Utah County Commissioners prioritize water in the latest State of the County address
For the first time in two years, Utah County leaders met in person Tuesday to discuss the state of the county. County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner said there’s been rapid population growth in the second-largest county in the state over the last year.
She said the Utah County Department of Health issued just over 3,500 death certificates in 2021, and in the same year issued more than 20,000 birth certificates.
“Most of our growth comes from our children,” she said. “We need to prepare for that growth. But while we prepare for that growth, we need to preserve our culture because our culture and our families are what have made us such a great place.”
Powers Gardner said they need to continue to accommodate the growing needs of the county. She spoke about what local departments are doing to support these developments and pointed to the department of health. Powers Gardner said in the past year the department provided 252,746 COVID-19 vaccinations and hosted 946 vaccination “events.”
But despite that success, they also face staffing challenges.
“It is getting harder and harder to find good qualified people,” Powers Gardner said. “And we have a lot of work to do in that area. We have a lot of openings in our nursing staff, and the staff that we do have are overworked and tired.”
Powers Gardner said in addition to all the work related to the pandemic, the health department has also resumed cancer screenings, well-child visits and home visits for children with asthma.
Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee said they have to think critically about resources as the population is expected to double in the next 40 years.
He said water has always been a challenge in a desert state but the historic drought this past summer brought more urgency to the issue.
“We have to be looking in a forward motion [about] what we can do,” he said. “We have talked with each other about what we can do. We're looking at spending about $50 million on infrastructure, development and use of water.”
He said they’re looking at aquifer recharge centers as a way to improve water supply and will be partnering with neighboring cities and the state on this issue.
Lee also gave an update on Bridal Veil Falls, which is set to be designated as a state monument if it receives Legislative approval. Earlier this month, county commissioners passed a resolution showing their support of the designation.
County leaders said other focuses for improvement are the cybersecurity system, court systems and reducing court case backlogs.