Park City facility for contaminated soils politicized as candidates line up in opposition
City Hall hearing provides campaign undertones in weeks before primary election
Three of the challengers in the Park City Council contest testified during an important hearing on Thursday centered on a City Hall concept to build a facility to store soils containing mining-era contaminants, each of them speaking in opposition, in a gathering that could have set a tone for the final weeks of the primary election season.
The comments by the candidates were a highlight of one of the most contentious Park City hearings since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The opposition packed the City Council chambers at the Marsac Building for what was the most widely attended in-person meeting since the outset of the pandemic.
The concept to build a facility known as a repository along the S.R. 248 entryway has drawn widespread condemnation in the community in recent months, and the hearing on Thursday was especially lopsided. The elected officials received approximately 90 minutes of testimony in opposition without anyone speaking in clear support of the concept. The speakers broached a range of issues like environmental risks in their comments.
The City Council challengers who spoke appeared to be generally in agreement with the overarching concerns expressed by the wider audience on Thursday.
Candidate John Greenfield said he entered the campaign based on worries about the repository concept. He said there is a nearby facility and, perhaps, City Hall could contribute to the expansion of that one instead of developing one along the entryway.
Another candidate, Jeremy Rubell, wondered about the prospects of holding a ballot measure regarding the repository concept. The specifics of such a vote were not clear. He also addressed worries about the consequences should a repository someday fail.
Michael Franchek, who is also a City Council candidate, said the use of the term “repository” is a friendly way of referring to what he considers to be a toxic waste dump. Mayor Andy Beerman interrupted Franchek when the candidate mentioned City Councilor Tim Henney, who is seeking reelection, by name.
At least one other City Council challenger, Tana Toly, was in attendance at the Marsac Building but did not testify.
The three people on the primary ballot in the mayoral contest were at the meeting as well. Beerman is seeking reelection and City Councilor Nann Worel was on the dais with the other elected officials. David Dobkin, the other mayoral candidate, was in the audience but did not provide testimony.
The two incumbents seeking reelection — Beerman and Henney — earlier in the meeting touched on the topic. Both mentioned the publicity the concept has received, with Beerman claiming there could be political motivations with what he considers to be misinformation spreading.
The repository concept quickly became one of the community’s overriding issues shortly before the start of the campaign. The concept has been a key issue in the early weeks of the election and is expected to remain one through at least the primary season. The topic could extend into the fall campaign season depending on the timeline of decisions.
The repository concept calls for a facility on municipal land located at the intersection of S.R. 248 and Richardson Flat Road. Officials want to store silver mining-era materials containing lead, arsenic and other contaminants there. The historic mining industry, which drove the Park City economy through the middle of the 20th century, left a legacy of contaminated land. A repository previously used at Richardson Flat, dating to the mining era and lacking a protective liner, has not been available since 2010. Materials unearthed since then have been taken to a Tooele County facility. City Hall says developing a repository along S.R. 248 would save money and allow Park City to take responsibility for the soils rather than putting the burden on another community.
The opposition is worried about the potential impacts on the land, water and air. Opponents say the proposed location is nearby residences and recreational lands. Some of the topics the speakers mentioned included responsibility for the long-term management, the availability of a facility in Tooele County and a call for further study.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
The field in the Park City Council primary election briefly addressed the Black Lives Matter mural that was put on Main Street in 2020, an indication there continues to be simmering emotions about the polarizing work and the process that led to the creation of the mural.