Summit County Council on the fence about $50,000 for Central Wasatch Commission
Summit County Council members appear divided on whether to contribute another $50,000 to the Central Wasatch Commission, the agency established in 2017 to implement the ideas of the now-defunct Mountain Accord.
Summit County has already contributed $150,000 between the Central Wasatch Commission and Mountain Accord over the last several years. The money essentially bought the county a seat at the table among elected leaders from the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back.
County Councilor Chris Robinson serves as the county’s representative on the commission. Park City Mayor Andy Beerman also sits on the Central Wasatch Commission board.
“We felt it was important to have a seat at the table, but we knew this would be a little harder for our citizens because we are paying quite a bit for having that seat,” said Kim Carson, County Council member. “There is still some work to be done on Parleys Canyon with transportation back and forth. But, I still think it is really important to have a seat at the table.”
Elected officials met with representatives from the Central Wasatch Commission during the County Council meeting on Wednesday to better understand how the county’s money would be used and whether it would benefit the community to continue contributing financially. Previous contributions have helped pay for a transportation study of the Interstate 80 corridor.
“We are very limited as an interlocal government agency about what we can and what we can’t do with our funding,” said Jesse Dean, deputy director of the Central Wasatch Commission.
A proposed 2019 membership contribution shows Summit County contributing $50,000 along with Cottonwood Heights and the Utah Department of Transportation. Park City and Sandy City are listed at contributing $100,000, with Millcreek paying $75,000. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County are expected to pay $200,000 each. It is proposed the town of Alta would contribute $15,000.
“We have decided to continue with a consistent funding strategy with the idea to continue to look to additional resources such as grants,” Dean said. “We can receive and disperse funds and apply for grants so there will be additional room for opportunities for growth in the future.”
Chris McCandless, chair of the Central Wasatch Commission board, said the contribution does give the county a seat at the table among other stakeholders.
“We are working today on these particular issues, but what about tomorrow’s issues? This group will survive and having that group behind that has your back has value. I know it does for me,” he said to councilors during Wednesday’s meeting. “There will be Summit County issues.”
McCandless said the Central Wasatch Commission is “pretty powerful” as a collective group.
“We get the meetings at the state and federal level because we are a bundle of sticks,” he said. “Having Park City, Summit County, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County seated at the table is a different situation and scenario.”
Roger Armstrong, County Council chair, continued to question how the community would benefit from another $50,000 payment. He said he did not support the last payment and the only reason he supported the initial payments was because of the Interstate 80 transportation study.
Armstrong said he was unsure whether the notion that the Central Wasatch Commission could help provide conservation and opportunities to protect the watershed satisfied the public interest.
“The last part of the pitch is you’ll have a seat at the table. If we start seeing plans that negatively impact us, we will have a seat at the table and our voice will be heard. These are public forums,” he said. “I’m just not sure there is a continuing benefit. It is not clear to me where that public benefit is for us to write that check.”
The County Council was not asked to make a decision at Wednesday’s meeting. It is likely elected officials will readdress the matter in coming weeks.
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