Councilmember reports concerns with UFA funding future
Oct 14, 2019 02:58PM
● By Travis Barton
Fire Station 124 is one of two stations in Riverton City. (City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Mayor Trent Staggs and the City Council have instructed Riverton City staff to conduct a study on the financial impact of Unified Fire. This comes after Councilmember Sheldon Stewart’s UFSA (Unified Fire Service Area) report during a Sept. 3 work meeting.
Stewart, who serves on the UFSA board, was concerned about a potential bond of almost $40 million that could leave Riverton residents obligated for 25 years to build fire stations in other areas of UFSA. UFSA is made up of various cities, townships and unincorporated Salt Lake County. He noted bonding has a been a topic of discussion within the UFSA Board for some time.
“My concern is…our residents would be strapped with debt to build stations in several other areas and we have no need for additional stations,” Stewart said during the meeting.
“I do think we need to take under serious consideration, for the sake of our residents, and for the sake of the financial status of our city, whether or not continuing with UFSA is beneficial to the city of Riverton,” Stewart said. “My personal analysis is that we are not being benefited by UFSA.”
Riverton has two fire stations (Station 121, 4146 W. 12600 South and Station 124, 1300 W. 12662 South). Both stations, Stewart said, have no bonding or debt currently.
There is a distinction between UFA (Unified Fire Authority) and UFSA. UFA is the firefighters while UFSA is the funding source for UFA.
Stewart was quick to point that out saying UFA has provided “amazing service” for Riverton residents, but the UFSA as the city’s financial caretaker, has not.
He added it’s not his intent to leave UFA, but is worried about the funding mechanisms of the UFSA. Leaving UFSA, he said, could be an option.
Stewart’s worry stems from the structure of the UFSA Board, made up of 14 officials from around Salt Lake County including councilmembers, mayors and a county surveyor
Stewart notes he would like to see a weighted population vote on the board, though state statute prevents that from happening. He said Riverton makes up 15% of the board’s population, but they only have one vote. While other cities or towns have less than 750 people and have the same voting power.
“That is very alarming to me,” Stewart said.
The council instructed city staff to do a feasibility study looking at potential debt service from a bond, costs if moved to a contract basis, timelines and overall impact to residents.
“If the council had that information, they could make a determination if the juice is worth the squeeze,” said Mayor Trent Staggs.
City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt said the goal is not to leave UFA, adding they give great service.
“But to be responsible for our residents, it’s imperative to look at that, at least see what it is and how it affects our residents,” Hildebrandt said. “Can we take care of our residents better? Operationally (UFA has) been great to work with.”