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New hire sparks council controversy

Joe Piccolo
Kathy Smith

Sun Advocate writer

On August 26, Price City Council voted to fill its vacant police officer position that has been open since an officer decided to quit. The measure, however, sparked controversy from Councilwoman Kathy Smith, who is concerned that the city's financial situation might need a re-evaluation.     

"It concerns me a great deal. When I look at our revenues, I'm worried," said Smith, during the meeting. "Mineral lease monies are down, along with many of our taxes. I propose we do a little bit of a study" (to see where revenues can be saved before hiring an officer).     

Chief of Police Alec Shilaos, who was present, did not recommend holding off the hiring. Councilman Richard Tatton agreed on the grounds of public well-being.      

"I think this is an issue of safety. We need about 20 officers," said Tatton.     

Overall, Price City is experiencing a budget shortfall with a 16 percent decline in sales tax revenue over the last five months, according to City Treasurer Pat Larsen. Property taxes have held steady. Larsen believes they will remain so, but unemployment is up and mineral lease money has also declined. Mayor Joe Piccolo indicated that the city is experiencing difficult economic times. He intends to do what he has always done by reviewing the city's revenues over time. He will also make budgeting revisions as needed.     

"I've got a good team. I don't think we're in dire straights and I hope we follow the nation's trend," said Piccolo, by phone. "We usually have a conservative (budget) forecast. Our losses are well within our ability to manage it."     

Aside from budget problems, the council reviewed an ongoing issue in North Price which Jack Bonaquisto, a homeowner, brought forward earlier this spring. Bonaquisto's neighborhood is located near the edge of town. Area residents have been subject to noise and other irritations from off -road vehicle (ORV) users illegally riding in the surrounding hills. While it is unclear whether all the roads entering the area are city-maintained, it was clear that all the surrounding landowners want the riders to leave as Bonaquisto presented 11 signed letters and vocal support from nearly all of the letters' authors.     

"It's not my intent to prevent ORV users from having fun," said Bonaquisto, addressing the council. "But this is Price city limits. We're not some rural community. We're a city and should act like one. There are thousands of other trails close by."     

Most of the property in question is privately-owned. According to Bonaquisto, the riders have repeatedly ignored his requests for them to leave. They often show up in large numbers, which is why he has turned to the city. The council was in favor, but had some concerns about what type of resources it would take to enforce the area. Pending a review of the area, the Council will vote on the issue on Sept. 30.     

"I accept your documents for review, but we will have to find out what this will cost annually," said Mayor Piccolo.     

To conclude the meeting, the city accepted contractor Twin D's bid to clean city sewers for $16,704 pending public works approval and gave recognition to the 12 year-old Cal Ripkin all-star baseball team for their performance in California this summer. 

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