Over bagels, leaders of eastside community councils sat down last week with Salt Lake County Council members to talk about things of concern in their neighborhoods.
Joan Gallegos was upset about a legislative bill she fears could undo years of community council work to improve bike safety in Emigration Canyon, her home turf. Out south in Granite, Mary Young and Terry Wood asked for county support to combat what they heard are annexation-to-Sandy efforts.
People in Millcreek are eager to see what comes of a county plan to upgrade 2300 East from Interstate 80 to 3900 South, said resident Nancy Carlson-Gotts, while Big Cottonwood Canyon Community Council Chairwoman Barbara Cameron would like county help in convincing a small group of homeowners still on septic tanks to connect to the canyon’s sewer line.
And Sandy Hills representative Ron Faerber recited a peeve shared by all — inadequate Utah Transit Authority bus lines to connect population centers to TRAX.
Listening to the community council concerns along with a quorum of council members was Patrick Leary, the former public works director appointed by Mayor Ben McAdams to a new county position that focuses specifically on issues impacting the 150,000-or-so people living in unincorporated areas from Magna to Brighton.
“It’s important for me that these community council people have direct access to decision makers,” Leary said after organizing the meetings along with Rita Lund, the county’s liaison to the eastside townships.
Council members need to know what’s going on in these communities as well, he added, since they are a de facto city council for the unincorporated area residents, in addition to serving all county residents in the delivery of many services ranging from elderly care to running the jail.
“One of our goals is to shrink the distance between government and its citizens, and to tie these dedicated, volunteer members of community councils more closely to the elected [county] officials,” Leary added.
As she sought support to fend off annexation petitions in Granite, Young asked the council members what they thought about wall-to-wall cities.
Longtime Democratic Councilman Jim Bradley responded quickly that the county has opposed the concept unless it can be shown clearly that annexations or incorporations are in residents’ best interest.
But in most cases, he added, neither option offers a better deal than the county currently provides, citing last November’s solid defeat of the Millcreek incorporation proposal as evidence of public satisfaction with the county’s job performance.
“I’m very proud of our municipal services to the unincorporated areas and see no need to change things,” Bradley said.
At the same time, however, the fact that Millcreek incorporation was even on the ballot prompted the McAdams administration to beef up the attention paid to the dozen communities that are outside of cities — hence Leary’s transfer to his new post.
Near the end of this initial 90-minute session, Leary said he hopes to arrange a meeting soon between the County Council and westside community councils. After that, efforts will be made to work out community council groupings that get away from the traditional split between west and east sides, he added.