Salt Lake County can place a question on November's election ballot to survey voter opinion on the countywide consolidation of all local governments into one entity, says the opinion of a deputy county attorney.
But that ballot question, and a similar one that would ask voters whether city police departments should be merged with the Salt Lake County sheriff's office, could be used only to gather information. The vote could not be binding.In an opinion prepared for the county's Government for the Next Century Committee, deputy county attorney Gavin J. Anderson said if the proposed questions are placed on the ballot, strong language should be included that would clearly advise voters the questions are intended only to gather information.
He proposed language for the two questions:
-Should all levels of local government in Salt Lake County, excluding school districts, but including the county, cities, towns and special districts and service areas be consolidated or merged into one local government entity for all Salt Lake County and its residents?
-Should Salt Lake County and the cities and towns in the county merge the sheriff's office and city and town police agencies into a single county police force?
Anderson proposed printing on the ballot under each of the questions the following sentence: Your vote is for advice and direction only, and has no legal effect.
Some members of the Government for the Next Century Committee feel that putting the questions on the ballot could cause hard feelings toward the county among some local government entities that oppose consolidation.
If the commission wants to gather public comment on the consolidation issues, an opinion poll could be commissioned to survey attitudes, committee members have suggested.
A poll would survey a broader group than registered voters, and could avoid causing a rift with other government entities over putting the questions on the ballot.
In a letter to Commission Chairman Bart Barker, committee chairman Kerry D. Steadman, the county's associate director of administrative services, said a decision on whether to place the questions on this year ballot must be made soon so the county clerk's office can make the necessary arrangements.
Commissioners have asked the committee to study the issue further and recommend action.