lot of that posted, like they they’re asking that people to a mask, if they come into their buildings they have their takeout hours posted on their websites. Hotels have that posted. San Juan has issued a videos. There’s like a video you can watch that has like all the San Juan strong procedures. But it’s kind of on an individual business to business level. So each business that you interact with has kind of their procedures and protocols published.
Speaker 1: Okay.
Speaker 2: We, as a town, haven’t done a ton for like social media, but some of the organizations around us have, so they’ve been posting that kind of stuff on social media.
Speaker 1: Okay. And that information has been shared to people in your community? I’m guessing.
Speaker 2: Yeah. So friends of Cedar Mesa is one of the nonprofits in our organization and they did a lot in the very beginning on social media, especially when we had closed. Because the County did close all recreation for a while to outside visitors. So when that was going on, there was a lot of social media posts about where you could camp, who can camp, permits are canceled, please don’t come on the river like that kind of stuff as well.
How has your community’s budget been impacted? Any mitigation strategies? (150 words)
– End of 2020 fiscal year $300,000 revenue; Projected end of FY 2021: $40,000
– Can’t afford school now.
– Could lose water rights if incorporation is dissolved, in case of bankruptcy.
How’s your community’s budget been impacted? Any mitigation strategies that you know off.
I think our community’s budget has been impacted greatly. Because we’re so tourism for any oriented and a large part of our budget comes from sales tax and transit from tax, resort tax, things like that. Those have pretty much been decimated. Like I said, most of our businesses has seen anywhere from an 85 to 90% drop in business. So therefore, all of the collection of those revenues for the town government has seen that depletion as well. Fortunately, the city government has just only had about a year where they’ve actually had a pretty good budget to work with. So nobody’s gotten too used to spending a lot of money anyways. And we don’t have a lot of programs and things like that are already implemented and having to be cut because of lack of funding. So, I think we’re better off just because we haven’t figured out a way to implement all of those funds spending yet, so we’ll just put everything on hold for another years, but it seems
Do you feel like businesses have supported each other very well during this time?
Yes, definitely. We have our little business organization group. We have in the past, we have met maybe once a quarter if we were lucky. But once COVID started to affect us all we’ve switched to once a week meetings and trying to arrange meetings with different professional people to help, you know, just to make sure everybody was getting papers filed that they needed to file and things like that. So the businesses have really come together and stepped up and supported each other a lot
Interviewer: Okay. How… and I don’t know if you know the answer to this question, but how has your community’s budget been impacted? Any mitigation strategies?
Amanda: I think Anne probably… did Mayor Leppanen answer that?
Interviewer: Yeah, she answered all of that.
Amanda: Yeah. I think… I mean, I had the sense that our… our revenue, projected revenue was cut by like 50%. So, pretty drastic, especially for a brand-new town that like we don’t even have our own… we don’t have a single like paid staff member in our town or we don’t have like our own police officers or anything like that. And so, it really sets us behind in setting up these sort of basic government administrative needs.
Speaker 1: Yeah. That’s a very difficult one. How has your community’s budget been impacted? Any mitigation strategies?
Speaker 2: I don’t know the answer to that. Yeah, sorry. As planning and zoning were all totally volunteer organization or volunteer commission, so I don’t know, we don’t get any money so we don’t get to use money.
Speaker 1: That’s okay.
Speaker 2: What would be the answer to that? I mean, I would assume at a minimum, like just one thing I could think of is because they’ve closed the community center and we closed out or kitchen, there’s potentially some loss of revenue because we do rent those spaces. So those spaces are enclosed to rental. But other than that, I don’t know.