When Cache County switched from a commission to a council form of government 15 months ago, officials say it became more responsive to citizen needs and better able to handle problems quickly.
Cache is the only county with that form of government, although others such as Salt Lake and Carbon have talked about switching to it."I think the public has generally breathed a collective sigh of relief under the first year and a half of this government," says County Executive Bruce King.
Council Chairman Jay Monson agrees. "People are always asking me if it's a positive change, and I'm always careful to add that for Cache County it is. For us it's doing what it's supposed to do and that is bring more representation."
He added, "Other counties have asked me if they ought to go for something like this. My response always is that's a local decision. We're not in the business of trying to hold up our experience as something that's right for them."
But one of the ways that Monson said the change has been right for Cache County is that it created a new county executive to oversee daily administration, and he can step in to handle problems quickly.
An example of where the old way failed and where the new might not have came during heavy flooding in the spring of 1986.
"Roads were being washed out and several businesses were threatened, but they had a devil of a time contacting anyone," Monson said. "The road supervisor was reluctant to do anything on his own because it was basically an administrative decision.
"It was a holiday weekend, and it wasn't until later in the evening when they were able to contact two of the three commissioners, who gave the OK to cut roads for drainage. We had several lawsuits, including one from White's Trout Farm, saying the delay in the situation had cost them thousands of dollars. I don't think that could happen with a full-time administrator."
Another improvement, officials say, comes in how the new council improves representation.
"A lot of people thought they (former commissioners) were making decisions in other than open meetings," Monson said. "They would go on `road trips,' they called them, when they would go for a drive to inspect the roads following their regular meetings. When they came back it seemed to people that a lot of decisions had been made."
The centralized residence of the commissioners one from Logan, another from North Logan and the third from a rural area just outside the city created controversy about just how widespread the voters' representation was. That issue is addressed in the new government form by having seven council members, each elected from a separate geographic district.
The road for the new council has not been completely smooth, however. Millville Mayor Blake Petersen attacked it for expanding city government when it tried to create a new public works department and hire a director for it.
Monson said such criticism was unfounded. "I hear only a few people saying, `It's not working,' " he said. "They use this one incident with the hiring of someone as a signal that there's some thing wrong with the entire system.
"They say it cost more. I think if they'd just stop and look at the budget we adopted last year, our first as a council, they'll see it's lower than any budget in the past several years. I hope those individuals would take time to come to our meetings, participate and witness firsthand what's going on."