Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 10, 2017
Committee to pick its preferred county government

The Tooele County Government Study Committee is ready to select the form of government it believes is best for the county.

The agenda for the study committee’s Oct. 12 meeting includes a vote to narrow down the list of government forms to one form of government that the committee will recommend.

In September the committee jettisoned the current three-member commission, the expanded seven-member commission, and the elected county executive with elected county council forms of government.

Left on the table for discussion were the appointed county manager/elected county council, and the five-member commission forms of government.

The committee has spent the last month discussing the pros and cons of the two forms of government.

During a discussion at the committee’s Oct. 5 meeting, several committee members indicated they were leaning toward the manager/council form of government.

“The thing I heard from the public is they want broader representation and transparency,” said Robin Douglas of Tooele. “I heard over and over again is that people don’t want things to get in through the back door.”

The manager/council form of government has clearly defined roles with an executive position that can be tailored to the needs of the county, according to Douglas.

“If the manager doesn’t perform, if he doesn’t measure up, we can say ‘there is the door,’” Douglas said. “For me that’s a big plus.”

Silas Smith of Grantsville said, “With the manager/council form, there is separation of legislative and executive functions. It is spelled out who does what.”

Smith went on to say he liked the idea of a seven-member part-time council with a manager.

“All seven council members elected by districts will give broader representation from the county,” he said.

Erik Gumbrecht of Tooele said he liked the idea of a five-member citizen council and a professional manager to take care of the executive side.

“There should be five equal districts set up for the council,” he said. “Five is a good number for cohesiveness. If you get too many council members it may be hard to find good people to run.”

By state law the committee has until Feb. 8 to submit its final report, but the committee’s internal calendar, established at one of its first meetings, calls for the final report to be delivered on Jan. 10.

In addition to selecting a form of government, the study committee’s report must include all necessary implementation provisions, according to state law.

Utah state code specifies that the report should include all transition details, the retention, elimination, or combining of existing offices, provide for the continuity of ordinances and regulations, and the continuation of any pending proceedings.

The plan should also provide for any interim or temporary appointments, include any necessary budget adjustments, and may include plans for the effective operation of the proposed optional plan.

The Tooele County Clerk has 10 days after the optional plan is submitted to the county commission to send a copy to the Tooele County Attorney.

The county attorney then has 45 days to review the optional plan for violations of state statute or constitutional provisions.

If the county attorney finds any violations he must identify the specific violations and how they might be corrected.

The study committee can make modifications in its plan after the attorney submits his report.

The study committee may also continue to hold public hearings and make modifications to the optional plan after the report has been submitted, as long as it doesn’t change the recommended form of government, according to state code.

The optional plan may be placed on the ballot for an election either by a resolution passed by the county commission or a petition signed by 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the county for the office of president in the most recent presidential election.

In an August meeting with the study committee, the Tooele County Commissioners were unanimous in their opposition to putting a form of government change on a ballot by resolution.

Gathering signatures for a petition would mean proponents of change would have “skin in the game,” Commissioner Shawn Milne said.

“If the citizens want it, I think the citizens need to step up,” he said.

The committee’s Oct. 12 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Tooele County Health Department, 151 N. Main St., Tooele.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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