MILLCREEK — Residents of four communities will decide Tuesday whether Millcreek township should become Utah's 10th largest city.
Residents of Canyon Rim, East Millcreek, Millcreek and Olympus Cove are being asked to choose between establishing a city or remaining under the Salt Lake County Council. They're also being asked to select a form of government should voters decide to incorporate the township.
Those in favor of incorporation say Millcreek, home to some 63,000 people, needs to become a city because it needs more say in its future development and to get a better handle on fees and taxes.
Opponents say the current system isn't broken. Salt Lake County does a good job of providing municipal services to the township and people receive ample representation on the County Council by one representative that lives in the area, in addition to three at-large members of the nine-member County Council.
Advertising executive Tom Love, who has lived in the township 16 years, is so dead set against the incorporation movement that he and his business Love Communications have donated more than half of the funds to fight the ballot question, according disclosures filed with the state elections office.
Love Communications and its president, Tom Love, contributed a combined $17,840 to the effort to defeat the ballot initiative. Most of the contributions were financial, although $2,000 were categorized as in-kind donations, according to the report.
Love said he is so committed to the cause of preserving the township that he offered to front the money so the campaign could meet deadlines to book billboard space, order mailers and print lawn signs.
His opposition boils down to this: "I don't want more government, more people meddling in my life, and I don't want those people (those behind incorporation) in control," he said.
As for being the largest donor on either side of the question, Love said it was a practical matter of meeting deadlines. "I'm flattered if anyone thinks I'm a super PAC. We're really a total grassroots effort," he said.
Total contributions to the political issues committee Protect and Preserve Our Millcreek Townships as of Oct. 30, were about $28,900. To date, about $23,200 has been spent by the campaign, mostly for signs, campaign literature, mailers and billboards.
Backers of the question, which would create the fifth largest city in Salt Lake County, have contributed about $41,200, spending nearly $40,900 according to a state report dated Oct. 30. One individual donor, John W. Champion, Jr. contributed $5,600. Jeff and Jemina Keller contributed $2,300, while Jeff Silvestrini and Kristine Eccles contributed $1,000 each. The rest were smaller individual contributions ranging from $10 to $700.
Silvestrini, longtime chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council, said he believes the township would fare better in terms of controlling taxes and managing planning and zoning functions by forming its own municipal government.
Holladay City, for instance, pays less for law enforcement services than residents of the unincorporated county, who are assessed property tax by a law enforcement special district. Holladay contracts for its service, which is also provided by Unified Police Department.
"Is Millcreek getting a higher level of service? Is it an efficient delivery model, or are we paying more than our share? If we had our own government, we would explore that," Silvestrini said.
Retaining the services of the UPD and the Unified Fire Authority was the primary reason Love got involved with the campaign to preserve the township, he said.
If Millcreek became a city it would be able to explore other options for services or obtain them on a contract basis from existing providers.
Rumors have bubbled up throughout the campaign about the delivery of public safety services if voters agreed to form a city such as working jointly with a city that provides its own police services such as Cottonwood Heights, Love said
"Those are the issue that scare me," Love said.
Silvestrini said such arguments are scare tactics by opponents of incorporation. Sixteen people — the original sponsors of the incorporation petition and members of the Future of Millcreek Association — committed in a letter to Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder and Chief Michael Jensen of the Unified Fire Authority to "continue to use the services of the UFA and the UPD."
"Citizens of Millcreek are very happy with these services. While final decisions will rest with the elected city council, we are confident that they will reach the same conclusion," the letter states,
In the final days of the campaign, both sides seem to be focused on tangible financial issues. Those opposed say there's no start-up funds for the city and sales tax projections in a 2011 consultants report paid for by Salt Lake County as required under state incorporation laws, forecast a 1 percent annual increase in sales tax revenues from 2011 through 2016. This suggests the new city would need to raise taxes or reduce services after a couple of years to keep pace with inflation.
Subsequent analysis by two members of the original consulting firm, paid for by residents in favor of incorporation, showed sales tax revenues showed actual revenues for 2011 climbed by 5 percent in 2011 and are projected to be even higher for the current year.
Considering the original report used data from 2010, the "bottom of the recession," Silvestrini said, "a 1 percent increase may have been a fair assumption then but that's not actually what's been the case."
Roger Dudley, another long-time Millcreek resident who oppposes incorporation, worries about about hidden costs of the change. As a city, Millcreek would be on the hook for $500,000 for a road construction project already under way along 2300 East.
“This is another example of the unintended – and expensive – consequences of incorporation and a rush to get this issue on the November ballot. What other undiscovered financial liabilities are out there, ready to be placed on the backs of Millcreek residents?,” he said.
Silvestrini says Millcreek City could receive state funds for its part of the match, no different than the county,
"To me, it’s a non-issue because it's just a question of who is writing the check."
For more information, Salt Lake County, in cooperation with proponents and opponents, has developed this website www.millcreekballot.com.
There are also websites for supporters of incorporation, CityofMillcreekUT.org and those opposed, www.notocityofmillcreek.org.
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