|Councilmember Darlene Kuhns speaks out in opposition of joint public safety building. Kuhns would like to see East Carbon's fire department stay within the city.|
On July 3, the East Carbon City Council conducted a special meeting to discuss the municipality's plans following Liz Kourianos's decision to erect the proposed joint public safety facility in Sunnyside.
Earlier in the week, deciding board member Kourianos made available her decision regarding the location of the complex to the two cities. Kourianos reported that county property on U.S. Highway 123 in Sunnyside was the most efficient and accessible site for the project.
"The site has access to the arterial road, Circle Way. The configuration of Circle Way and the size of the property allows for two additional access points. One being the main ingress access for emergency vehicles and the second access will provide for ingress and egress of non-emergency vehicles. This site is conductive to a drive-thru design, a best practice ideal for emergency vehicles," stated Kourianos in her final evaluation of the property.
Several members of the East Carbon council took exception concerning several points and criteria included within Kourianos's document.
"In Liz' evaluation of the Parker property, she gave the site a negative rating in the area labeled proximity to primary service area. She stated that this site was farthest from the populace of the community. The Parker property is right next to East Carbon and I can't understand that, when we have a population of 1,200 and Sunnside has a population of 300, how she can say the Parker property is the furthest site from the populace," commented East Carbon Councilmember Terry Harrison. "If anything, the Parker property is very close to primary service area."
According to East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine, the deciding board member did not give the Sunnyside location's proximity to the 100- and 500-year flood zones enough consideration.
"We need to see what the CIB is going to say about this location. I have real questions about whether they will fund a building in that is on or near a flood plane," said LaFontaine.
Whether or not the building is built at all hinges on approval and funding from the Permanent Community Impact Board. The cities are seeking a combined $1.5 million dollars to erect the public safety facility.
According to Kourianos, "the lower parcel of the property is in the zone A5 (100 year) and zone B (500 year) flood plains. Mitigation solution one for the property would be to relocate the building entirely outside of the zones because there is ample property available. If moved the building function and three access points would be maintained. Mitigation solution two, would consist of establishing the base flood elevations and back filling to raise the building site elevation and apply for a revised status. The elevation change is minimal. Engineering of the site and surrounding drainage can effectively mitigate potential flood risks."
LaFontaine and other members of the council concerned with the location decision are willing to pursue the continuation of the funding process with the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board.
"I am very disappointed in the way this draft as a whole was written," said Harrison. "However, I voted to elect a board to govern this project so I will back the decision of that board. And to that effect, I think our next move should be to move forward and go get the funding for this building."
But some members of East Carbon's governing body indicated that they would not compromise and would like to see an end come to any proposed funding for a joint public safety building.
"The majority of our firefighters, including me, will resign immediately if our department is forced to move to Sunnyside," said East Carbon Councilmember Darlene Kuhns. "We have a good enough building right over there and, to me there is no reason to move our department out of our own city. If Sunnyside wants a public safety building, then I say let them go after the funding to get it."
Several East Carbon firefighters were in attendance at the council meeting and expressed concerns about moving the building away the city.
"I said a month or so ago at one of these meetings that it would be very dangerous for our community to move our firehouse away for the heart of town. And not a week later we had a HAZMAT incident right here at city hall. Because of where the department is located we had our trucks here within moments," indicated East Carbon Fire Chief Darrel Valdez. "Highway 123 is dangerous in the winter and who is going to be responsible for our personal vehicles when accidents happen on calls during the winter?"
The mayor asked Valdez whether Valdez and the city firefighters would quit if forced to move to a facility in Sunnyside,
"If that building was put in Sunnyside and we were forced to move our department and equipment up there we would seriously consider eliminating our positions within the fire department," responded the fire chief.
Kuhns continued to stress her viewpoint about the matter.
"A building, even a $1.5 million building, is not worth losing these firefighters. And it is just plain wrong for our personnel to have to go to Sunnyside and then return to East Carbon to fight a fire," said Kuhns.
Many East Carbon residents did not agree with Kuhns' stance concerning the building.
"I am glad the department is where it is and that we have such good firefighters, they have saved my home before," said East Carbon resident Barbara Robinett. "However, this council decided to go with the decision of this board and what you are doing now just sounds like sour grapes to me. We have discussed all along that bringing the ambulance out of the canyon was one of the main focal points of getting this building, are we just going to forget that now?"
When it came down to voting, Kuhns moved for East Carbon's withdrawal from participation in the funding process for the joint building. Her motion passed, but the support was overturned when Councilmember David Maggio rescinded his vote.
The final action taken by East Carbon officials, but opposed by councilmembers Kuhns and Darma Lopez, allowed LaFontaine to attend the July 26 CIB funding session to discuss the Sunnyside property and pursue funding for the construction of a public safety building for the two municipalities.