A few years ago Senate Bill 199 forced Magna to look at how it was going to be represented. A Township or City was on the docket and residents voted to remain a township.
Five council members who were elected through their various districts in November’s General Election were recently sworn in by Sherry Swenson, making the new Magna Metro Township Council official. Each council member has deep roots in Magna and it’s community and is charged with being the voice of its citizens.
Battalion Chief Steve Prokopis has been a Firefighter in Magna since 1992 and is currently the Public Information Officer (PIO).
“I have been involved with Magna politics for years and I was a little concerned with us jumping right into becoming a city,” Prokopis said. “I did not want to be a poor, fledgling city; there is some economy in Magna but not a lot. I felt it was the natural step to become a metro township first.”
Born and raised there, his parents were small business owners and Steve feels an obligation to ensure growth and development in Magna is good for the township and the people.
“We would like to edit the county’s ordinances [and the planning and zoning] to omit things that don’t apply to Magna and make it more specific to Magna. And then in the future we will adopt that [plan] as our own.”
The first order of business is to get the council members a seat at the table of the various service boards that serve Magna such as Wasatch Front Waste and the Municipal Services District.
“I just want to see us make responsible decisions,” Prokopis said. “Growth is coming whether we like it not; we need to embrace it and try and shape it into something that works for Magna. There has been a spike in development in the last couple of years and I want to try and manage that responsibly. I want to get us up on par with what other communities have as far as amenities and infrastructure while still maintaining that small, hometown feel.”
Eric Ferguson has been a Magna resident for the past 10 years, and his wife’s family has been part of the Magna community for more than 80 years. Ferguson is in the Air Force Reserve, and works for Salt Lake City Public Utilities.
“I noticed that there was an opportunity for Magna to have a different vision moving forward, and I wanted to be apart of it,” Ferguson said. “I feel I can express what my neighbors and the community’s desires are as well. I want to help develop a different kind of relationship with the county, and find a way to streamline a lot of things and redefine our image to the valley.”
Trish Hull has been the library manager at the Magna Library for the past ten years. According to Hull, the most pressing matters that she would like to address during her tenure are bringing needed services to Magna to help with education, employment and the welfare of its citizens.
“Change can take time or be quick and either way it takes some adjustment and money,” Hull said. “As we figure out funding and establish priorities, I think the biggest challenge is helping our community understand it is real, and we need to work together to accomplish the best for all.”
Echoed by all three council members interviewed, the people of Magna are their driving force. The Magna community fosters a sense of service to one another in a unique way.
“The people are what make Magna a good place to live,” Prokopis said. “The small town feel and the working class people who take pride in their community, and the fact that they voted to remain a township, makes us a little bit different than any other city.”
Townships are different than cities in that there is no Mayor and they cannot impose a utility franchise tax or local property tax. In addition, elected councils currently do not have the authority to spend taxpayer dollars. They can, however, pass ordinances, deal with zoning issues, self-direct development of growth, and work to amend Salt Lake County’s general plan as they see necessary after the six month grace period expires under the county’s direction.
Funding for the Metro Townships is collected through sales tax and is budgeted by the Municipal Services District.