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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Salt Lake County mayoral candidates Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams answer a few questions Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, at the KCPW radio studios.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican candidate for Salt Lake County mayor has taken a step back from his previous enthusiasm about the proposed SkiLink project.

The issue came up Friday during a taping of KSL's "Sunday Edition," featuring a debate between Republican Mark Crockett and Democrat Ben McAdams. The debate will be televised at 9 a.m. Sunday on KSL Channel 5.

KSL's Richard Piatt questioned the candidates about their position on SkiLink, a proposal that would connect the Canyons and Solitude resorts, traversing what are currently U.S. Forest Service lands.

Crockett, who had appeared enthusiastic about the proposal following the candidates' Sept. 14 debate, said he is "undecided" on the issue. 

"I don't know about SkiLink, necessarily," he said. "There have been about six different things that have been proposed to me in the past couple of months. I don't like how it got on the table or the federal insertion." 

Crockett pointed out, however, that connecting the resorts, be it through SkiLink or other means, could facilitate land swaps that would put other backcountry areas into public hands.

McAdams maintained opposition to SkiLink, challenging his opponent's changing stance. Crockett interjected, saying the accusation that he had both previously opposed and supported SkiLink was false.

The Democrat expressed concerns about how the project came about and its potential consequences.

"I believe that where the process is good, the outcome is usually good," McAdams said. "I think the process if flawed. I'm worried about the impact this development would have to watersheds and … pristine areas in our canyons."

Questions for the debate on improving economic prospects and intentions concerning property taxes were provided by Steve Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation.

Crockett said supporting businesses in unincorporated areas, keeping taxes down and working to attract high-tech jobs are among possible solutions for improving the area's economy.

"There are some really exciting opportunities for genetic research and high-technology jobs here in this valley," he said. "The county needs to play a role as a regional cheerleader to bring those jobs to town, without playing favorites about which part of town they go to."

McAdams took a different position, touting education as a means to building up the workforce. He also proposed deregulation in business to accommodate job creation.

"Maintaining an educated workforce is the future of this county," McAdams said. "If we don't get serious about supporting our schools, then we will fail to have the economy we need in the future."

Both candidates pledged to keep property taxes down, proposing streamlining county operations as a way to cut costs.

At the outset of the debate, McAdams applauded the record of outgoing Mayor Peter Corroon, saying he hopes to unite the area's several communities in order to face upcoming challenges.

Crockett declared he is running in order to help stabilize and improve county finances while bringing attention back to essential county services such as Salt Lake County Jail operations, mental health programs and rehabilitation options.

Sunday's program also will include the candidate's positions on bond spending for county parks and their thoughts creating wall-to-wall cities throughout Salt Lake County.

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @McKenzieRomero