Council reassured after UAC visit
Representatives from the Utah Association of Counties (UAC) were able to dissuade the Summit County Council from withdrawing its membership from the organization following a lengthy discussion last Wednesday.
The meeting had been tagged as an opportunity for the County Council to reevaluate its membership with the association, which deals with land management, behavioral health care and advocacy for legislative issues, for member counties.
Council members had been concerned about the county’s alignment with the organization following the decision of some UAC affiliates to support San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman. Lyman faces federal charges from an illegal ATV protest ride through Recapture Canyon and was appointed Commissioner of the Year. However, he did not accept the award.
"It was an opportunity for us to express our deep concerns to UAC and for UAC to offer us some assurances that they are going to reevaluate how it is perceived as an organization with respect to some highly politicized issues," said Roger Armstrong, County Council member. "We will see where that goes given the scope of the meeting and the assurances, but I don’t think there is any reason to withdraw immediately from UAC."
Adam Trupp, executive director of UAC, and Lincoln Shurtz, UAC’s director of government affairs, spent more than an hour discussing the how the organization operates and what financial contributions the county makes toward it. The state-wide organization, which is supported by Utah’s 29 counties, operates on a $3.2 million annual budget, of which $971,000 is supported through dues. Summit County pays $62,000.
Shurtz described the direction of the organization as changing and said there are ongoing efforts to implement structural changes and new policies and guidelines.
"We are trying really hard to ensure we have a common unified approach and we understand the need to create polices and structure. We are planning on a pretty robust strategic plan," Shurtz said. "We have new fresh faces and we are trying to figure out what UAC wants to be."
During the discussion, several elected officials praised the benefits the county receives from its membership, including association with affiliate groups. If the county withdrew its membership it would also mean forfeiting affiliate membership as well.
Corrie Forsling, Summit County treasurer, said she receives support from the Utah Association of County Treasurers about day-to-day operations and how to improve those.
"I think it’s a great organization," Forsling said. "We help each other, support each other. We are constantly on emails and forums and I would very much like to continue that relationship."
The presentation given to Summit County was similar to the one UAC recently gave to Salt Lake County officials, Trupp said. Both counties had expressed concerns regarding their association with UAC.
According to Trupp, the meetings provided an opportunity for officials to gain a better understanding of all that UAC does. However, Trupp said Salt Lake County officials weren’t on the fence about their membership like Summit County Council members were.
"We knew we were called up there for a reason," Trupp said of the Summit County Council meeting. "But one concern I have is that we talked about this issue with Commissioner Lyman and yet we are not really getting down to the other issues about public lands and what else we are doing."
With no immediate plans to withdraw from the organization, Armstrong said the County Council will just have to "to watch and see what steps are made to ensure proper focus is on broad issues affecting member counties generally."
"They just showed us they are wrestling with some issues," he said.
Kim Carson, County Council chair and an at-large UAC Board of Director member, had previously told The Park Record she was leaning toward maintaining the county’s membership. Following the meeting, Carson’s view had not changed.
"The interest of the county will be best served if we stay involved," Carson said. "We tend to be seen as outsiders and doing our own thing in Summit County would exacerbate that perception and we wouldn’t have the ability to add to the conversation if we are not there."
Carson leaves for the annual UAC conference in St. George Wednesday. She said the county "needs to stay at the table and really work on building those relationships."
"I think it was a good conversation about those policy changes, but they don’t have those completed," she said. "We will have to wait and see the direction and see if those are indeed implemented. We will be watching closely so we can help shape those decisions."
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