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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Early morning golfers start on the front nine at Rose Park Golf Course in Salt Lake City Thursday March 20. A new report reveals that Salt Lake City's golf courses lack financial viability. Among the money losers is the Rose Park 18-hole golf course. The consultant said the city should close it entirely or completely revamp it.
Salt Lake City Council pondering fireworks, golf, fire station
SLC budget » Mayor Becker has proposed a $229 million budget.
First Published Jun 02 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 02 2014 11:13 am

Salt Lake City Council members face a few decisions before finalizing a budget for the year that begins July 1.

• Do they go along with Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposal not to spend $25,000 — a drop in his $229 million budget plan — for summer fireworks at Liberty and Jordan parks as a symbolic gesture for air quality?

At a glance

Public hearing

The Salt Lake City Council will accept comments at 7 p.m. Tuesday from residents about Mayor Ralph Becker’s proposed $229 million budget for the year that begins July 1. The hearing is in Room 315 of City Hall, 451 S. State.

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• Do they shut down an infrequently used fire station west of Salt Lake City International Center just as the airport begins a major renovation that boosts the potential for an industrial accident?

• Will they stick with plans to close the par 3 golf course in Rose Park permanently in November as a way to make ends meet this year while golf officials come up with a long-term approach to fix a deficit driven by decreasing play and high costs for water?

• And will they find money for a couple of council members’ projects — one establishing a Youth City program on the west side, the other promoting completion of a pedestrian/bike trail that cuts through a lengthy stretch of east-side neighborhoods?

Before making those decisions June 10, the council will hold a second public hearing Tuesday at 7 p.m. to hear which issues are important to residents. It will take place in Room 315 of City Hall, 451 S. State.

The council has spent the past three weeks questioning department heads about components of Becker’s budget, which does not seek a property tax increase, gives employees a 3 percent pay raise, sets aside more money for deferred maintenance and advances several measures to reduce pollution in the Salt Lake Valley.

Fireworks • Eliminating funding for July 4 fireworks at Jordan Park and the July 24 show at Liberty Park is a key piece of Becker’s air-quality package.

City Public Services Director Rick Graham defended the cut, saying fireworks dust causes problems for neighbors with respiratory problems.

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"We have stepped forward as a city to be a leader in air quality," Graham said. "This is something we can control."

While council members applauded Becker’s goal, they clearly signaled an intent to return fireworks funding to the budget.

Council Chairman Charlie Luke said the plan was "silly" and chastised Becker for putting the council into a position of having to reject a clean-air proposal that really doesn’t do much for clean air.

"I’m sorry you have to defend this," Councilwoman Lisa Adams told Graham, likening the approach to "tossing a stone in the ocean" when the Jordan and Liberty parks shows are so small compared to other displays, like those at Sugar House Park and at Smith’s Ballpark after Salt Lake Bees games.

"We take this away and everyone goes to Evanston and buys everything awful," she said. "We’re going to set the whole valley on fire and that will really make the air quality bad. It’s a nice thought, but there are other ways to show we care about air quality."

Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall, executive director of the nonprofit group Breathe Utah and recently appointed to the Utah Board of Air Quality, said decisions about fireworks should be based on pollution conditions on the days of the shows, rather than a blanket ban that inhibits two small "community-building, neighborhood-supportive events.

"Leadership is building policies that impact the whole valley," she said. "This is just us boycotting two shows and not really making a dent on pollution in the valley."

Councilman Kyle LaMalfa’s compromise solution is to restore the funding but use only a portion for a reduced fireworks show. The rest of the money would go to other activities at those parks.

Resolving the fireworks debate is easy because it involves only $25,000. A far bigger price tag makes fixing the golf problem even harder.

Golf • The golf program will enter next year with a $500,000 deficit, a shortfall that will not shrink even with the planned closure of the Jordan River par 3 course. It could worsen if the city doesn’t replace deteriorating watering systems at its courses and switch to using untreated irrigation water instead of more expensive drinking water.

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