Joint meeting showed collaboration on most issues
On Monday, Park City and Summit County gathered for another joint meeting to discuss issues from broadband and transportation to economic development and sustainability. Collaboration between the two was present on most issues, the exception being a disagreement over compressed natural gas (CNG) versus diesel fuel for the joint bus system.
"It’s kind of a delicate process right now," said Park City Municipal Environmental Project Manager Matt Abbott. "The county’s primary position [for CNG] is from a cost and domestic energy perspective. The city’s [case for diesel] is from a greenhouse gas perspective."
Both Abbott and Summit County Manager Bob Jasper agree that CNG is the cheaper fuel, but Abbott added that most of the relevant research the city has seen shows that CNG generates more greenhouse gases than diesel. Either entity can use whatever fuel they choose for their own fleet, but the joint bus system requires collaboration.
"CNG is domestic, it’s cleaner at the tailpipe, it’s safe and available, and we produce it here in Utah," said Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Yoder.
Park City and Summit County’s bus system will soon be getting a CNG bus and a hybrid bus on loan from the Utah Transit Authority to test, and both Abbott and Jasper are confident such a process will help to determine which fuel to utilize for buses.
Jasper noted that UTA General Manager Michael Allegra thinks CNG is a bit cleaner than diesel and that UTA will be increasing the number of its buses that are fueled by CNG.
"It’s my understanding that, all over the U.S., bus systems are moving to CNG, and the reason is that it’s cheaper and cleaner," Jasper said. "The city and the county need to work together on the buses because it’s a joint system."
"We have a budget to assess our facilities to see what the cost is to switch to CNG and do a full business assessment," Abbott said. "We’re definitely looking forward to continuing to work with the county on this."
In other collaborative efforts, Yoder said she will be working with Abbott on making energy efficiency improvements for city and county buildings, as well as pushing similar efforts for private homes. Yoder said both initiatives are tied to alleviating air quality problems.
Another topic at the meeting as part of a continuing discussion was broadband connectivity. Both Ron Boyer, information technology director with the county, and Scott Robertson, head of IT for the city, agreed that facilitating more widespread access to broadband is key for the future.
"We do have these open areas of coverage where [broadband] isn’t available," Robertson said. "How do we get fiber-[optic cable] to every home? Bringing fiber into the Park City area does benefit the surrounding areas, too."
Boyer said expanding broadband access could be a social equity issue and added it is a crucial component of transportation, health and education.
"Educational models are moving towards the Internet. If people don’t have access to that, part of our community is going to be at a disadvantage," Boyer said. "Maybe we need to start looking at broadband as a planning issue like roads."
Robertson said that getting a request for proposal to get a sole provider of broadband in the city is an option, as is studying the possibility of a municipal-based broadband network.
"[A broadband network] wouldn’t guarantee that we would have economic development, but it’s the framework for economic development," Robertson said.
Boyer said that addressing broadband issues could be a matter of changing development codes, pursuing grants or even partnering with telecommunications companies, and Robertson stressed that both entities have to keep up with technological development.
"There’s 4K video, which is four times the current 1080p standard, being tested by Netflix that requires a 100 [megabits per second] connection or higher," Robertson said. "There’s so much happening in technological development that we have to be competitive and we have to make these investments."
Jennifer McDonald, a self-described lifelong Republican, was selected as the Summit County Republican Party chair last week.