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County Watch

Compiled by Patrick Parkinson

The Republican and Democratic parties in Summit County won’t officially take sides in the debate about whether to change the form of government in Summit County, party spokespeople say.

"We did vote not to take a position," said Coalville resident Laura Bonham, secretary of the Summit County Democratic Party and a Statehouse candidate. "It happened that way because the party recognized it is not a partisan issue."

Voters will be asked Nov. 7 whether they support replacing the current three-member Summit County Commission with a five-member council and appointed county manager.

"It is a really polarizing issue and we have Democrats and Republicans on both sides of this issue," Bonham explained during a recent meeting of Democratic Party leaders. "My gut feeling is that we should steer clear of it."

The GOP also won’t be taking sides, said Parkite Bruce Hough, vice chairman of the Summit County Republican Party.

"Our job is to elect Republicans and not make policy decisions," he said.

A proponent of changing the form of government in the county, Democratic Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott insists she will not push voters to switch.

"I’m going to try to stay out of the discussion, personally," she recently said. "It’s very important that we both make our own individual statement, if we choose to do so, and the Democratic Party stay out of the issue."

But "[parties] take stands on every other issue around," responded Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier, a Democrat against the proposed change.

Election audit could get messy

Though some politicians are skittish about the performance of Summit County’s touch-screen voting machines, the Summit County Clerk’s Office won’t likely audit results from the Nov. 7 general election.

"Sure it’s a good idea to audit the results for the first two or three elections to see if the machines are working properly," Summit County Democratic Party chairman Rob Weyher said in a recent interview. "Then the citizens of Summit County will be assured there was no tampering."

But auditing results from just a handful of voters isn’t sufficient, said Parkite Kathy Dopp, a candidate running to replace outgoing Summit County Clerk Sue Follett.

"You have to have a much larger audit the smaller the margin if your goal is detecting vote miscounts," Dopp said.

To detect irregularities during recounts when candidates are separated by one percentage point requires auditing 44 percent of the ballots, she said, adding, that allows for a 95 percent rate of detection.

"It’s not really good news for being able to easily audit elections," Dopp recently told the Summit County Commission. "[But] America needs Summit County to be a leader to preserve democracy."

Testing the county’s controversial new Diebold voting machines before elections isn’t sufficient, she said, insisting, "Testing (voting machines) can only guarantee the presence of votes, it can never guarantee absence of votes and it can never guarantee the absence of tampering."

Saturday is ‘State Parks Day’

In recognition of ‘State Parks Day,’ Jordanelle State Park officials are asking citizens to help pick weeds near Francis on Sept. 30.

The event begins at the Rock Cliff Nature Center Saturday at 11 a.m.

Groups will collect teasel, an aggressive weed that invades native plants near Jordanelle. Often used in flower arranging, a naturalist will show how to use the teasel flowers for different crafts.

Call (435) 782-3030 for more information about the event.

County’s wildfire insurance intact

State officials have settled a dispute with the Summit County Commission regarding the costs of fighting wildfires.

Though taxpayers seem to have dodged a big blaze in 2006, fighting a significant forest fire could quickly drain county coffers. As a member of a fire-suppression fund managed by Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Summit County was asked this year to pay more than $300,000 to insure firefighting costs statewide.

But proximity of development in Summit County to woody areas vulnerable to wildfire skewed the cost of that premium, said Kevin Callahan, administrator for Summit County Public Works, who claimed the funding equation should not consider more urban areas in western Summit County.

So the county’s premium was lowered to roughly $168,000, he added.

"Next year we expect the premium to be permanently adjusted," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.


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