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The Community Preservation road show hit its biggest venue Wednesday night, explaining to Millcreek residents what options they have in the Nov. 3 election on future governance in unincorporated Salt Lake County.
Become a city? Become a metro township? Join or not join a new municipal services district?
Even more than in any other township in the county, the answers to these questions are not so clear in Millcreek. Of all the townships, it appears to be best situated in its combination of population and tax base to be a viable city. But the concept of incorporation has been a divisive one in Millcreek, with advocates and opponents staunchly committed to their positions.
So it wasn't too surprising that about 300 people showed up at Skyline High School for a 90-minute presentation on the subject, which mirrored sessions the previous two nights in smaller townships, Copperton and Emigration Canyon.
Whether the presentations influenced decisions was impossible to tell. The crowd politely listened to explanations from county Mayor Ben McAdams, his associate deputy mayor Kimberly Barnett, County Council members, a county attorney and a Zions Bank analyst. There were no partisan outbursts.
The only applause came near the end of the meeting, when longtime County Councilman Jim Bradley implored people to look beyond what's strictly in their personal best interest and to think of the "collective" interests of valley residents.
"You profit from being in the collective in providing municipal services. Everybody saves by being a member of the service district," he said. "Millcreek saves less than everyone else, but nevertheless, you save money by being part of the collective the collective good that we care about people, not just within our artificial boundaries, but that we care about everybody in the valley. You share that wealth for the collective good."
Bradley was referring to figures compiled by an outside consultant, the Zions Bank Public Finance division, that showed Millcreek residents provide a tiny subsidy to the rest of the unincorporated county about $5 a year for municipal services, paying $242 in taxes and getting $237 worth of services in return.
But if Millcreek were to go on its own, without the economies of scale gained from partnering with the other townships, the cost of those services would be $266, said Susan Becker of Zions Bank.
"That's why the collective idea is very, very important," Bradley said.
Since the principle of self-determination is fundamental to the Community Preservation concept, McAdams said Millcreek residents are free to choose the future they feel is the best for them.
But he made a pitch for them to stick with the municipal services district, whose public-works services like snowplowing and street lighting would be provided by county employees through interlocal agreements.
"It will be your decision. Presumably you'll hire Salt Lake County, but you also will have the ability to fire us," McAdams said. "Knowing you could fire us will make us work extra hard to maintain your trust."
He takes the road show next week to Kearns, Magna and White City, with a session for 42 unincorporated islands in the southern valley on Sept. 28.