Utah County commissioners say the biggest challenges facing the county in the next year are all growth-related.
In a speech similar to a state-of-the-county address, the three commissioners told members of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce that the county, local governments and residents need to work together to handle the growth.`It's inevitable; it's going to happen whether we do anything about it or not," Commissioner Gary Herbert said Friday. "We are being discovered across the country."
Herbert said the best way to adjust to growth is through economic development. Ecomonic development will provide the jobs and the tax base needed for the county's next generation.
"The quality of life here does not include having to export our children. They ought to have the opportunity to live here and to work here," Herbert said.
Commissioner Malcolm Beck said residents will be involved in the two major growth-related projects facing the county this year - the Utah Valley Special Events Center and expansion of the Utah County Jail. Bond elections will be held on both.
"We think we ought to let the public vote on these issues and not just do it behind your back," Beck said.
Beck said the county has become large enough that the special events center is necessary. The county's many growing companies are in need of convention facilites.
"It's just simply that the day is gone that we send everybody to Salt Lake City for their conventions," Beck said.
By joining with Utah Valley Community College to build the center, the county could save several million dollars, Beck said. With the Legislature's passage of the restaurant tax, the county will probably be able to repay the bond without raising property taxes.
Beck said overcrowding at the jail has put the county in a position of either expanding the current facility or building a new one. A study is under way to determine which option would be best. The preliminary plan is to build a 298-bed facility that would make jail operations run more efficiently.
"We're basically faced with a situation where we either have to do something or we're going to be taken to court for civil-rights violations," Beck said.
Commissioner Richard Johnson said the health department will also play a vital role in county growth. He said thousands of residents benefit from the many programs coordinated through the health department.
All agreed that the commission is running smoother than it has in years. They said they all have the same goals - to keep taxes down and operate the county efficiently.
"I think we have a new openness and a new understanding, and I think the atmosphere around county government is the best it's been in many months and maybe years," Herbert said.
Beck said Utah County is the most cost-efficient county in the state. Salt Lake County operates at a cost of about $137 per capita, and Utah County operates at about $70 per capita.