The steep stairway that climbs to the Alta Library for the town's monthly council meeting offers an unspoken warning: Wear your sneakers.

Besides, you'd be exposed as an outsider the minute you walked in wearing wing tips.Teva sandals and tennis shoes are approved summer footwear for municipal business in Salt Lake County's only town. Snow boots, of course, suffice in winter.

"And nobody ever wears a tie," said Councilman Bill Lennon, laughing.

Civic formalities just wouldn't fit in this community - population 409 - nestled up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Unlike at meetings of other municipal councils, you won't hear city leaders addressing each other using formal titles like "Mr. Mayor" or "Councilwoman Jones."

Appropriately, in Alta, the mayor is referred to simply as "Bill."

"You're dealing with people who are your friends and neighbors, people coming together to solve problems" said Bill Levitt, the town's only mayor since incorporating 28 years ago.

Don't confuse the town's friendly feel for quiet contentment. Council meetings may not be stuffy, but they can be contentious, Levitt said.

The five-member council adheres to Robert's Rules of Order to conduct business like any other city council, keeping tempers in check while ensuring loyalty to meeting agendas.

"But it's a small enough town that (a resident) can sit there in council meetings, put in his 2-cents worth and make a suggestion that the council may act on," Lennon said. "Each person really can make a difference."

As an incorporated town, Alta provides its own police, fire, sewer and water services. Garbage disposal is the responsibility of individual residents who generally pay independent contractors for service, Levitt said.

Alta's claim as Salt Lake County's only town may be short-lived. The southwest community of Herriman is applying for town status.

Despite Alta's diminutive population, town leaders appreciate their right to self-govern.

"We have been able to take Alta's destiny in our own hands," Levitt said. "People and neighbors can make decisions that affect themselves directly."