After four years of extra duty, the Tooele County Recorder/Surveyor has handed back duties unrelated to his elected office to the county commission.
“This letter is intended to serve as a notice to you that effective immediately, it is my intent to turn over the duties associated with the Tooele County Community Development Division to your direct oversight,” wrote Tooele County Recorder/Surveyor Jerry Houghton to all three county commissioners in a letter dated Sept. 1, 2017.
“In May of 2013, I willingly volunteered to take on the additional roles and duties associated with community development due to Tooele County’s catastrophic financial concerns,” Houghton said.
In the fall of 2012, a revenue shortfall caused the Tooele County Commission to start a series of layoffs and department reorganizations. The budget crisis continued into 2014 as the county commission continued layoffs and other expense reduction measures to deal with a cash flow problem.
In Sept. 2012, the county commission eliminated the position of county engineer, opting to contract for engineering services as a way to save money.
The county engineer had also served as the director of the engineering department, which included planning, zoning, building, and code enforcement functions.
The county planner, Kerry Beutler, was named director of the what was left of the engineering department.
In May 2013, the county commissioners laid off four more employees in the building and development services department, leaving Beutler as the only employee in the planning division.
Beutler and the remaining building division employees were moved to the county recorder’s office.
“At the time, it was my understanding that this appointment was meant to be a short-term solution,” Houghton said. “However, it has now extended longer than I think originally expected.”
The county commissioners are working with Houghton on an orderly transition, according to county commission chairman Wade Bitner.
“Our first step is to hire two planners for the county,” Bitner said. “Those positions have already been posted.”
Tooele County has been without a planner since Blaine Gehring resigned from the post in June 2017.
Planning and building services are not statutory duties of the county recorder.
Houghton was first elected as county recorder in 2010. In 2014, he ran unopposed for the combined office of county recorder/surveyor.
Since Houghton accepted the building and development responsibilities, the building services workload has more than doubled.
The county issued a total of 346 building permits for new homes, commercial buildings, and other building projects. In 2016 the county issued 719 building permits for the same activities.
“By giving notice now, I hope to give the commission and Tooele County adequate time to look at the structure of these departments and contemplate the appropriate staffing and budgetary requirements,” Houghton said.