Tooele County Commissioners gathered employees in their Parks and Recreation and Building Maintenance divisions Tuesday to deliver the bad news that all staff, except for two department heads, were losing their jobs.
A total of 23 employees were laid off, 17 in Parks and Recreation and six in Building Maintenance. Their last workday will be Saturday.
The cuts will limit the use of Tooele County’s Deseret Peak Complex, which opened in 1999 and served as a venue for concerts, demolition derbies and professional rodeos. A county statement said that “essential operations will be conducted through contract services and temporary employees.”
Subsidized by the county since its inception, Deseret Peak includes a golf course, BMX and motocross tracks, an aquatic center, archery park, stables and an equestrian race track. It also houses a convention center.
“We are somewhat shutting our doors,” said Tooele County’s Parks and Recreation Director Mark McKendrick. “That means that Deseret Peak is on a reservation basis, and we will evaluate each area to see if they can pay for themselves.”
Some of those losing their jobs have been working at the recreation complex since it opened.
“Some have 20 years in here and have dedicated their lives to it,” McKendrick said. “We’re like a close family, so the layoffs have been really tough.”
Even though the complex was well-used and generated $575,000 to $650,000 in annual revenue, Deseret Peak continued to rely on about $1.5 million in county funding each year, McKendrick said.
Revenue shortfalls led to the layoffs of 52 county employees last year that trimmed all departments “pretty much across the board,” said Wade Mathews, Tooele County’s public information officer.
Many in the county anticipated Tuesday’s further reduction in force, Mathews added.
“The commission announced a week ago that they were reopening the 2013 budget and that further cuts would have to be made,” Mathews said.
In addition to revenue shortfalls, which included a drop in hazardous-waste mitigation fees from businesses operating in the west desert, automatic federal budget cuts will have an impact, Mathews said. Tooele County commissioners have been watching the so-called “sequestration” debate closely, he said.
About 80 percent of the land in Tooele County is federally owned, and the county normally receives “payments in lieu of taxes” because those lands are not subject to taxes.
The county does not expect to receive those federal payments in full this year, according to its statement released Tuesday evening.
Tuesday’s layoffs represent about 7 percent of Tooele County’s 345-member workforce, which as of Saturday pares down to 322, said Community Services Director Bucky Whitehouse.