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Millcreek residents learn more about becoming a city

Published October 11, 2012 9:52 pm

Municipal • People for, against a ballot measure clash in meeting on the merits.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Several hundred Millcreek residents filled seats in the Skyline High School auditorium Thursday night to learn more about a Nov. 6 ballot proposal to make their east-central Salt Lake Valley communities a city.

Many already had made up their minds. Incorporation opponent Roger Dudley received a loud ovation when he finished his seven-minute opening statement, lambasting the idea as a "theoretical even theatrical" response to a problem with Salt Lake County services that doesn't exist.

Incorporation proponents came close to matching the foes' volume when city supporter Jeff Silvestrini laid out his reasons for favoring Millcreek City: local control and protection from annexations by neighboring cities.

But there were also plenty of people like Emmett Quinn, who wasn't certain what to make of the concept, which would create a city of 63,000 people, Utah's 10th largest.

"I want to find out the pros and cons of this argument that I don't fully understand," said Quinn. "I'm on the fence right now. I want some facts. I want to make an educated choice. The bottom line is, I don't want to pay more taxes."

There was plenty of taxes talk at the session. The author of a county-sponsored feasibility study of incorporation described how that document came to the conclusion that the city initially would break even, particularly if it contracted for police, fire and other public works services and didn't try to do those things on its own, but would see its expenses rise faster than its revenues after that.

Silvestrini took issue withthe study's numbers, contending they were based on a 1 percent annual increase in sales tax revenues that is much more conservative than the 5 percent hike Salt Lake County experienced in 2011.

Dudley countered that the city will need all the tax revenue it can get to meet start-up and administrative costs. He also fears city officials will impose a utility franchise tax, which the county is not allowed to do, to make up for revenue shortfalls identified in the feasibility study.

Much of Thursday's discussion also focused on law enforcement services in a new city. The area currently is served by the Unified Police Department.

Silvestrini argued that city supporters recognize the capabilities of the UPD and would not be inclined to dump that agency in favor of starting their own police department or contracting with other municipalities for protection.

But Dudley said that was a promise Silvestrini could not keep. Nothing prevents future city councils from dropping the UPD and going a different direction, he added.

Whatever Millcreek residents decide to do about incorporating, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, who also is part of the UPD command, pleaded with them to keep UPD cars patrolling city streets.

"Don't mess with the model we worked hard to build," he said.

After the two-hour meeting, 78-year-old Ruth Stephens said nothing she heard changed her feelings that incorporation would be bad. "I don't see how it's not going to cost more. They'll have buildings and people and duplication of county facilities," she said.

Joseph Denison, 38, came away with a different perspective. He knew what his pro-incorporation neighbors thought about the concept and wanted to hear what county officials had to say. With their input, Denison said, he's convinced becoming a city is the way to go. "I heard what I needed to hear."

Then there's Rick Widdison, 54. What he heard Thursday changed his mind, from mildly supporting the city to being opposed. "I heard pretty good arguments [from Dudley] that swayed me," he said. "I see no real reason to incorporate."

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg