Sunnyside, ECC may consider merging services
Sunnyside city mayor Doug Parsons will approach the East Carbon City Council later this month to discuss forming a fire and public safety district between the two east county cities and their respective departments. The Sunnyside council directed Parsons to begin the discussion following their own review of possible benefits which a district would bring to the area's fire protection program.
The move also recognizes that Sunnyside city's current financial situation can no longer support the area's ambulance service alone.
"Sunnyside is having a difficult time sustaining the cost of the ambulance service and it is my feeling that the cost for this service needs to be spread out to this whole side of the county," said Parsons as he brought the issue before his council. "And also with the fire departments, we will have a better chance to receive grants as one unit."
The conversation over forming this district has been repeated many times over many years as the two cities literally share a border with one another but continue to try and staff as well as fund two separate fire departments. Present at the Sunnyside meeting was East Carbon council member David Maggio, who has experience with the local government and this particular issue.
"Historically there have been some individuals serving in East Carbon who opposed us coming together," he explained. "However, I don't believe that is the case with the current administration. I think the climate has changed some. We have to realize that we are throwing money away here. Both the fire departments and the ambulance service are losing money because we are not joined."
If the groups decided to form a district, the organization would become its own taxing unit, requiring a board of directors as well as public hearings and possibly in increase in tax for local residents.
"There isn't a person that you talk to in either East Carbon or Sunnyside who has used the service that will tell you that our area can do without the ambulance service," said Sunnyside City Recorder Pauly Sanderson. "They all agree that if they have to pay more to keep it they will. There are some people who have never used it who think that the service is outrageously expensive and it is expensive, but it is everywhere."
Several members of the council echoed Sanderson's statement concerning citizen outrage over the cost of the ambulance service, however, that the cost is determined by the state and has nothing to do with the local service.
"The alternative to having our own ambulance service is 45 minute response times for an ambulance to get to your home," said Maggio. "I would not have my mom right now if it wasn't for the Sunnyside Ambulance Service. If it means a little more out of my pocket for taxes, that's fine. I don't want my taxes going to the other end of the county and the other end of the state. I am comfortable with them staying here."
According to Maggio, it is not only new personnel which would welcome the idea of joining the departments but a changing of attitude within the area.
"With us being split what happens is that both departments go for the same grant, the CIB sees how close our communities are and we get two answers, no and no," he said. "We need to look out for the people who live here. Personal ideas and feelings need to be put aside."
And put aside quickly. Mayor Parson's reported that Sunnyside was forced to take nearly $50,000 out of their general fund because their largest property owner paid this year's taxes under protest. According to the Mayor, if a reevaluation of their property leads to a lower tax rate, Sunnyside will have to take immediate steps deal with the loss of revenue.