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Millcreek city

Published October 24, 2012 3:42 pm

Local control vs. higher cost
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you are voting in the election to incorporate Millcreek as Salt Lake County's 17th city, there's only one question you need to ask yourself: Are you happy with the municipal services you are getting from the county today? If the answer to that is yes, and you think the prices (taxes) you are paying are reasonable, then you should vote "No" on incorporation.

If, on the other hand, you are frustrated with police, fire, garbage collection, street lighting and other services provided by the county, then you may want to vote "Yes" to create a new city. What you will get, if a majority votes the way you do, is a government that is closer to the people. You will have your own mayor and city council, and when something goes wrong, you will know who to yell at. As things stand today, no member of the County Council lives in Millcreek.

But you will pay a price for that local representation, because another layer of government will inevitably cost you more.

The proponents of a city dispute that. They say that Millcreek is not getting a good deal today, particularly from the new Unified Police District. They claim that cities that buy UPD services under contract get a better deal than Millcreek does, and if residents create a city, they will be in a stronger position to bargain. They will be able to cut a better deal with the UPD or they could withdraw from the police district and buy services from an existing city, such as Cottonwood Heights, or they could set up their own police department.

We can't imagine that setting up a new department would be cheaper. That's why the trend in Salt Lake County to consolidate police and fire services within special districts that cross municipal boundaries makes sense. This provides economies of scale. Small cities are better off to band together. At 64,000 people, Millcreek would be a midsize city.

Nevertheless, incorporation proponents insist that a city could cut a better deal and have money left over for other services. We doubt that. Besides, cities inevitably build city halls, hire new administrators and must pay for a new bureaucracy. That all would cost money.

Today, county government provides that structure, and community councils give the people in Millcreek's existing township a voice. It has its own planning commission, and the County Council has never overturned one of its recommendations. Plus, if Millcreek incorporates, it will lose its share of Kennecott's contribution to the municipal tax base of the unincorporated county.

So the choice is simple. If you don't like current services and you want a traditional, elected city government, vote for incorporation. If you're happy with the status quo, don't.