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Millcreek voters to decide whether township will become city

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 4:19 p.m. MDT

Jacob Brown tries out a guitar at Guitar Czar in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

MILLCREEK — Drive down practically any street in Millcreek Township and you'll see the dueling campaign signs:

"NO to more Gov't; NO to Millcreek City" or "City of Millcreek, Vote YES."

On Nov. 6, voters will decide whether the four communities that make up Millcreek Township — Canyon Rim, East Millcreek, Millcreek and Mount Olympus — will become a city. Voters also will select a form of municipal government and whether they want to be represented by city council districts.

The question essentially boils down to whether Millcreek residents want to self-govern or continue to be represented solely by the Salt Lake County Council. 

A feasibility study paid for by Salt Lake County concluded that incorporation is economically feasible. Sales tax revenues are expected to increase 1 percent a year, consultants say. However, the revenue source tends to go as the economy goes, which has been a challenge during the recession.

The study, released in June 2011, stated that Millcreek Township could become "a viable and sustainable city," but the move could result in "significant negative fiscal impacts to Salt Lake County's municipal services budget."

Neither camp disputes that.

But the parties are deeply divided about the future course of Millcreek Township, home to about 63,000 people. If voters approve its incorporation, Millcreek City would become the fifth-largest city in Salt Lake County and 10th-largest city statewide. 

Jeff Silvestrini, a longtime chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council, had for years been a staunch advocate for preserving the area as a township.

But he started to question the wisdom of continuing down the township path when he and other elected community council representatives attempted to address Salt Lake City officials over a water rate increase. The city serves a portion of the township. Residents there pay higher rates than Salt Lake City residents.

The group was told, "You may have two minutes like everyone else."

"Would the Salt Lake City Council say that to the mayor of Millcreek? I don't think so. Millcreek needs a seat at the table," Silvestrini said.

Roger Dudley, an opponent of Millcreek incorporation, said adding municipal government on top of County Council representation is duplicative, costly and unnecessary.

The area is well-served by a government entity that has AAA bond rating and the ability to provide municipal services at a reasonable cost because of the economies of scale.

"We don't need to be in a city and have the risk of spending more to get less," Dudley said.

He also takes issue of combining dissimilar communities into a single city that shares boundaries with Murray, South Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Holladay, Taylorsville and a small portion of West Valley City.

"The artificial boundary of this city is quite repugnant," Dudley said. "There are very few of you that want to force us into this cattle car."

But Silvestrini counters that the four communities that make up the township have worked hard to create a sense of community in recent years through community events such as movie nights and celebrations. 

"We have held together so well since the township was formed," he said. "We are a community. We have great synergy."

Silvestrini said he fears if the incorporation vote fails, it will "send a message we don't believe in our community. I hope we don't do that."

While the divisions of the respective camps are somewhat philosophical in nature, Dudley said start-up costs for the new city are the great unknown. 

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