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Park City, Summit County Councils Meet To Discuss Future Of Transit

Park City

Members of the Park City Council and the Summit County Council gathered around a table March 5th, to discuss and debate on what happens to the transit system, and their relationship, in the future.

The question comes up because the two entities are seemingly headed in different directions.   Park City officials say their transit system is stretched to capacity.    The County Council says they want to plan for a regional transit operation, though it’s not something that will happen immediately.

During the two-hour session, the Council Members discussed if they can be partners in a future transit system—or if they should be.

But both sides acknowledged that now they are tied by an Interlocal Agreement (or ILA) a contract where the city provides services to the county.

A revised draft of the ILA is in the works.    Park City Manager Matt Dias and County Manager Tom Fisher said they’ve developed an improved fiscal accounting system that tracks expenses and billings and helps to avoid frustrations and disagreements between the two parties.  The revision is set to go to the Joint Transportation Advisory Board at their March 16th meeting.

Still, City Manager Dias said he’s recommending to his Council that the city doesn’t expand transit services any further.

That was echoed by Park City Council Member Steve Joyce.

“Look, right now, we’re kinda tapped out—just numbers of people, numbers of buses, space in the bus barn, all those kinds of things right now.  We’re not in the position right now where we can suddenly sign up and go, “Hey, now it’s time for the chartreuse route to Heber” or something like that.  We’re not in the position to do that.”

Joyce said that if the county wants particular improvements in the Basin—like micro-transit for specific neighborhoods like Jeremy or Pinebrook—perhaps the county can pursue that objective on its own.

Park City Mayor Andy Beerman said they certainly don’t want to burn down the house they helped build.     He said they want to collaborate with the county on the move to a possible regional transit system.   But he said the county should take the lead.

“We would very much like to be part of that planning.  But we realize it extends well beyond our borders.  So we have a role to play, but our role is not to tell, certainly, cities or communities on the East Side how they ought to connect to transit.  That falls much more in your wheelhouse and your authority.  So we would like to go forward as partners.  We would bring our resources, our expertise to the system.   But in terms of expanding the system, we’d like to be able to work on some projects within the city that complement what the county is doing as far as a broad regional system.”

County Council Chairman Doug Clyde said that right now, they certainly want the current effective transit system to keep working.    He said they are  talking with Wasatch County and the MIDA Development Authority at Mayflower.  

But those discussions are just starting.        

“We know nothing about that right now.   Our conversations with them are, “Transit good?—Yes, transit good.”   That’s been the extent of our conversation.   We haven’t gone any further, no deeper than that.  So, again, we’re just at the incipent forms of beginning that conversation.  In the meantime, we need to keep the wheels on the bus, as it were, and keep JTAB rolling.”

Council Member Chris Robinson said it’s no longer the case that they’re just a passenger in the bus.    He said the county puts a lot of fuel into it—contributing something like 40 to 50 percent of funding to the Interlocal Agreement.        

“We can fix the ILA, but I think in the long run, it’s going to be an irritant if we don’t come up with a different structure that either makes us more real partners where we do respect and collaborate and share authority and responsibility, as opposed to being a recipient of contract services.  And I think that’s the friction that pops up in various manifestations.   It could be on staffing.  We may be consulted but we don’t make any decisions.”

Robinson said he doesn’t just want to put a Band-Aid on the Interlocal Agreement.   Ideally, he said, the city and county will work together as partners toward a Regional Transit Authority.

But Park City Council Member Tim Henney said they need to find out from the county what that Authority will look like.

“In Chris’ land of magic, where you can create magic, and can come up with something that meets all our needs, and is this over-arching regional authority, I’d love to hear some ideas from you guys about what that looks like, and how we get there.   Because I believe that’s your responsibility.  I believe we have a transit system under the status quo that works.   We’ve all agreed to that.  We’ve all agreed that we can define the ILA, the current one to make it even better.  And if we want to have some other form of governance, it’s kinda in your wheelhouse to figure out what that looks like, and we will be a willing participant.”

In reply, Robinson told Henney the new entity would be one

where the city shares control with other parties.     

“That may go against your DNA, as you view your mandate and fiduciary responsibility to your citizens to cede any control.  Because there’s risk in that, and so it may be that the fee-for-services model  works well because you’re in control.  And anything other than that means a reduction in control, a sharing of authority.   And that’s risky.  In any relationship, that’s risky.  There’s one Alpha that’s in charge, and that’s easier, for the Alpha in charge.”

County Council Member Kim Carson, who participated in the meeting by phone, suggested that representatives from both sides form a work group, which she would be willing to join, to study different governmental models.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covers Summit County meetings and issues. KPCW snagged him from The Park Record in the '80s, and he's been on air and covering the entire county ever since. He produces the Week In Review podcast, as well a heads the Friday Film Review team.
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