Governance committee eager to hear from public at open houses

Committee Member Steven Stocks

The public’s first formal opportunity to weigh in on Grand County’s pending change of government will occur in June when the committee studying four possible options will hold three open houses.

Each open house will begin at 4 p.m. and end at 7 p.m. They will take place June 5 at the Grand Center, 182 North and 500 West next to Moab Regional Hospital; June 13 at the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency at 3025 Spanish Trail Drive; and June 17 at the Castle Valley Town Building, 2 Castle Valley Drive.

Informational packets will be distributed and attendees will be asked to complete a survey. Questions the committee will want to get answers for include which of the four options residents favor, whether the governing board would be full or part time and whether candidates would run by district or at-large, or a mix of both. An in-depth explanation is available at grandcounty.ut.lwvnet.org.

Here is an abbreviated version of the four options available:

County Commission: This commission would hold both executive and legislative powers. It would have three members who are elected at-large with staggered four-year terms.

Expanded County Commission: In this form, the county commission also has the authority to manage the county, make laws, set taxes, budgets and fees. There would be five to seven commissioners, elected at-large who serve staggered four-year terms.

Elected executive/council: This form has an executive or mayor who has authority over the executive branch of government, including veto power over council legislation. The number of members, length of terms, compensation and whether elections are at-large or by district would have to be decided.

Council/Manager: A person would be appointed county manager. She or he would serve at the pleasure of the council. That person would run the executive branch while a council would handle legislation. As in the elected executive/council form, the number of members, length of terms, compensation and whether elections are at-large or by district would have to be decided.

Study committee members Bob Greenberg and Judy Carmichael have interviewed most if not all of the county’s elected officials, a handful of former elected officials and department heads. They reported there was no support for the three-person commission and very little support for the elected executive/council forms of government.

The concern for the former was that too much power would be vested in too few people, and the issues raised with the latter is that an elected executive might allow political considerations to dictate how day-to-day operations are carried out.

Elected officials might not be comfortable with an elected executive because he or she would have veto power, which could muddy the waters since that executive also is tasked with ensuring the policies of the council are put in place.

The Grand County Change of Form of Government Study Committee began meeting in March and since then it has wrestled not with what direction to take in choosing a form of government – but how to reach as many Grand County residents as possible in order to arrive at a conclusion that would be acceptable to the most people. Grand County staff also will be interviewed, but the study committee is most interested in hearing from residents, which makes completing the survey all the more important, according to the committee.

The committee at its most recent meeting in a 4-3 vote determined there was insufficient time left to get the question on the 2019 ballot. It agreed to conclude its work by November. It must be finished by March per state law. Voters must approve whatever form of government is chosen in the November 2020 election. If the up or down vote fails, the county form of government would default to the three-person commission.

Candidates elected to the Grand County Council in 2020 – and those currently on the council whose terms don’t end until 2022–would serve in a transition role. Should voters support the study committee’s recommendation, officers to the commission or council would be elected in 2022.

There is concern the public’s interest might wane between March of 2020 and the general election later that year, but others believe 2020, because it is a presidential election year, will see a huge turnout.

Those interested in more information or to comment on the process can send an email to [email protected].