Summit County Council members discuss budget and transportation at annual retreat
Summit County Council members typically use the annual retreat as an opportunity to delve deeper into issues that the council is currently facing, such as transportation and the upcoming budget, according to County Council Chair Kim Carson.
Monday, the County Council held its 2015 retreat at the Outfitter’s Cabin, in Promontory. Council members Dave Ure, Roger Armstrong, Chris Robinson, Claudia McMullin and Carson were in attendance. In an email to The Park Record, Julie Booth, the county’s public information officer, had requested that no media attend so that council could "discuss strategic plans candidly."
"It allows us to discuss issues in isolation that we don’t always have the time to do so within the regular agenda," Carson said. "It’s really just a day of review. A lot of the information has already been presented to us in little bits and pieces, but this allows us to be able to go in depth and not worry about time constraints. Even going from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., we didn’t have enough time."
For years, Summit County has held annual retreats in various locations in the county to provide councilors with an opportunity to meet informally to discuss a wide-range of issues. Council members met with county staffers and several department heads throughout the day for presentations, including one by Economic Development Director Jeff Jones. No formal action was taken, Carson said.
With the budget process currently underway, council members spent part of the time reviewing the county’s strategic plan to understand how the budget committee has used those strategic initiatives to develop priorities within the budget.
"I liked having the retreat right before we go into budget discussions," Carson said. "It was very helpful."
Starting this week, the council will begin receiving detailed line-budget items from the various departments and service areas. Wednesday, the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation and the North Summit Fire Service districts are scheduled to present to the council. Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, made his budget recommendation to the County Council earlier this month. Fisher is suggesting a 7 percent increase to the county’s overall budget.
The retreat enabled council members to give more specific direction to department heads about certain items as they relate to the budget, Fisher said.
"We talked about planning uses, in relation to some discussions we have been having with the Boyer Tech Park, and we had a discussion in regards to transportation, not only about what we have been working on, but if we are going to get into implementing some larger projects that are coming up in our capital plan how will do that," Fisher said. "As we are refining the budget for eventual council adoption in December, I wanted to make sure we are putting resources in the right places for things we want to advance next year.
"We did not hear anything that was a big surprise," Fisher said.
Council members also touched on many of the contentious issues that are currently facing the county, including transportation, environmental stewardship, water quality, sewer issues, special service districts and workforce and affordable housing, Fisher said.
Caroline Ferris, Summit County’s regional transportation director, has been drafting a short-term transportation plan and working closely with Park City Municipal, the Recreation District and the Park City School District, Carson said. Ferris also recently distributed a survey to Kamas residents seeking input about whether they would use public transportation. Carson said more than 80 percent of respondents said they would use transit under certain circumstances.
"They have been working on school impacts and traffic flow and exploring expanding our bus service into the Kamas Valley. Those have all been part of our strategic initiative," Carson said. "One thing that has been brought up that is a concern is growth and what that will mean for area traffic, especially in the municipalities."
Carson said some of those transportation issues will be addressed at the next Council of Governments meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.
"We have had an understanding that we will let the municipalities on the East Side really drive the development that occurs in close proximity to their boundaries," Carson said. "That’s a concern that I don’t feel has adequately been addressed. But I think growth and transportation will continue to be in the forefront of our discussions in both the Snyderville Basin and in the eastern part of the county. We are just at a critical point where we’ve really started conversations with staff and began working more closely with UDOT."
Carson said she appreciates the input the county regularly receives because it "really does help us shape policy" as it relates to these issues.
"I just want to again thank staff, from our new county manager to our department heads, and the people that work for them. It’s obvious when you have a day like this and review what has taken place and the work ahead of us that they are really thoughtful and they are really making improvements on how we can better provide services to the communities that we serve," Carson said.
The Summit County Council is scheduled to meet in regular session Wednesday at the Sheldon Richins Building. To view the agenda, go to http://summitcounty.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/10282015-627?html=true.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.