State of the County 03

Utah County Commissioners, from front, Bill Lee, Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the State of the County held Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The latest plan for changing Utah County’s form of government has been released, and signatures are actively being gathered to put it on the ballot.

But with multiple plans to change the county government having been discussed since January, what exactly does this latest version entail?

A county government change plan unveiled in January called for a change from the three-person commission to a mayor-council form. A Good Governance Advisory Board told the commission in April it should change to a mayor-council form with a chief administrative officer.

A petition filed in July by five Utah County residents, including Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, looks to change the form of government from a three-person commission to a five-person commission. The move caused some consternation with his fellow commissioners, who had both supported putting the recommendations of the GGAB on the ballot in 2019. The filing of the petition put the other plan on hold indefinitely, since according to state law only one path to changing the form of government can be pursued at once.

Putting the plan on the ballot will require about 10,200 signatures, the gathering of which is already underway, Lee said. Even if the signatures are gathered, it remains to be seen if the plan could be put in place, since multiple Utah County legislators have said they plan to introduce legislation in the 2020 legislative session that would require Utah County to have a form of government with separated legislative/executive powers, such as a mayor-council form.

The latest plan calls for an expansion from the current three-person commission to a five-person commission, keeping the current structure of acting as both the county legislative and executive body.

Two of those would be elected at-large, with three elected by geographical districts. The commissioners would serve as three-quarter time commissioners, with a $71,650 annual salary plus employment benefits offered to other Utah County elected officials. While maps for the districts aren’t drawn yet, the districts would consist generally of a north county district, a central county district and a south county district.

Lee said the three-quarters time was selected for the plan because he believes it can broaden the pool of people running for office, because people might not feel as pressured to completely halt their current career.

“This allows for somebody to come on and still keep their career path going, but still be fully involved,” Lee said. “I see it as increasing our base of individuals who would like to look at being a public servant.”

The plan, if implemented, would change a quorum of the commission from two to three.

According to the optional plan, the question of whether to change to this form of government would appear on the 2020 ballot in Utah County, though the first election to elect the five commissioners would not take place until 2022. The terms would be staggered so that the at-large members are elected in the same year, and the commissioners with geographic districts are elected two years later.

The initial election in 2022 would initially elect those in geographic districts for a two-year term, which would switch over to four year terms in the 2024 election.

Within the first nine months of implementation, the new commission would evaluate whether to consolidate or divide the offices of the Utah County assessor, Clerk/Auditor, Recorder, Surveyor and Treasurer.

Lee said it would allow discussion looking at advantages and disadvantages of looking at changes like having the clerk and auditor functions be performed by separate people.

Lee said the plan incorporates aspects called for in the GGAB report presented to the commission, including having three of the commissioners elected in districts.

Katie England covers local government, the environment and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!