Summit County lobbies mayors for $10 fee
The Summit County Commission next week will try to convince mayors in the area to support a plan to increase vehicle registration fees $10 to help fund new road corridors and highway planning.
State law allows the tax increase but elected leaders in some East Side municipalities say money generated by the new fee won’t significantly benefit their cities and towns.
In 20 years, county officials estimate the tax could generate $10 million. With a unanimous vote in March, commissioners cleared a legislative hurdle necessary for adopting the new fee in July.
But as the Summit County Commission contemplates roughly $80 million worth of road improvements in the Snyderville Basin during the next 20 years, Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard says commissioners are trying to gouge eastsiders for an extra $10 to alleviate gridlock at Kimball Junction.
"A little here and a little there and pretty soon we owe our whole lives to the county," Ovard said. "I can guarantee you if you get that fee on there, it will be $10 this year, $20 the next, $30 the next. It never goes down, it’s never subtracted, never erased and never taken away."
Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt is also against the plan.
"I’m not happy about it," Schmidt said. "I’m not saying that I’m not willing to work out a compromise, but the way that it’s been explained to me it’s definitely of no value to anybody on the north side of the county."
A meeting is planned April 26 for the County Commission to present the proposal to Ovard, Schmidt and the mayors of Francis, Kamas, Oakley and Park City.
"We passed the ordinance on March 29 because we had to," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.
County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme added, "it isn’t a done deal yet."
Summit County officials were criticized for not notifying the mayors sooner.
"What got me was the carrot on the stick they paraded passed all of the mayors. They said, you go on this with the county, we’ll come down and help you a little on your town problems," Ovard said. "There isn’t going to be any help. There is no clear-cut vision. To me, it’s just an added tax."
As county commissioners aim to levy the tax July 1, Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan has lobbied elected officials on the East Side to form a Council of Governments to help prioritize how the new money should be spent.
Though they have no decision-making power, the mayors would likely have seats on the board. The County Commission decides whether to charge the fee and which projects should benefit, Callahan said.
Because the Utah Department of Transportation recently earmarked $10 million in matching funds for the program, Callahan says revenue generated by the fee the first year could double.
"If we put in a buck, they’ll put in a buck," Callahan said.
Meanwhile, the funds will be needed in eastern Summit County as the population grows, he added.
"There might be a need in the future to expand [S.R. 32] for safety purposes," Callahan said.
Funding generated by the fee must be used to acquire rights-of-way or for planning road corridors, he said, adding that officials in other counties are pushing to adopt the fee in other areas of the state.
Though Kamas Mayor Lew Marchant and Park City Mayor Dana Williams say their constituents won’t benefit from the revenue, Callahan claims reducing traffic congestion at Kimball Junction could be an economic boon for the whole county.
"I don’t see it being fair," Schmidt said, adding that gridlock at Kimball Junction doesn’t justify the fee. "Do I think that it’s worth charging everybody in the county to come up with some ideas to fix that? I don’t think so."
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