A bill to clarify what counties are rural and which are not, passed the House in the state legislature on Monday and has now been introduced in the Senate for consideration.
The bill, HB 220, is sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Rudd Melove (R) from Garland, near Tremonton. Her questions about how things are classified right now seemed to strike a chord with other rural legislators when she addressed them at the Rural Caucus that was held on Jan. 27.
"What is rural?" she asked the assembled group of State Senators and Representatives. "Right now Box Elder County is not considered rural. But how do you explain that when towns like Grouse Creek and Park Valley are located there?"
Those two towns are as far from any rural area as almost any small towns are in Utah, yet because of Brigham City being included in the Wasatch Front it seems they are considered part of an urban area.
The label of rural or not rural counts a lot when it comes to getting certain state money and even federal dollars, so it is important that rural is defined properly.
"The problem is that in state code rural is mentioned 200 times and all the definitions of what it is, depending on the passage, are different," she said. "That fact is that the state is just using too many definitions of rural."
The group discussion that followed included some comments that even in some of the urban counties, there are rural places. One Utah County representative brought up the fact that while the Lehi/American Fork/Orem/Provo area are very urban a place like Benjamin or Elberta is not. After that comment there was mention that maybe someone should look at classifying towns and cities rural rather than doing it by county.
Melove's bill is meant to solve some of the definitions and put a different semblance of order to what is rural. The bill requires the Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee to review the classification of counties, consider whether to draft legislation on the classification of counties as urban or rural and to make technical corrections.
Under the bill counties would be classified by population, with five classes of counties from first class (over 700,000 people) to sixth class counties ( a population of under 4,000).
Only four counties in the state would be considered urban under the bill: Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber.
Carbon and Emery would fall in with the other 25 as rural counties.
Counties would be classified by the United States
Census that is conducted every 10 years.