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Front Page » September 27, 2007 » Local News » East Carbon moves forward with public safety building
Published 2,938 days ago

East Carbon moves forward with public safety building

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Sun Advocate reporter

Barbara Robinett, East Carbon resident

East Carbon officials made plans to approach the county for a firm commitment concerning loan payments on the proposed public safety building Tuesday night.

The officials decided to approach the county commissioners following a statement by Mayor Orlando LaFontaine.

The city administrator reported that the project had been funded by the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board during the panel's September session.

Sunnyside and East Carbon were offered a $1.6 million grant on the contingency that the cities take fiscal responsibility for the $300,000 increase in construction costs.

The building's price increased from $1.6 million to $1.9 million in the last year due to inflation in construction materials and labor.

It was the CIB's opinion that the the two cities needed to take ownership of the increase, according to LaFontaine.

The east county municipality has been in negotiations with Sunnyside concerning the construction of a joint public safety building for more than 18 months.

"When I approached the board with Mayor Andrews from Sunnyside, the board brought a couple of things up to us," said LaFontaine. "They had obtained a copy of the manifest order which stated that East Carbon was planning to keep one of its fire trucks here at the current facility even after the building is constructed. I informed them that all vehicles would be sent to the new public safety building. But after returning to East Carbon, I have realized that the council does indeed want to keep a truck here. This is something that almost lost us the funding completely."

It was made clear by the several members on the East Carbon council that they do wish to keep a truck within the city limits.

"It has been my contention from the beginning that we keep a truck here in town," said East Carbon Councilmember Darlene Kuhns. "We promised our 10 firemen that we would do that for them."

But according to LaFontaine, the city's property was not the only issue the CIB board members had with the joint funding application.

"They asked about the walls we had separating everything and they asked why we had a divorce clause in the agreement before we ever got the project funded," explained the mayor. "They also really took issue with the amount of money this building is going to cost. They fund fire departments all the time and they know that $1.9 million is a very expensive building for 2,000 residents."

LaFontaine reported that Price Mayor Joe Piccolo motioned to award the cities $1.6 million in funding and then split the $300,000 evenly.

The loan would have a 30 year span with 0 percent interest and a two year payment deferment.

According to the mayor, Carbon Commissioner Mike Milovich who sits on the CIB board offered to pay a stipend to the city for its fire contracts with the county of $5,000 a year, which would cover the payment on the loan.

It was the mayor's contention, however, that the funds would need to be used for operation and maintenance on the building.

"I didn't know that East Carbon had no current agreement for stipend from the county for fire protection," said LaFontaine. "But with the continued increase in fire certification requirements, we are going to need that money for training, before our lack of training becomes a liability we also have to operate and maintain that building."

Before hearing from the public, the mayor indicated that he was uncomfortable putting any cost for the building on East Carbon residents. He pointed out that the project has started affecting future funding ventures the city is looking to pursue.

East Carbon's current project list to the CIB includes a community recreation center and a walking trail.

"We have a sizable debt that has to be paid to the water quality board every year for the loans we took on our infrastructure," said LaFontaine. "If something were to happen to the tippage fees at ECDC, that loan still has to be paid."

"I don't want the citizens of this city left holding the bag for more than they can afford," continued the East Carbon mayor "We already raised the sewer rates from $5 to $15 and, if we default, they can demand that we increase it again. At what point do we see how much this building is really costing us."

Barbara Robinett, who is an East Carbon resident and Sunnyside ambulance employee then addressed the council and stated her unhappiness with what she perceived as lack of support for the safety structure.

"I don't know if you were at the same CIB meeting that I was or at the same city council meetings I have been at. But we have voted to support this structure four times and you promised this city that you would go to the CIB and give this project your full support. And I don't feel that you did that. When they saw your reaction to the loan portion of the agreement they were ready to pull the funding right then and there," said Robinett.

LaFontaine disagreed with Robinett, stating that he still supports the public safety building project, but not at a cost to the citizens of East Carbon or what he considers to be the continuing loss of potential funds for the city.

"I did support the project. I understand that this loan represents a very small amount of money, but I feel it is really costing us in potential funding. What was lost at that meeting is that this building is not about the fire departments as we have said all along - this building is about the ambulance," said LaFontaine. "This building is about the medical care of our residents. I did not accept the agreement at the funding meeting because that is a decision for the city council to make not me. Our city is set up to have a soft mayor and a strong council. I didn't feel I had the authority to make that decision for this council."

According to Robinett and LaFontaine, the building was considered extravagant by the CIB.

"Can we make the building a little cheaper," said East Carbon councilmember Joyce Caviness. "I think if we sit down with the architect we can cut some corners and get it back down to $1.6 million."

No matter what the building costs, the mayor indicated that he believes the CIB will require the two cites to take some financial responsibility for the construction of the building.

"There are other funding options for this loan portion," said LaFontaine. "I think if both cities went before the USDA we could make some headway. And if we can go before the county and they hold up their part of the bargian then it's a done deal."

Councilmember David Maggio voiced strong feelings regarding the county's involvement in the project.

"How much money does the county make on mineral rights? And how much do they plan on making in future? It seems to me that we are the other Carbon County down here. We are not the Carbon County with a multi-million dollar gun range and convention center. If $300,000 is the stop gap between us and this building then it should be a no brainer that we get it. We live in this county and we pay our taxes just the same as anyone and we deserve our fair share of the pie. If we have to go down there and demand it, then that is what we will do," stated Maggio.

The council made arrangements for Robinett, the mayor, citizens and councilmembers to approach the county commission.

"I have fought for this building from the beginning and it is my understanding that we have already been promised this money from the county, the $5,000 for payment from the fire contracts. I would not be here fighting like this if it wasn't for the ambulance. It is a must that it is moved out of that canyon. The citizens of this community are what matters to me. They are what is important," concluded Robinett.

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