Sunday, July 12, 2020

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Moab, UT

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    Revised county governance plan finished pending Sloan’s review

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    Doug McMurdo
    Doug McMurdo
    Editor Doug McMurdo reports on news out of the Moab City Center, tourism, courts, change of government and more.
    study committee
    Members of the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee sign a plan for the county’s next form of government. From left, Chair Steve Stocks, Bob Greenberg, Walt Dabney, Cricket Green, Jeramy Day and Marcy Till. Member Judy Carmichael participated in Friday’s meeting via telephone and is not pictured. Courtesy photo

    Pending review and a signoff from Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan, the study committee tasked with creating a new form of county government has completed its mission – for the second time in 2019.

    The seven members of the Grand County Change in Form of Government Study Committee met for two and a half hours Friday afternoon hashing out a final draft of the Grand County Optional Plan. They then recessed for 90 minutes to give Salt Lake County Attorney Gavin Anderson time to mark up the changes before voting to approve their work.

    While there was never any real hope the committee would get its work done in time to have the measure placed on the 2019 ballot, members worked diligently for weeks on end the first time around to meet the early July deadline, but Sloan found the plan violated state law in four areas – one of them that caused significant heartburn for the committee, which took the time and expense to have voting districts drawn up by an expert.

    Sloan determined that only the local government entity could draw such maps. Members after lengthy debate earlier this fall opted to do away with districts altogether and instead go with an all at-large election.

    About 250 residents took a survey and most of them opted for a mix of districts and at-large candidates, but a significant number also wanted all at-large, which gave members confidence in making the change. This is the only major change to the plan the committee initially submitted five months ago.

    If approved, the new form of government will be partisan, with no provisions for term limits or recalls outside of judicial action. It will be a five-member council with authority over legislative issues and a manager with executive control, a departure from the current council, which holds both powers.

    As mentioned earlier, all seats will be at-large and candidates for the first election will run in 2022 and take their seats for the first time early in January 2023. Three will likely run for four-year terms and two for two-year terms, so terms can be staggered.

    While the current council has another election in 2020, those terms would end in two years rather than four.

    Council members will also earn significantly less money than the current council after the committee set salaries at about $19,000 a year for members and $22,000 for the chairperson. The current council earns about $30,000 for members and $36,000 for the chair. The primary reason is that they will theoretically not spend nearly as many hours in the week performing council work.

    Sloan will have 45 days to conduct this second review and her answers will be due in February.

    Should Sloan green-light the plan, but voters reject it in 2022, Grand County will automatically revert to a three-person commission, with commissioners handling both legislative and executive functions.

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