Basin bond will remain on Nov. 4 ballot
The Summit County Council decided to move forward with the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District’s $25 million bond for the upcoming election, despite a clerical error that could still disrupt its implementation.
"I made the mistake on publication and I own it," Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said when addressing the council. "When we found out, we’ve done everything we could to mitigate it and I apologize to the recreation district and to the council.
"I do feel that it should go to the ballot and it should go to the vote, it shouldn’t be taken away from the vote of the people because of the mistake I made," he added.
There is a requirement in the state of Utah, that an election notice be published between 21 and 35 days before the election, and it must be published for three consecutive weeks.
A notice should have been published on Oct. 11 about the bond to fit within that time frame, but did not appear until Oct. 20. It then appeared twice a week, for two consecutive weeks.
The Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District requested the $25 million bond, of which $15 million is focused on open space acquisitions. The remaining $10 million will fund other projects such as the expansion of recreational facilities, $2 million to be earmarked specifically for trail improvements and a possible State Road 224 crossing. Only registered voters in the 84098 zip code are eligible to decide this issue.
The question before the council during the meeting on Wednesday was whether or not the bond could still be on the Nov. 4 ballot. It already appeared on the early voting ballots.
Community members had the opportunity to speak for or against the continuance of the bond during the meeting.
Josh Mann, who runs the website the Park Rag, said he has been highly critical of the bond from the beginning. But, he added, the failure to meet statute deadlines further highlights fundamental problems.
"It’s like we know we violated it, but were hoping we can move forward," Mann said. "My worries are about how Summit County looks should this be a problem. I don’t know how they can move forward because I think it at least needs to be considered."
According to the statute, the bond can remain on the ballot if what is referred to as substantial compliance was met.
Chief Civil Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas said substantial compliance can be somewhat subjective.
There is only one case in Utah that refers to it, he said, and the rule of that 1908 case is still the law in Utah.
"It basically said even if it’s late, if there is a substantial amount of public information available so that the voters are on notice, then substantial compliance is met," Thomas said. "All the different notices and public hearings demonstrate that this is something that is well known in the community."
Council member Kim Carson said a significant amount of time and money was invested during the last few months and it is in the community’s best interest to move forward with it.
"If we hadn’t gone through all the public hearings and notifications or if I had heard a lot of dissension, then I would be much more uncomfortable," Carson said.
A motion would have been required for the bond to be removed from the ballot, but no motion was made.
Although the bond will remain on the ballot, the county and council are not in the clear. The statute states the bond can be contested and appealed within 40 days, even if it is approved by the voters.
Council member Roger Armstrong echoed Carson’s sentiment, adding that the funds from the bond are a necessity for the community.
"We are out of open space funds and we still have more purchases we need to make," Armstrong said. "The purpose of these statutes is to make sure a government entity can’t slip an issue in, they want to make sure there is notice. We have been talking about this bond for a long time and it is only a technical defect that it missed an Oct. 11 publication."
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