By Doug McMurdo and Rose Egelhoff • The Times-Independent
The state-mandated requirement to change Grand County’s form of government might be controversial, but five members of the Grand County Council made one point perfectly clear at Tuesday’s meeting: Voting “Yes” on Proposition 9 on Nov. 6, Election Day, is the only way to ensure voters have a choice in the matter. Simultaneously, the petition to recall County Council Vice Chair Curtis Wells has failed.
On Tuesday evening, Sept. 4, the county council, with practically no discussion, unanimously approved arguments in favor of Prop. 9. Five council members were in attendance. Curtis Wells was absent and excused, and the council is lacking a seventh member due to Patrick Trim’s resignation.
According to packet literature provided to the council, “If the county voters vote “No,” the county will be required by law to change its current form of government to a three-person commission by 2020.” It would automatically happen.
Here’s the question as it will appear on the ballot: “Shall a study committee be appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in Grand County’s form of government?”
Gov. Gary Herbert on March 15 signed into law House Bill 224. The law offers four options – but none of them are what is currently in place and consistently approved by voters for the past two decades in Grand County.
The current choices are: A three-person commission; an expanded five- to seven-member commission; a council with an elected executive with veto power; or a council with an appointed manager who has more authority than an administrator.
If voters approve the ballot question this year, the next step will be to vote on the study committee’s recommendation in 2019 following roughly a year of studying the issue with citizen involvement. The new form of government must be in place by 2020.
Wells, in Washington, D.C., to discuss federal land matters regarding “payments in lieu of taxes,” informed The Times-Independent Wednesday, Sept. 5, that a recall effort against him will not happen. The Grand County clerk/auditor’s office confirmed that insufficient signatures for recall were collected, so the recall petition was not turned into their office.
Moab resident David Lyle had spearheaded the recall effort. Lyle was involved in the 1992 effort to change the Grand County government from a three-person commission to its current form, a seven-person council. He said that with three commissioners, it was easy for two to make deals and exclude a third perspective. Lyle said that Wells’ work on HB 224 was a motivating factor behind the recall petition. “[Wells] is an at-large representative of every person in this county and he says that he represents the people in Grand County, but when more than two-thirds of the people in this community are liberal and he’s trying to do away with a liberal, working form of government for something that is deliberately partisan, I’m sorry, you are not representing your constituents,” Lyle told The Times-Independent when he instigated the recall last spring.
Regarding the petition’s failure, Lyle told The Times, “Bottom line is I didn’t have quite enough signatures. I’m sorry it didn’t work.”