Interlocal agreement conversation strikes nerve
November 25, 2014
Outgoing Summit County Manager Bob Jasper reignited a conversation about law enforcement service costs at the latest Council of Government meeting, effectively striking a nerve about how the county operates.
Jasper, with the support of the County Council, approached the mayors of each municipality to address an ongoing violation of Utah statute that requires each mayor to keep the peace and enforce the laws within their respective cities.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Department provides services to each municipality to assist in detective and corrections services, excluding Park City and Kamas which have their own police forces. But even Kamas, which employs a two-man department, still requires the assistance of the Sheriff’s Department since it is not a 24-hour operation.
The county, as represented by Jasper, is ultimately seeking compensation for providing services within the designated municipalities.
"Generally what I am asking for and what the county supports is that we have to have some kind of agreement," Jasper said. "Something has to be laid out. Whether there is money on top of that and how much, I think that is for negotiations and I think each of the mayors should be speaking about what’s fair and what works for them."
The mayors of Coalville, Francis, Henefer and Oakley are faced with determining how to police their cities. They must decide whether they want to provide their own law enforcement or compensate the county for resources they have utilized for years, at no cost.
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"The county isn’t trying to make a lot of money," Jasper said at the Council of Government meeting on Tuesday, Nov, 18. "We understand you have your tax rates set and we aren’t trying to make a giant war.
"But the law is still the law and it says you are to arrange for law enforcement of your municipalities," he added.
The word ‘fair’ was tossed around at the Council of Government meeting and County Council member Kim Carson said that is what the issue boils down to.
"It’s a fairness issue and it protects citizens in the county," she said.
Residents who live in unincorporated areas, like the Snyderville Basin, are required to pay taxes to the county for municipal services, such as law enforcement and public works, Matt Leavitt, a finance officer with the auditor’s office, said.
"Everyone pays for those municipal-type services," Leavitt said. "It’s just a matter of who you pay them to, either the county or a city."
But what is fair for everyone involved?
Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard said if it was simply a matter of an interlocal agreement, he would sign it immediately. Otherwise, he is totally opposed.
"My tax dollars are supplementing the non-incorporated residents to have certain services," Ovard said. "Why should they not support me, as well? I mean, how can I generate money for police protection when we can’t even generate money for a pubic works department? That’s my contention.
"It’s a simple fact of dollars and cents," he said.
Ovard went as far as to say that if the matter continues to progress in the direction of a higher tax for citizens in incorporated towns, he would suggest dissolving the municipality and becoming an unincorporated area of Summit County, like the Snyderville Basin.
"I’m not pushing for disincorpriation," Ovard said. "It’s just my only concern is what is fair."
Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the eastern side of the county is heavily subsidized as it pertains to law enforcement.
"They (Eastern Summit County) are receiving a first-class service and they aren’t paying for it, which puts pressure on other parts of the county," Edmunds said. "They feel like the county owes them and frankly, I am stunned by that. I can’t even fathom how they’ve arrived at that conclusion."
It’s very unconventional for a county to be providing municipal-type services, Edmunds said. Out of the sheriff’s $12 million budget, about $5 million is dedicated to services specifically for the East Side of the county, he added.
"It’s getting disproportionate and frankly they’re not paying," Edmunds said. "I’ve been beating this drum for years, but the reason I haven’t pushed it as much is because clearly, it is a hot button issue and I don’t want the public safety to be compromised in that narrative."
Sheriff-elect Justin Martinez echoed Edmunds sentiment, adding that if a statute is being violated, it needs to be corrected, but not at the risk of jeopardizing the safety of residents.
"First and foremost, my priority is the safety and security of Summit County and I will not risk that for who’s paying the bills," Martinez said.
Park City would not be affected by any change in the county’s policy because the city runs its own full-time police department.
Kamas, on the other hand, has a two-man department but still uses the county’s services.
Mayor Lew Marchant said it is his hope that any fees associated with the interlocal agreement wouldn’t apply to Kamas residents.
"I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know that something needs to be resolved," Marchant said.