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Midvale • Mayor-elect Ben McAdams intends to split Salt Lake County's public works department in two after he takes office next month.
His twin goals: To give 150,000 unincorporated-area residents a county official who will focus specifically on their issues, and secondly to advance ongoing county efforts to regionalize the delivery of some public-works services in much the same way responsibility for police coverage and firefighting was shifted from the county to the Unified Police Department and the Unified Fire Authority.
To move both goals forward, McAdams said at a Thursday news conference that he plans to make current department director Patrick Leary the "township executive," while Russ Wall will give up his job as Taylorsville mayor to become the county's public works and regional development director.
The change is subject to County Council approval. McAdams said he has briefed council leaders about his plan and expects their backing, especially since he pledged to ensure the restructured agency will function within the 2013 budget approved last week by the council.
Council Chairman David Wilde, a Republican, said he wants to support the new Democratic mayor's desire to "do things in the way he thinks are best." But he emphasized to McAdams that he does not want to "create more bureaucracy and the need for more employees and higher costs."
While McAdams understood his concerns and promised not to increase the county payroll, Wilde said, "I just want to be careful that, in a couple of years, Patrick Leary doesn't come to us and say 'I need an assistant' and Russ Wall says he needs one, too, so we end up turning two positions into four. I don't want to end up in that boat."
In appointing Wall, a Republican, McAdams said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to make his administration more bipartisan. "This is a step in that direction," he added, noting that Wall has participated actively with the county and other cities in talks about creating a regional public works district.
Such a district would be much more complicated than splitting off police and firefighting services, he said, because public works involves a diverse array of services from flood control and animal services to road work and running the landfill. Wall's knowledge of the issues from the perspective of municipalities "will give him the ability to translate our message to the cities," McAdams said.
The desire for a township executive stemmed from talks with residents about the defeated effort to make Millcreek a city, McAdams said.
He came away from those discussions convinced that unincorporated-area residents are generally satisfied with the status quo but have "genuine concerns about how Salt Lake County advocates for them. This will free [Leary] to be their advocate. He'll have no other loyalties."
Leary knows unincorporated-area residents are passionate about their communities and promised "to help make them flourish." Wall said he would do his utmost to "keep residents safe and communities running smoothly."
The exact division of duties will be decided over the next few months, McAdams said.