Record editorial: County contribution to keep seat on Central Wasatch Commission is money worth spending
The Summit County Council is facing a familiar decision.
Just shy of two years after the elected officials voted to approve an interlocal agreement creating the Central Wasatch Commission, the Council is weighing whether to stick with the agency or part ways.
At the center of the debate is $50,000 the county would be required to contribute if it wants to continue for another year as a member of the commission, which was formed to implement the ideas outlined in the Mountain Accord addressing transportation, recreation and economic development in the central Wasatch Mountains.
To be sure, it’s a large chunk of change. But, the price is worth what it buys: a voice for the county in critical decisions that will affect the Wasatch Back.
Some County Council members, though, remain skeptical, particularly because the county has already funneled significant funding to the commission and the Mountain Accord before it. Councilor Roger Armstrong, for one, is not convinced taxpayers have seen enough return on their investment to dig back into the county coffers.
That argument has some merit. Much of the Central Wasatch Commission’s work thus far has centered on transportation in the Cottonwood canyons. And while that impacts Summit County — especially when heavy snow forces the closure of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, diverting some Wasatch Front skiers and snowboarders to Park City — one could reasonably argue the $50,000 would be better spent elsewhere.
But that’s a narrow view. The commission has also undertaken a transportation study on S.R. 224 with funding the county helped provide and has pledged to work toward transit improvements in Parley’s Canyon. That’s in addition to a continuing effort to secure federal protections to preserve the public land where so many of us recreate and where vital wildlife habitat and watersheds exist.
Additionally, being part of the commission puts Summit County on equal footing with other stakeholders such as Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Cottonwood Heights and Alta. Park City, which is being asked to pay $100,000, is also represented on the commission. There’s value in addressing the problems facing the central Wasatch Mountains in lockstep with leaders from other communities, while ensuring the interests of the Wasatch Back are considered alongside those on the Wasatch Front.
Given taxpayers would foot the bill, the Council is right to carefully weigh the pros and cons before re-upping for another year on the commission. But the right decision in this case is to chip in once more and keep working on the vital issues facing this slice of our beloved mountains.
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