The Utah Transit Authority board wants to call off the proposed annexation of tiny Morgan County, population 10,000, into its district to provide some novel service by van instead of bus.
The board recommended Wednesday that Morgan County not put the annexation on the November ballot. That comes in the wake of a standing-room-only public hearing last month, where nearly everyone who showed up opposed annexation and the higher taxes it would bring.
But some Morgan County Council members said Wednesday they are not sure the hearing reflected the will of most county residents. At this point, though, they are unsure whether they will call off the vote as recommended, proceed anyway or perhaps have a non-binding opinion vote on the matter.
“I do believe there was an organized effort to turn out people [for the hearing] who might be opposed the UTA,” Morgan County Council member Tina Kelley told the UTA board, noting supporters were not similarly organized.
Council member Lyle Nelson added that he has talked to several other people — especially the disabled and elderly — who say they need and want UTA service.
But UTA said the tally for written and spoken comments submitted to it were 37 opposed, three neutral and one in favor.
With that, UTA board member Robert Hunter made the motion to recommend that Morgan County drop its current move for annexation, but that UTA allow its staff to continue to try to help the county solve its transportation challenges.
Any money spent to help Morgan would come from state and federal grants designed to assist rural transit, UTA officials said, and not from taxes it charges to residents of its district.
Morgan County Council Chairman Logan Wilde told the UTA board, “I do not believe that right now is the perfect time for a marriage or partnership between Morgan County and UTA.” However, he said that may change as his county grows.
Meanwhile, he said, Morgan County may seek to run a limited in-county shuttle service on its own with volunteer drivers to compile more data on how the disabled and others may need and use transit.
The Morgan County Council is not seeking traditional UTA bus service. Besides the in-community shuttle for the elderly and disabled, it had asked UTA to provide a new sort of hybrid-van pool to key points along the Wasatch Front.
The van service would let up to 10 commuters per van reserve a seat daily for $100 a month, but keep five or more seats open in each van for others to buy single-ride tickets for $5.50. The service would start with such key destinations as Weber State University, Hill Air Force Base, Ogden and Salt Lake City.
For such services, the County Council had proposed to create a transit sales tax of 0.3 percent — just under a third of a cent per $1 purchase. The county projects that would cost $21.33 per resident per year. It would raise $201,000 in revenue.
In comparison, Salt Lake County charges a transit tax of 0.69 cents per $1 purchase; Utah, Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties charge 0.55 cents per $1; and Tooele County, 0.3 cents.