Residents of two counties will vote Tuesday on a proposal whereby Summit County would annex 15,000 acres of Wasatch County, moving the boundary that divides the Benchcreek area from the Summit town of Woodland.
The Provo River historically has marked the boundary, but Benchcreek residents on the Wasatch County side filed petitions with the two county commissions last spring to place the issue on the ballot.The area is about six miles southeast of Kamas and includes about 15 homes and summer cabins and a large swatch of U.S. Forest Service land.
"As a practical matter, all services in both areas are provided by Summit County because of the distance and remoteness from Heber City, where Wasatch County services are based," said Tom Clyde, a Woodland attorney representing the homeowners.
"The two counties have worked out a system of reimbursement over the years, but it has not been smooth in all cases," Clyde said.
He said that three years ago the South Summit Fire Protection District notified Wasatch residents it would no longer provide services to them.
"Later, Wasatch County and the fire district agreed on a reimbursement contract and the issue was partly resolved," Clyde said.
The conflict, however, caused residents to begin thinking about a possible annexation to Summit County, because although Wasatch County currently contracts with its neighbor for snow removal and other services, there have been problems with a lack of law enforcement, garbage collection and ambulance services, Clyde said.
Some Wasatch County residents actually "smuggle" their trash across the river in order to avoid paying the Summit County garbage collector to come by their homes, he said.
Moreover, children in the area attend school in Kamas, in the South Summit School District, and the Wasatch County parents are unable to vote for school board members.
While Summit County officials would be happy to annex the 25-square-mile area, Wasatch County officials are not pleased with the idea, particularly because a substantial chunk of the county's property tax base would disappear. Three Park City business owners live on the Wasatch County side, including Randy and Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies Inc.
Wasatch County officials also point out that the proposed annexation would not include nearby Woodland Hills, which is more remote than Benchcreek and would continue to receive contracted services.
The ballot measure must pass with a majority in both counties.