It may sound odd, but the Salt Lake Valley Fire Service District Area funded by Salt Lake County taxpayers wants to provide fire service for a Utah County city.
Eagle Mountain held a public hearing Tuesday where about 50 residents listened to a plan for the city to become part of the Unified Fire Authority's service area by January.
Joining UFA's service area means Eagle Mountain would eliminate its existing fire station and equipment impact fees and move to become part of the larger fire service.
The fire services would be funded by an increase in property tax for Eagle Mountain residents. The Salt Lake Valley Fire Service area, the financing body of the UFA, also would charge an impact fee for new construction of fire stations in the city.
To ease the tax burden on residents and business owners, Eagle Mountain city officials said they intend to lower the city's tax levy and utility rates.
Eagle Mountain city officials estimate that for a home valued at $200,000 the property tax for the service area would be about $229, or about a $45 increase per year compared to what residents pay now. For a business of the same property value, it would be $415 a year.
Eagle Mountain Mayor Heather Jackson said Wednesday that the city has tried to join the fire district for the past five years. When the city approached Utah County about contracting for fire services, it didn't receive a response. So Eagle Mountain officials turned to UFA to see if the agency's services would be an option, Jackson said.
"It made sense from our perspective because it wasn't an exorbitant amount of cost and it would cover the needs we have as a city," she said, of seeking fire service from UFA.
Eagle Mountain resident Tim Emerson, however, said he's worried that the city won't have a way to get out of its contract if UFA's services aren't what the city is expecting.
"As citizens what do we do if we don't like this?" he said at the hearing. "We are hiring an organization that is bigger than our city … they could leave us high and dry; what is to say they don't?" Emerson asked.
UFA Chief Michael Jensen said if the city agrees to the fire service area, the city will bond out long term for services. If residents want to end services later, they will still be responsible for the cost of the bonds.
Clerk of the Board for the Salt Lake Valley Fire Service District area, Ryan Perry, said the annexation of Eagle Mountain would mean a "broadening of [its] tax base," and a means to share more resources and wildland firefighting services.
"That sharing of resources would help us get on top of a lot of fires," he said.
Eagle Mountain currently needs to replace two fire trucks and build a fire station in the future, Jackson said. Joining UFA's service area would provide those things as well as an additional firefighter.
"We would be the first in [Utah County] to become a member of the district," she said.
Jackson said the majority of comments at Tuesday's public hearing were about residents who worried UFA might potentially have problems communicating with Eagle Mountain, since the agency is accustomed to working with Salt Lake County cities. Residents also questioned how two county dispatch centers would work together.
UFA officials said radios will be reprogrammed later this year, with a channel added to Salt Lake City radios that will allow UFA firefighters to monitor Utah County dispatches.
Jackson said so far the city hasn't amended its budget to pay for UFA services, but it has adopted the new tax rate. The city has also removed its current fire department expenditures, which will free up $1.1 million in the budget for a reduction in utility rates and allow for payment to be part of the annexation into the UFA service area.
"We want the transition to be as smooth as possible," Jackson said. "We are happy to help people understand what we are going through."
Eagle Mountain residents opposed to the plan to join UFA have 30 days to file a protest with the city, with a deadline that ends Dec. 13. After that, the UFA service area board will then vote on whether to accept Eagle Mountain into its service area.
P Eagle Mountain residents wishing to protest the city's plan to become part of the Unified Fire Authority's service must file a written protest by Dec. 13. The protests should be mailed or delivered to:
Salt Lake Valley Fire Service Area
3380 S. 900 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84119