When an article about the consolidation of East Carbon and Sunnyside cities appeared in the Sun Advocate last week, Sunnyside Mayor Bruce Andrews was upset.
"I just felt that both views were not presented fairly," said Andrews in an interview on Thursday. "I think that both sides of the issue should be brought to light, and so far all people have seen is the side that is for consolidating the two towns."
Last weekend, flyers were distributed to residences in Sunnyside spelling out the points the opposition to the consolidation have concerning the move.
The first concern the opposition has is taxes for Sunnyside citizens may raise, while the costs for residents of East Carbon may go down a little
The opposition claims that East Carbon is interested in Sunnyside's tax base because the town has more businesses and the co-generation power plant. Consequently, East Carbon's assessed property valuation registers at $30,364,259, significantly less than Sunnyside's $53,609,384.
The current mill levy in East Carbon is .006191, higher than Sunnyside's .002203.
People opposing the proposed merger maintain that, if consolidation takes place, the Utah Tax Commission could issue a new mill levy that would cover the total indebtedness of the two communities.
Another fiscal matter concerns the opposition.
Sunnyside receives approximately $2,000 a month from the power plant for treating water that the industry owns.
East Carbon gets money based on tippage fees at the East Carbon Development Corporation landfill. The tonnage has dropped from 1,007,552 in 2001 to 360,010 in fiscal 2004. The opposition feels the decrease could impact East Carbon's ability to pay the city's debts.
East Carbon's debt is something all residents may have to live with should a consolidation take place, noted Andrews At present, Sunnyside's has $1,712,529 in long-term debt on the books, while East Carbon has $22,131,217. Utah statute precludes local residents from assuming the debt of the other city. But officials in the state attorney general's office have issued an opinion indicating that the debts could be renegotiated or combined.
Another concern raised by the opposition is that, for many years, the two towns co-existed with a "gentlemen's agreement" on the provision of public safety services, said Andrews. But the situation began to change a few years ago and the issue reached a peak when East Carbon started billing Sunnyside $4,166 per month in March 2003 for police protection.
At that time, the Sunnyside council reminded East Carbon that the city's ambulance served the entire community and faced a deficit of $47,651. The talks broke off between the two cities and, on July 1, 2003, Sunnyside formed a part-time police force.
In January of this year the councils got together and tried to work out the differences once again, and at first an agreement was made to use the ambulance deficit in at least partial settlement of the situation, so that Sunnyside could once again have 24/7 police protection. Again, the opposition says, the agreements broke down.
Much of this revolved around money the county was paying East Carbon to provide police protection to the area, with unincorporated areas included. When Sunnyside formed it's own police force it created a scenario where the county was only paying money to East Carbon, and none was going to Sunnyside. That situation was finally resolved in May of this year when the county commission got together with both city councils and made an agreement that the $25,000 they were paying East Carbon would continue and that Sunnyside would pay East Carbon $3250 per month for police protection.
The opposition contends that it seems East Carbon has not wanted anything to do with the ambulance service and that with a combined town the service may be dropped, which would leave the community with ambulance service having to come out of Price 30 minutes away.
The group is also concerned with what they see as misnomers about grants and the possibilities being reduced to apply for them by being two communities. They say the cities have applied for and received many grants, particularly in the areas of public safety. They state that there is no historical data that indicates more grants would be forthcoming if the towns were unified. In fact they say that because there will only be one town, there may be some cases where there will be fewer grants available.
Other issues that concern the group include new business in the area (they say that a combined town would have no advantages over the two separate cities for obtaining or keeping business), that duplication of service savings will be small and in fact may result in people losing their jobs in an area where jobs are scarce anyway. They also say that they feel if the two cities unite it is certain that the Sunnyside Post Office will close, even though it has been self sustaining in the past.
Another concern has to do with the representation of Sunnyside residents in a new consolidated government. They worry about all the seats being at large seats rather than a certain number being from Sunnyside itself. They ask how long it has been since a resident of Columbia, which became a part of East Carbon a few years ago, was elected to the East Carbon City Council. They ask if Sunnyside residents will receive the same consideration that they do now with their own council.
Overall opponents of the move feel that there are too many unanswered questions about what will happen, as opposed to what may happen. Proponents contend that taxes will go up regardless of what the towns do and that a combined town will save money in various ways. They also feel the town will be in a better position with not only the state in terms of money and grants, but also with the county, in terms of public service issues and in acquiring new businesses.
The decision to consolidate now lies with the people of each community when they vote on Tuesday. Each town must approve the move by a majority citizens voting for it, or the two communities will continue to function as two separate entities.