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Carbon towns debate, then vote on consolidation

East Carbon and Sunnyside voters decided this year whether the two cities would be consolidated together this year, and in the end the answer was no.

The movement to join the two towns gained momentum last in 2003 and the debate carried over until the general election this year.

Placing the matter on the November ballot was brought about by actions from the communities through two different avenues.

The East Carbon City Council agreed to approach the county commission about putting the issue to a vote after a committee of citizens formed last fall recommended that the cities consider the move.

However, Sunnyside officials decided that the city council would not make the decision about placing the consolidation issue on the ballot for a public vote.

Following the city's decision, supporters of the consolidation proposal collected signatures on a petition from Sunnyside residents favoring the movement to merge the two towns.

The petition contained 36 signatures when the document was turned into the Carbon County Clerk's Office.

Under state statute, the petition had to contain the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in Sunnyside's registered voters in order to place consolidation on the ballot. The number collected by supporters exceeded the requirement.

The movement gained momentum in August of 2003 when almost 70 citizens from East Carbon, Columbia and Sunnyside met at the ABC Learning Center to discuss the concept of consolidating the cities.

The idea surfaced, in part, due to the unresolved issue of law enforcement services in the eastern portion of Carbon County. In July 2003, Sunnyside officials decided to start a police force rather than use East Carbon's officers after the larger city increased the cost of providing services to the smaller community.

At the time some citizens in Sunnyside voiced concern about the loss of the town's identity if the city merged with East Carbon.

Some East Carbon residents were concerned that they might have to pay the debt Sunnyside incurred for installation of the new water system. Other citizens were concerned about the loss of jobs and elected officials.

In September 2003, a joint meeting with the two city councils and the Carbon County Commission occurred to consider what could be done to resolve the issue.

After some debate the meeting then turned into a melding of the minds as to how to bring consolidation to completion if that is what the citizens wanted. At the time both cities were concerned about citizens working toward the goal by using a petition process as opposed to a council approval process to explore the possibilities.

In the end a committee composed of citizens from both towns was set up to study the issue and report back to the city councils, with two council members and two citizens from each town to serve on a committee to work toward a consolidation plan.

The committee began to meet in late September and by early winter they held a meeting with towns people from both cities at East Carbon High to explain their progress. That meeting became a debate between those who supported consolidation in the towns and those who didn't. In about the middle of the meeting, some of those opposed to the idea walked out.

A short time later the committee delivered its report to the city councils suggesting that the people should decide by a vote whether to accept the consolidation or not. East Carbon sent a resolution while Sunnyside did not. Ultimately the petition came in.

Then in November when the people of the two towns voted it appeared to some that consolidation had passed because the total vote was 356-323. But Utah law states that in municipalities that want to consolidate the majority in each town must vote to achieve it. In the case of this election, Sunnyside townspeople had rejected consolidation 105-65, so the measure failed.






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