2020-08-18 Grand County Council Meeting Report

Budget Workshop 2 PM

This was a long, detailed workshop where covid-necessitated amendments to the county budget were reviewed, line by line. Unclear what the (literal!) bottom-line is.

County Council Regular Meeting 4 PM

General Council Reports and Future Considerations

Council members provided updates on various county-related boards, commissions, departments, etc. including:

  • Planning Commission making progress on the 313/191 Small Area Plan and encouraging residents to complete survey
  • USFS is beginning a long-overdue forest plan/travel plan revision for Manti-LaSal Nat’l Forest; GC will be involved in the process utilizing local organizations’ expertise in county’s input
  • $10,000 unclaimed CARES Act funding that was earmarked for Castle Valley that CV needs to claim
  • Homeless committee is compiling a list of local resources and services to be distributed to local governments, organizations, businesses, schools, etc. soon
  • The county motorized trails committee wants to making the forest planning process more friendly toward motorized trails. This will be on the agenda at the next GCC meeting.

Agency Reports

Southeast Utah Health Department. Brady Bradford reported there will be a concerted testing effort on Aug. 30 targeting school district staff before school starts, but is open to all residents. SEUHD is adding more data to its website and appreciates community input. Trying to anticipate scenarios/needs once school starts. There’s not a shortage of tests, per se, but also, can’t test all students/staff daily. Have ordered rapid a testing machine for each of the three counties in SEUHD; this will help take pressure off of Moab Regional Hospital and hopefully make testing more available and quicker as we head into school year. We’re currently at approx. 2% positivity rate, and need to stay in that range. In Grand County, flu season is usually late January-February, and all precautions taken for Covid19 are effective deterrents to flu, specifically social distancing, masks, washing hands. Requests Grand County partner with SEUHD to extend the face covering order through the end of the year. [Note: GCC voted to extend order later in this meeting.]

HOPE Squad of SEUHD (suicide prevention). Counties in SEUHD (Grand, Carbon, Emery) have high per capita suicide rate, and public needs to know we have resources available for residents, including Moab Police Dept, Moab Regional Hospital, Multicultural Center and others. A 5K and 10K HOPE walk/run “Hoodoo You Run For” scheduled Nov. 7 in Goblin Valley State Park.

Planning Commission/Planning Staff reported on 313/191 Small Area Plan.

  • As of two days ago, had received 473 completed surveys; continuing to encourage residents to complete the survey using various community outreach, including postcards to registered voters and property owners.
  • So far, survey results overwhelming favor no development with minimal development coming in second. Respondents strongly disapprove of allowing overnight accommodations in the area. Respondents have overwhelmingly supported strong visual impact restrictions and protections for viewshed and groundwater.
  • Council members voiced support for Planning Commission’s process and will schedule a workshop in the near future to discuss the specifics of the Small Area Plan.

General Business and Action Items

Extension of Grand County and SEUHD’s Face Covering Order. Brady noted that when SLC area was testing 6500-7000/day and positivity rate was decreasing, the decrease was considered attributable to the face covering order SLC enacted. To keep GC’s positivity rate low, SEUHD strongly encourages Council to extend current order through Dec. 31, 2020, and rescind if circumstances warrant. Chair Mary McGann noted that at the recent Travel Council meeting it was reported that tourists have very positive attitude toward masks and generally comply with county mask requirement. Approved extension of current order through Dec. 31, 2020 5-2 (Wells and Paxman opposed).

Payment of fees to Utah Association of Counties public lands program. UAC’s public land program requires a separate/additional membership fee of $3500/yr, funding a UAC attorney focusing on public lands. The separate fee arose b/c urban counties balked at having any of their UAC fees used for a public lands attorney. Chris Baird noted this expenditure would put County over budget by this amount. Jaylyn and Mary reported that they’ve attended UAC meetings including the public lands meetings and they’re not a friendly forum for Grand County’s position on most public lands issues, and this fee essentially pays a UAC attorney to take positions opposite Grand County’s position on most public lands issues. Curtis thinks it’s valuable being at the table to discuss Grand County’s position on public lands issues, even if not compatible with majority of rural counties. County attorney noted that it’s difficult to work with UAC as Grand County doesn’t fit easily into the rural or urban county slot. Approval of payment of fees to UAC for public lands program motion failed: 2-5 (opposed: Mary, Jaylyn, Evan, Gabriel, Greg).

Adopting resolution amending the Grand County 2020 budget. Covid-necessitated amendments to 2020 budget discussed at the workshop were approved 5-2 (Wells and Paxman opposed).

Adopting resolution approving the Rancho Nuevo Subdivision Final Plat and Subdivision Improvement Agreement. Developer has now complied with all of the county’s requests; county attorney, engineer, and planning staff have signed off. Jaylyn noted that there was nothing in the agreement restricting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) in the subdivision, and since it’s a dead-end street that has maximum # of units, this should probably be recorded on the plat. County attorney agreed. Approved with that condition 7-0.

Discussion regarding amendments to GC’s Form of Government (FOG) and the potential to enhance voter’s choices and options.

This is an important issue, so we will quote the agenda summary in full:

  • In 2018, the state legislature required Grand and Morgan counties to initiate a process of changing their forms of government to conform to statute. There are two long-established ways for counties to change their form of government: 1) A Study Committee process, and 2) Amendments, passed by a 2/3 majority of the legislative body. (Certain amendments require voter approval in addition to the 2/3 legislative body vote.)
  • Hence, Grand County initiated the Study Committee process, the end result of which will appear on the ballot this November. One downside to this approach is that it limits voter choice. Of the many options available to Grand County (Council or Commission, five or seven seats, districts or all at-large), the Study Committee could select and recommend only one.
  • As things stand now, voters will be presented with two choices in November: 1) 5-member council (the Study Committee option), or 2) 3-member commission (the legislatively mandated default position if the Study Committee’s option fails), which has little support in Grand County.

However, using the amendment process, the Grand County Council can increase the number of options on the November ballot and give voters a more direct say in their form of government. The state code provisions which might force us into a 3-member commission only apply to non-conforming counties, and our current form of government would be conforming if appropriately amended. Additional amendments (requiring voter approval) could give voters a choice between five or seven members, and between districts and all-at-large. For example:

  • Amendment 1 would remove non-partisan elections, term limits and recall elections from Grand County’s current form of government ordinance (as mandated by state law). It would also clarify that the Grand County Council holds all executive power in the county (though that power may be delegated), and change the name from “council” to “commission” to match the usage of those terms in state law. The result would be a conforming form of government (expanded commission) which matches our current form as closely as possible. This amendment does not require voter approval.
  • Amendment 2, which would require voter approval, would allow a change in the number of seats from seven to five. The number of seats was a prominent issue in recent form-of-government discussions. This amendment would give voters the final say on this question.
  • Amendment 3 would have the potential to remove districts and have all seats elected at large. This is similar to amendment 2, in that (a) it would require voter approval, (b) it concerns a prominent issue in recent form-of- government discussions, and (c) it would give voters the final say on this question.

It is important to note that none of the proposed amendments directly affect the Study Committee question on the ballot. If voters approve the Study Committee ballot question, then Grand County will convert to a council-manager form of government per the Optional Plan drafted by the Study Committee.

[End of agenda summary]

All council members seemed to be in favor of pursuing this plan to give voters more options at the ballot box.

A special Council meeting will be noticed (tentatively for Friday, Aug 21) so Council can discuss and vote to come into conformance with state code or not (see Amendment 1 above).