Residents don't like the West Jordan City Council's plans to fire six city employees, including three firefighters, as part of proposed city budget cuts.
Protests came from about 100 residents attending the first of five information meetings about the budget plans. Residents said the firefighter cuts would put them at risk if they had a fire or an emergency requiring paramedic attention.Janel Remington told council members that reduction in firefighters could mean the difference between life and death. Her daughters were killed in a fire in another area because it took firefighters 10 minutes to respond to the scene. She believes the cuts in the public safety budget would slow response times.
"Let's trim the fat somewhere else," Claudia Owens, a city employee, said.
The budget meetings came after the West Jordan Employees Association, West Jordan Firefighters and West Jordan Fraternal Order of Police went on the record opposing the employee cuts. If adopted, the tentative budget plan would also eliminate a city prosecutor, building inspector, planner, secretary and a management intern.
The employee groups believe the cuts in firefighter staffing will mothball one fire squad, shifting responsibility to Gold Cross ambulance and Salt Lake County paramedics for medical calls.
"Response time of two to five minutes is provided by West Jordan firefighters compared to 15 to 20 by the county and/or Gold Cross," a flier distributed by the groups to homes in West Jordan said.
"I am sure the City Council will reconsider the public safety cuts after the public response tonight," Mayor Robert M. Roberts said.
Along with staff cuts, the public expressed varied opinions about proposed city tax restructuring. Proposals include doing away with retail license fees, monthly sewer fees, adding a 6 percent tax on utility bills and raising property taxes by 76 percent.
Ron Olsen, city manager, said the tax restructure would cost the average West Jordan household $82 a year.
"They shouldn't increase taxes and cut city services. I personally can't afford it," Wade King said.
One man affiliated with the tax-protest movement said the city should hold the line on taxes, and the proposed tax increase ought to be placed on the November ballot.
"Yeah, let's have a government by the people for the people," said one woman as the crowd cheered for the ballot proposition idea.
A five-year capital projects plan also came under attack. Former state Sen. Brent Overson said that the city ought to wait for the reapportionment of legislative seats after the 1990 census before they sink money into projects to widen Redwood Road. More representation could result in the state footing the entire bill for the projects.
Other residents said they want a proposed $1 million swimming pool project scrapped.
The next budget information meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Westland Elementary School, 2925 W. 7180 South.