Consolidation study committee presents findings to Sunnyside, East Carbon citizens at meeting
During a meeting last Thursday, the East Carbon-Sunnyside consolidation study committee attempted to present the panel's findings to a group of more than 100 citizens gathered in the gymnasium at the high school.
A few days before the meeting at East Carbon High, the committee sent information on the findings to citizens in the cities.
Many residents attended the meeting with the papers in hand.
Most of the information the committee members intend to present to the two city councils was contained in the mailing.
The panel planned to explain the study findings at the meeting. However, the discussion often led to side issues concerning subjects that have been previously addressed.
The meeting started with East Carbon Councilwoman Joyce Caviness explaining Utah law on consolidation. The study committee chair highlighted how the change would work should consolidation pass through all the hoops and become reality.
"The main thing to remember is that the people in the community here are the real factor in deciding this, not the councils'," noted Caviness.
"In the end, the decision will be made by the people of the two communities at either a general election or a special election," added Caviness.
Utah statute allows communities to move toward consolidation in one of two ways.
First, the city councils can approve and forward resolutions to the county, where a vote of the residents will be scheduled. The second way is for a petition signed by 10 percent of the residents in the towns to be presented to the county, going around the councils to ask for a vote.
Last summer, the issue came to a head as supporters of consolidation threatened to go the petition route if the East Carbon and Sunnyside councils did not look into the matter.
During a joint meeting with the county commissioners last fall, a study committee was set up with Bill Howell of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments as an adviser and liaison.
"The information we have provided you is not totally complete because some of the documents the letter refers to is very thick," said Caviness. "But when we present this to the councils and they are preparing to vote on a resolution concerning the matter, that information will be at the city halls for a few days before."
The mailing sent by the study committee included the basic results of the research and a sheet listing reasons for and against the consolidation.
Also included in the information mailed to local residents were a list of debts the individual cities have and details about the situation should the consolidation take place.
"We are proposing the name of the new city be East Carbon," said Caviness.
Some residents in attendance at the gathering supported the idea as a geographical fact.
However, other citizens maintained that, since Sunnyside is the oldest community, the name should be included in a consolidation town designation.
One resident suggested naming a consolidated city Sundraco, using letters from Sunnyside, Dragerton and Columbia.
"We thought about different kinds of names, but decided the geographical designation would work the best," noted Caviness. "I suggest that, as this is going on, you drop off names you think would be best to the city halls and then possibly some kind of decision can be made by them or in some other way."
East Carbon Councilman Dave Maggio served as an alternate member of the study committee. The councilman said he could see a lot of reasons to keep the name East Carbon.
"We checked into this and the cost of changing the name of both cities is massive," pointed out Maggio. "It is just plain costly to revamp everything."
Then, the discussion turned to topics like water bills, what would happen to the post offices in the two cities and property taxes.
Several people voiced concern about the loss of identity for Sunnyside.
"The idea of consolidation has little to do with the dollars," stated Caviness, noting that the two cities are doing fine financially. "It has to do with growth. As two towns, it is harder for us to grow, even hard for us to remain the same. We need to find a way to keep people in the community. We also have a duplication of services that could be reduced and save us money."
The members of the consolidation study committee suggested some of the money saved
Both cities are financially sound and do not have to consolidate.
Expected initial savings could be about $30,000.
It is not expected that any personnel will be laid off but new jobs will not be created either.
The committee cannot really see a way to immediately affect the basic water rates in Sunnyside because of previous obligations but the consolidation might affect the overage rate and the basic number of gallons allowed and thus lowering the monthly bills somewhat. (However basic water rates could possibly be affected in the future by re-negotiation of the water bonds)
Whatever happens to the post office in Sunnyside or East Carbon is controlled by the United States Postal Service not by the consolidation of the two towns.
At the beginning of the next tax year (2005) a new tax rate will be set which would probably raise taxes in Sunnyside. The best estimate is $95 per year on a $100,000 home.
There would be no change in the use of volunteers for the fire department or the ambulance service.
The committee advises that the police department would be made up of not less than four people and hopefully would be five people.
The smaller government building would be closed.
The committee advises that a community development position be developed to spend time looking for grants and development opportunities. This could be done by shifting duties of some of the office personnel. The city would need a person who knows the city and represents the city at the Carbon County Development committee to help find chances to grow. There is no one that does this at this time.
When the county or state agencies are approached for money, they question why there are two cities in a community of such a small population.