County Watch |

County Watch

For the second time in four years, a Summit County commissioner will chair the board for two consecutive terms. "The chair is responsible for conducting the meetings," said Anita Lewis, administrator for the commission. "That’s their main charge and it’s varied in how they do it."

Choosing the commission chair is usually a "casual" process, she said, adding that the person serves as her direct contact and signs most of the documents the board approves. "It’s just not that big of deal," Lewis said.

Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott nominated Richer to serve another year. "I made the nomination for Bob to maintain continuity," Elliott said. Wildfire bill may help Summit

A state senator for Weber and Davis counties claims a formula used by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to fund wildfire suppression gouges Summit County taxpayers.

Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott says money from her constituents’ coffers funds fire suppression for much of the state.

Currently, counties’ premiums are based on the value of land and real property in the area. Elliott says exempting more urban areas in the Snyderville Basin from the equation would bring the county’s payment in line with other jurisdictions.

"We’ve never quite used as much money as we put in the wildland fire suppression costs," she added.

Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Republican Sen. David Thomas, would exempt some property from the funding equation that has residential, commercial, or industrial development. Land not threatened by wildfire or where a fire is not likely to spread also would not be included in the assessment.

Republican Sen. Beverly Evans, who represents portions of Summit County, co-sponsored the bill.

Summit County reentered the state’s wildland fire suppression fund about four years ago, Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier said.

Since that time, the Summit County Commission has toyed with terminating the relationship and funding its own suppression costs. But if SB 65 passes, the county’s annual premium would decrease from $320,000 to roughly $200,000, Frazier said.

"That’ll keep us from pulling out [of the fund]," Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said. "The bulk of the formula is based on valuation in the unincorporated county," Frazier said, adding that Summit County has paid for roughly 20 percent of the fund. "What we are trying to do is say that the Snyderville Basin is like a city."

County officials initiated the change, Frazier said.

In 2002, membership in the fund saved the county roughly $1 million for the costs of fighting the East Fork Fire, which burned about 14,000 acres and was allegedly set by Boy Scouts in the Uinta Mountains.

"That’s the only year that we have benefited," Frazier said.

Elliott says she worked with Utah Association of Counties officials to help Thomas draft the legislation.

"The commissioners did not want to participate in the suppression fund (in 2005) and they gave me one year to get the costs down for Summit County," Elliott said.

If the bill passes, 28 of Utah’s 29 counties would be contributing to the suppression fund, Elliott said, adding that Salt Lake County hasn’t agreed to cooperate. "Dave Thomas is helping both his own district and Summit County," Elliott said. "This is a good thing for everybody." Ure opposes smoking ban

For two years, the Utah Legislature has grappled with whether to prohibit smoking inside bars and private clubs in the state. Last week, Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, was successful in pushing Senate Bill 19 through the Senate.

The House of Representatives received the bill Monday.

"It’s a private-property issue," said Rep. David Ure, a Republican from Kamas who opposes Waddoups’ legislation.

Waddoups said several bartenders from Park City recently expressed their support for the bill because "they wanted to have clean air where they work."

Improving the health of employees is driving the legislation, Waddoups said.

But after senators passed a similar bill last year, House lawmakers did not debate the legislation before the general session ended. In response to criticism from lawmakers Waddoups says he increased the scope of the smoking ban in 2006 to include social organizations like country clubs and most other workplaces. Hotel rooms and designated areas at the airport are places where smokers could still light up in public.

According to Park City Chamber/Bureau Executive Director Bill Malone, club owners in his organization are nearly split on the proposed ban.

Democratic Rep. Ross Romero, who represents portions of Snyderville, would not say how he would vote when contacted recently by The Park Record. Uintas slide show

The High Uintas Preservation Council will sponsor a slide show about the Uinta Mountains at the First Unitarian Church, 569 South 1300 East, in Salt Lake City, on Jan. 26 at 7:15 p.m.

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