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AM News Brief: Tribal Investment, Utah Supreme Court Hears Grayeyes’ Case & City Library To Reopen

A photo of the interior of the downtown location of the city library.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Beginning Monday, March 15, Salt Lake City Public Library buildings will reopen to the public for “Express Services.” This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, March 9, 2021

State

Vaccine Appointments Filling Up

The New York Times ranked Utah as one of the most efficient states in the country in using up its COVID-19 vaccines, but there have also been lots of appointments going unfilled. Last week in Utah County, the health department couldn’t fill several hundred vaccine appointment openings. They’ve since started to pick back up now that Utahns 50 and older are eligible. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

City Library To Reopen Next Week

Beginning Monday, March 15, Salt Lake City Public Library buildings will reopen to the public for “Express Services.” Library officials said in a statement that with Utah’s COVID-19 infection rates declining and vaccination numbers increasing, they're cautiously optimistic that a full reopening is on the horizon. Social distancing protocols will be enforced, and officials will require properly worn facemasks at all times inside the library. 60-minute computer sessions, access to fax/copy machines, holds pickup, item return and reference assistance are among the services to start again. — Bob Nelson

“Insect Emergency Infestation”

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has declared an Insect Emergency Infestation and is launching new eradication efforts against the Japanese Beetle in Davis, Utah and Weber Counties this spring. The eradication plan will make sure the invasive beetle doesn't become established in Utah, according to UDAF officials. The action follows new 2020 data showing the same program in Salt Lake County had a 58% reduction in the number of the invasive insects found in the same area in 2019. Officials said the pesticide is proven effective and has low toxicity for bees, as well as humans, pets, birds and earthworms. Pesticide application is scheduled to begin in April and end in early May. The pest feeds on the foliage of over 300 different plants, and officials said it costs infested states approximately $460 million a year to control the pest and damage to plants. — Bob Nelson

Diesel Brothers On The Hook For $1 Million In Legal Fees

The stars of the Utah-based Diesel Brothers reality TV show have been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in legal fees. That's on top of the $848,000 in previous penalties over pollution law violations in a suit brought by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Judge Robert Shelby of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah ruled in January that David “Heavy D” Sparks and Joshua “Redbeard” Stuart must pay the legal fees and costs to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. The attorney for “Diesel Brothers” called the fee request by the doctor group “egregious and frivolous.” — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Utah Supreme Court Hears Grayeyes’ Residency Case

The Utah Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in a case regarding San Juan County commissioner Willie Grayeyes. Kelly Laws challenged Grayeyes’ residency after losing a close race to him in 2018. A state district court ruled in favor of Grayeyes in 2019, but Laws appealed that decision. Peter Stirba represented Laws, and argued Monday that Grayeyes was not eligible to run for office. “The court in this case referred to Mr. Grayeyes having a shade hut in Paiute Mesa that would, according to him, qualify for purposes of residency,” Stirba said. “I don't think the Legislature intended that kind of transiency would be established for purposes of residency.” The Utah Supreme Court could issue a final ruling in this case in the coming days. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Federal Government Makes Largest-Ever Tribal Investment

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the massive COVID-19 relief bill this week, and it includes the largest one-time investment the federal government has ever made in Indian Country. Tribal governments will receive $20 billion, and another $11 billion will be invested in federal Indian programs like the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Education. The funds come as many tribal nations in our region are struggling to stay afloat. It’s not yet clear how the aid will be divided or how much flexibility tribal leaders will have to spend it. They’re likely to use it on everything from critical infrastructure projects to individual assistance for struggling tribal citizens. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

Utah Groups Issue Resolutions On Romney’s Impeachment Vote

Utah groups are reacting to Sen. Mitt Romney’s impeachment vote last month. The Republican voted with six other GOP Senators to convict former President Donald Trump on the charge of inciting insurrection, and Romney was also the only Republican senator to convict Trump on impeachment last year. The conservative Utah political action group Platform Republicans PAC announced Monday their censure of Romney, calling his votes “unjust and unethical.” Meanwhile, the Midvale City Council commended Romney on his action. In a 3-2 vote last week, the council’s resolution praised the first term Senator for his “courage and leadership.” — Elaine Clark