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Utah County eyes pact to get grants

PROVO — Utah County leaders could sign an interlocal agreement as early as next month that would deem the county an "entitlement community," qualifying it to receive community development block grants straight from the federal government.

Utah County mayors met earlier this month to discuss the possibility of joining together as an entitlement community.

Counties with populations of 200,000 or more and cities with at least 50,000 residents can file to be entitlement counties or cities, allowing them — not the state — to allocate the federal grant funds.

Orem and Provo are the only Utah County cities that already have been deemed entitlement cities and can't be part of the entitlement county. Without those cities, Utah County still has more than 300,000 residents and can still qualify.

Currently, Utah, Summit and Wasatch counties (excluding entitlement cities) pool their community development block grant allocations together, and the state distributes the money based on population and poverty levels of each county.

Utah County Commissioner Steve White said the problem Utah County has faced is that even though the county has an overall higher poverty level than Wasatch and Summit, some projects in those counties have been approved first because the particular area may have a higher poverty level.

City leaders throughout the county will decide this month whether they want to sign a three-year interlocal agreement on the issue.

If the county gets enough cities to consent, the cities that are part of the agreement will only have to bid against each other for money instead of competing for the funds with other counties as well.

"We would get our federal allocation every year, just plain and simple," White said.

— Sara Lenz