Fee plan raises ire with mayors
Park City Mayor Dana Williams spoke out this week about Summit County’s intentions to tack another $10 onto the cost to register a car.
County commissioners say the additional revenue will help buy property for road corridors as land prices increase. While Snyderville may have the most immediate need for highway expansion, they insist citizens on both sides of Summit County will benefit from the tax.
And not all mayors oppose the plan.
"It gives us an opportunity to look down the road and do some transportation planning for the entire county," said Oakley Mayor Blake Frazier, who also serves as the elected auditor for the county. "Is it unfair to the cities? No more than a general tax levy I probably make a trip to the Junction once a week and the congestion over there is horrible."
But Williams joined Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt and Kamas Mayor Lewis Marchant in expressing concerns about the proposal.
"This is Summit County that is bringing this up and initiating this and not the city," Williams said Thursday. "If there is a sense that the other cities feel it can be equitable fine. If they’re not supportive, we’re not going to try and do something and go it alone."
As county officials aim to levy the tax July 1, Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan is lobbying elected officials on the East Side to form a Council of Governments to help prioritize how the new money should be spent.
"I don’t really foresee anything at this point in time that that money would be used directly in the city for," Williams said.
Though they have no decision-making power, the mayors of Summit County’s six municipalities would likely have seats on the board. The County Commission decides whether to charge the fee and which projects should benefit, Callahan said.
"We want to make it real clear that this isn’t something that Park City has pushed to try to take fees from the rest of the county for our own improvements," Williams said. "We didn’t bring it up, we didn’t invent it. We didn’t have anything to do with it."
The issue could widen the ideological divide between people who live in eastern and western Summit County.
"I’m not a big fan of the east/west rift and I certainly have tried real hard over the last four and a half years not to create anything that could cause that," Williams said. "We certainly don’t want to cause a rift, and if the other municipalities in the county can’t support this, then we’re fine with it."
Park City councilors endorsed the plan with reservations, he added.
"We made it very, very clear when it came to us that we would not do something unless there was support of the other cities," Williams said.
In the next 20 years, Callahan expects the fee to generate $10 million. But a roughly $200,000-traffic study conducted recently by the County Commission recommends about $80 million worth of traffic improvements in Snyderville in the next 25 years.
"I know that there are some issues in the 224 entry corridor that the county wants to get addressed and most of that is prior to [the road] even coming into the city," Williams said, conceding, "improvements at Kimball Junction are certainly going to help the city and there are major traffic issues at Kimball Junction that need to be addressed."
Meanwhile, Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard says he wouldn’t support the tax even if his town received all the money.
"They call them fees, but all it is, is a fancy word for taxation," Ovard said. "People just don’t seem to understand in government, that $10 here and $10 there, pretty soon you’re talking some serious money they will start it out at $10, I’m going to bet you that within 10 or 15 years, it will not be $10, it will be $20 or $30."
Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme recently criticized a report from Park City staffers that addresses the fee proposal.
"[Park City has] already decided how it’s going to be divided up, how it’s going to be spent, where it’s going to be spent if you’re going to divide things up according to their figures, you’re going to get taken to the cleaners," Woolstenhulme said.
Responding during the testy exchange, County Commissioner Bob Richer said, "[Park City] responded in a professional manner it’s not [Callahan’s] fault nor is it Park City’s fault" that cities on the East Side did not respond.
Ovard, however, claims he has only received information about the fee secondhand.
"The total communication that I received as a mayor was so insignificant," Ovard said, adding that Callahan provided a 1-page report to Henefer Town Councilor Brent Ovard, who also works for the Summit County Health Department.
Still, the opposition on the East Side might sway Williams’ opinion.
"There are some unknowns to this, that we’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode as to what the parameters of this are actually going to be," the Park City mayor said. "I have the utmost respect for eastern Summit County and would never purposely try to do something that could damage relations between us and them."
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The large fireworks shows scheduled for July 3 and July 4 at Park City Mountain Resort have been canceled because of worries about fire risk and drought conditions.