Open houses are being held to encourage public participation in selecting Grand County’s next form of government — whether it be a council or a commission.
The first open house is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5. The open house will be held that day at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West, between 4 and 7 p.m.
Following that date, an open house will be held on Thursday, June 13, at the Grand Water and Sewer Services Agency. The third open house will be at the Castle Valley Town Building on Monday, June 17. Both of those open houses are also happening between 4 and 7 p.m. each day.
The open houses will give locals a chance to provide feedback on four alternative, state-approved forms of county government that are up for consideration to replace the county’s current form of council. The four forms include a three-person commission; a council with an appointed county manager; a five- to seven-member commission; or a council with a county executive who has veto powers. The change in government was initiated through the Utah Legislature with the passage of House Bill 224 in 2018.
The committee created to help steer the process forward — the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee — held a meeting on Friday, May 17 to talk about its current agenda and next steps.
Grand County Clerk and Auditor Chris Baird, the county’s election official, updated the committee on election rules, which he said have been reviewed by Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan as they pertain to the committee moving forward.
Under the new state law, now that the study committee has been created, “the county shall hold an election … before Dec. 31, 2020, on an option plan that the study committee creates. Otherwise, the law states the county’s government will default to become a three-person commission.”
The study committee’s update in April to the county was that it is “moving along,” but committee member Bob Greenberg said he wasn’t sure if the committee could get a plan created to get the issue on this year’s ballot.
“I guess there has been some discussion about the election timeline as well as the lead-up to the election timeline,” Baird said. “As far as the election goes, it’s my interpretation that the question of the optional plan has to run during either a municipal or a regular general election … you could run the optional plan question this year if you had time to do it, given all the other procedures and processes that (Grand County Attorney) Christina Sloan has laid out for you this year.”
Those procedures and processes include time for reviews, public hearings and approval from the current county council and county attorney.
Baird said this means the committee would have a “pretty onerous” deadline of “sometime in July” if they wanted to place a plan on the 2019 election ballot.
“If that didn’t work out, then obviously we would move the question to the regular general election next year. And if it passed, then the election of officers … you would have to elect the officers in a regular general election … in 2022.”
The officers would then take office in 2023, Baird said.
In reviewing the state law with Sloan, Baird said it appears that the state law does not allow for an option to instead run “a special election.”
“Christina Sloan and I are working on some minor interpretations. We have some disagreement about how things would progress if we were to run the election this year,” Baird said. “It may be a moot point. She’s looking into my interpretation [of the state law] versus hers.”
“Just to be sure I understand,” responded study committee member Walt Dabney, “… the drop-dead date for getting on the ballot for 2019, is that July 8?”
“I would refer to Christina Sloan on that one,” Baird said, adding that there are some timeline variables on reviewing the plan.
In further discussion of approving a proposed timeline, Greenberg said it was possible to meet the July 8 deadline, assuming public meetings were able to be held in early June and a draft plan was put together in early July.
“That’s kind of the scenario if we elect to push ahead,” Greenberg said. “So, what if it’s not on this November’s ballot? Either we decide we can’t, or don’t think it’s smart, to meet that timeline — since the question is required to be put to the voters at a general election, that would place it on the 2020 ballot. … We can talk about the pros and cons of each.”
Greenberg said if the committee chooses to wait, it will allow them some flexibility in scheduling “to take September and part of October to actually agree on a plan” that would be submitted to outside legal council for review by Nov. 1 and presented to county council for approval sometime before the end of the year.
“We’ve got a fork in the road, and I think we’ve gotta decide which fork we’re taking today,” Greenberg said, “because in effect, if we don’t, we’ve decided not to go for this November.”
Committee member Walt Dabney said he “would love to get this done,” but said the “citizens of this county need to feel … that we’re not rushing this to the point where they won’t get to participate the way they would.”
“There’s still concern about the way this all came about,” Dabney said. “And that’s old history, I understand that, but I think we need to make sure that we are weighing it out and giving people that want to speak the time to do that. … My greatest concern is making sure the public gets to say what they want to say.”
A motion was made by Greenberg proposing the committee adopts a proposed timeline to complete the committee’s work by the end of November, which would place the plan on the 2020 ballot, instead of working toward meeting the impending July deadline to get it on this year’s ballot.
Committee member Marcy Till seconded the motion, with Steven Stocks and Dabney voting in favor. The measure passed 4-3, with no votes coming from committee members Cricket Green, Judy Carmichael and Jeramy Day, who wanted to move forward with placing the issue on this year’s election ballot.
“By not putting it on this election, we complicate the transition of going from one form of government to another,” Day told the committee. “No matter what, I think we’re going to be in a bit of controversy with whatever way we go.”