San Juan County adopts 5-year plan with initiatives for film industry, affordable housing

Passage of plan ends months-long process that included public meetings

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Plans to develop film industry and comprehensive energy hubs, increase affordable housing, recruit more manufacturers and develop a plan for a freight railroad line could be headed this way.

Members of the San Juan County Commission adopted a new strategic plan Sept. 7 that is intended to guide the county from 2022 through 2026.

The vote ended a months-long process that has seen county officials gather and process input on the plan from county commissioners, department heads and citizens alike.

Deputy County Manager Jim Cox introduced the final version of the plan to commissioners during the Sept. 7 meeting, explaining that its content was shaped by three meetings that were held in July to solicit public input.

"We had really good feedback related to the strategic plan," he said. "Many thought that we were on track with what they would like to see."

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Jim Cox

What are San Juan County's 20 initiatives?

Cox said the plan includes 20 strategic initiatives spread out over the five years of the plan. But unlike earlier versions of the document, he noted, those initiatives are no longer prioritized. Instead, he said, they have been assigned a year for when they will be accomplished.

The 2022 initiatives include supporting law enforcement, launching a "Make Us Shine" cleanup and recycling program, leading a "shop local" campaign and promoting a tree-planting campaign.

The 2023 initiatives are focused on expanding recreational opportunities, developing a film industry hub, increasing county staff development opportunities and providing support for the drilling industry.

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In 2024, the list includes expanding the county's internship program, establishing the county as an all-encompassing energy hub and rebranding the county as a retirement destination.

The 2025 list includes expanding local farming opportunities, improving cooperation and communication with the Navajo Nation, establishing a healthy living community resource center and recruiting additional manufacturers to the county.

And by 2026, county officials hope to develop and promote a plan for a rail freight line reaching from Interstate 40 to San Juan County, create a partnership for an expanded and improved behavioral health workforce, work with partners to design and construct an Aztec-Farmington rail-to-trail system and promote recreational equipment manufacturing in the county.

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San Juan County officials address feasibility

Some citizens expressed concern about the feasibility of some of the initiatives listed in the plan, Cox said, especially the one dealing with the creation of the freight railroad line. Cox emphasized that the initiative listed in the plan only covers planning for the project.

"It does not mean that by 2026 we would have that freight rail line," he said.

Other concerns were raised about the plan's call for increased affordable housing opportunities, he said. And some citizens were surprised to realize the document does not cover anything related to water security in San Juan County or the development of a long-term water plan.

Cox said he and County Manager Mike Stark discussed that issue and determined that the San Juan Water Commission is charged with that responsibility, and already has it covered.

While the strategic plan represents the county's primary interests for the near future, Cox said it should not be construed as sole focus of county officials.

"What this doesn't mean is we're only adopting these initiatives and not maintaining all of the great programs that we already have all over the county," he said. " … We're adding to what we already do for our citizens."

Commissioners voted to adopt the plan by a unanimous vote with minimal discussion.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.