Tom Clyde: While you were watching the Olympics
February 28, 2014
I’m climbing out of my post-Olympic stupor. I watched, or at least had the TV on for, more of it than was reasonable. The ad breaks were so frequent and long that even using TiVo and tuning in an hour late, they would quickly catch up with the fast-forward program. Way too much figure skating, and way too much discussion about whether or not competitors nailed their twizzles. The more of the exciting X Games kind of events like snowboard cross they add to the Olympics, the more quaint the skating events become. I don’t think they have changed the music in 40 years. If somebody did a somersault on the ice, the judges would come down with a case of the fantods and faint right on the spot.
Still, I watched, and was genuinely excited at the performance of the local athletes. If Utah were scored as an independent country (which it kind of is) it would have tied with Switzerland for 10th place. The Snyderville ZIP code by itself was huge, and one subdivision in Silver Springs won more medals than Austria. Olympic medals are as common as potholes around here. For little kids watching that, it opens a realm of possibilities that would be impossible almost any place else.
It was only 12 years ago that the Olympics were here. It seems like a lifetime ago in many ways. It was so different from normal life, and so compressed, that it never felt real at the time. I remember the morning after, when there was nothing left but the mopping up. After years and years of anticipation, the Olympic glow went very dark the instant the flame was shut off. The legacy lives on in the dreams that resulted in all those medals.
While we were binging on the Olympics, other stuff has been happening. The City is apparently going to spend $9.5 million to remodel the library building. The building has been an important community facility. It gets used for lots of things by lots of different groups. The City needs to keep it up. But $9.5 million? The goal is to build a 21st century library. I thought that was a $500 iPad. For $9.5 million, they could buy everybody in town an iPad and a lifetime’s worth of books from Kindle. With the change left over, they could rent the conference rooms at the Montage for all those homeowners association meetings (which aren’t a good idea anyway) and other nonprofit gatherings. There’s enough left to cover some nice hors d’oeuvres.
That sort of expenditure used to have to go to a bond election. The voters got to make the final decision. Park City seems to be able to cover it out of petty cash, so the decision will be made by the Council. That doesn’t mean you can’t corner them in the produce department at the grocery store and ask what in the world they are thinking. $10 million here, and $10 million there finally begins to add up to real money.
Meanwhile, on the East Side, the mayors of the incorporated towns are all bent out of joint because the County has suggested that they need to either provide their own police services, or start reimbursing the County for the service provided by the Sheriff. The itemization of the various agencies we pay for on our property taxes can get pretty confusing. There is a County General Fund that everybody pays into. Then there is the Municipal Services Fund that only residents of the unincorporated areas pay into. That covers services the County provides to them that aren’t provided inside the cities — snow removal, road repair, a good chunk of planning and zoning, and Sheriff patrol. None of it is very precise. There’s no reasonable way to decide exactly who should be paying for the tires on a police car. Should Hennefer buy the left-front, and Francis the right-rear, with the other two from the General Fund? Should Oakley buy the gas, and Coalville cover payroll? It adds up, so state law requires some effort to allocate the costs to the people getting the services.
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Even defining the "service" is a little difficult. The Sheriff has to drive through Francis on the way to patrol other unincorporated areas. If he looks out the window, should Francis get a bill? Hennefer is not exactly a hotbed of criminal activity, but when something happens, there is an expectation that a cop will show up. Should residents of the unincorporated areas be paying for that?
Anyway, the County more or less delivered a bill and said pay-up, and the Mayors went off the tracks. This one promises to be a big fight over not a lot of money. Should be interesting to watch.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.