That way they can avoid woes later, official says
By taking a proactive approach with the proposed state-to-local roads transfer, Utah County mayors can avoid problems down the road, says a local public works official.Utah County Public Works employee Paul Hawker, speaking to the Council of Governments at the June meeting, said he was delivering a wake-up message from Sen. Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, to the collective body of mayors about the status of SB176. Basically, he said local officials need to begin doing their homework in case the road transfer happens someday.
The Senate bill ordered the Transportation Interim Committee to study the possible transfer of state highway roads to local control. That committee voted recently not to study the idea any more after the employees' union for the Utah Department of Transportation lobbied against the bill fearing the loss of their 900 jobs.
Hawker said he relayed the word to the mayors that conveyed some frustration on Beattie's part. Originally, it was assumed that a committee would be called together to assess the road picture and on their suggestion, either all of the state roads would be transferred to local control or not.
Since then, it's become apparent that the transfer idea is a good deal more complicated and politically sticky than first anticipated.
"The Utah Department of Transportation has tried to kill it," Hawker said. "The locals have said, `Sure, we'll get the roads but no money to maintain them.' "
Hawker said Utah County mayors have mixed emotions. Some feel a complete lack of trust in state and federal management. Others say roads in their cities have some specific needs that they'd like to be free to address.
"Beattie is only suggesting that everybody involved should take a proactive part in this," Hawker said.
Some of the road issues are no-brainers, he said, while some situations are community priorities - such as Orem's 800 North and Geneva Road.
Utah County Commissioner Jerry Grover said other decisions are more complicated such as when a state road crosses into more than one community or when a so-called state road is actually a canyon throughway that doesn't meet state or county road standards like the highway in American Fork Canyon.
"That road would be a nightmare for us," Grover said. "It's not built to county standards.
"It's high maintenance. We're not sure of the right-of-ways situation. It's a good example of a road with a lot of complications. That's just one that sticks out in my mind."
Grover said the mayors informally agreed it would be a good idea to get together and compile a list of roads they want and the costs involved.
"For cities with one road going through them, the county might want to take it although there's some distrust there too," Grover said.
"For those where a couple of communities share a state road, they might have to coordinate how that would be handled."
In any event, Grover said he agrees that cities and counties ought to be getting prepared to tell the powers-that-be exactly what they'd like to see happen.
"We certainly ought to be involved and prepared to tell them what we want," he said.