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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) 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.

Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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.

Millcreek Shoe Rebuilders owner Dan Ruger works at his store in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Millcreek Shoe Rebuilders owner Dan Ruger works at his store in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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.

Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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."

Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on 3300 South in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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. 

County mayoral candidates Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican Mark Crockett have each pledged in public to help Millcreek City with start-up costs if the question passes, Silvestrini said.

But Dudley says it doesn't matter what the mayor says because the County Council holds the purse.

The Salt Lake County Council has a precedent of providing start-up grants to other new cities from its municipal fund. A loan is another possibility, Silvestrini said.

Millcreek Shoe Rebuilders owner Dan Ruger talks with customer Elaine Winter at his store in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Millcreek Shoe Rebuilders owner Dan Ruger talks with customer Elaine Winter at his store in Millcreek Township Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. Millcreek Township incorporation will be on the November 2012 ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"You can borrow money and still have a good bottom line. It would be a one-time thing," he said. Finding resources to start the city is "not an insurmountable thing by any means."

Dudley, however, says he doesn't want to start a city by going into debt.

"On day one, we start in the hole," he said.

Silvestrini said he's more concerned about Millcreek being able to control its future and taxes, which are higher in Millcreek than other parts of the county. The community deserves representation that has a vested interest in Millcreek, he said.

"I think we're missing out on a lot of grants and other opportunities because we don't have a seat at the table," Silvestrini said.

He's convinced that the incorporation effort is "now or never." 

The process of placing the issue on the ballot was lengthy and required the efforts of many volunteers. If the question fails, it may be a long time before anyone musters the enthusiasm to make another attempt.

That suits Dudley fine, because he believes the township is well served by Salt Lake County and he fears locally elected officials will want to start the city's own police department such as Cottonwood Heights has done.

Silvestrini said this is another scare tactic because many people in Millcreek are pleased with the service they receive from the Unified Police Department and the Unified Fire Authority.

However, if it could be demonstrated that public safety services could be offered another way that is equally effective and less costly, a city council would owe it to its residents to weigh its options, he said.

The bottom line, Dudley said, is that "he cannot guarantee us any future city council will keep us in the UPD."

If voters approve, Millcreek City would gain three neighborhood parks, responsibility for most roads, with the exceptions of 3300 South and 4500 South, which are state roads, and have the ability to levy a utility franchise fee, which state statute does not allow the county to do.

It could also levy sales tax, but sales tax is subject to the state formula of distribution that splits it according to point of sale and population.

Special districts that provide law enforcement, fire protection, sewer service, water and mosquito abatement would continue to operate unless the elected city council decides differently.

Voters also will be asked to decide whether they want to be represented by council district.

They also will select a form of government among the following:

Five-member council form of government

The five-member council form of government consists of a single branch of government. In this form of government, the mayor is a regular and voting member of the council, as well as the council chairman. The mayor serves as the chief executive officer handling the daily business of the municipality. The powers of the municipal government are vested in the five-member council. (Alta has this form of government.)

Six-member council form of government

The six-member council form of government consists of a single branch of government. In this form of government, the mayor is a non-voting member of the council, except in the limited circumstances and as a tiebreaker. The mayor serves as the chief executive officer handling the daily business of the municipality. The powers of the municipal government are vested in the six-member council. (Draper has this form of government.)

Five-member council-mayor form of government

The five-member council-mayor form of government consists of two separate, independent and equal branches of government. The mayor is the chief executive of the municipality with veto power, and the five council members serve as the legislative body for the government. (Murray has this form of government.)

Seven-member council-mayor form of government

The seven-member council-mayor form of government consists of two separate, independent and equal branches of government. The mayor is the chief executive of the municipality with veto power, and seven council members serve as the legislative body for the government. (Salt Lake City operates under this form of government.)

Voters also will be asked to decide whether they want to be represented by council district.

For more information Salt Lake County, in cooperation with proponents and opponents, has developed the website www.millcreekballot.com.

There are also websites for supporters of incorporation, City of Millcreek UT and those opposed, www.notocityofmillcreek.org.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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