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    Default Eagle Mountain FD considers Unified Fire

    Eagle Mountain considering annexation into Unified Fire


    EAGLE MOUNTAIN -- Residents of Eagle Mountain City have long been aware that local geography and weather patterns often conspire, along with some instances of human carelessness, to place homes, businesses, farms, livestock and entire communities in danger from fires.

    Consequently and in addition to recent firefighting expenses, Eagle Mountain City leaders are considering a proposal from the Unified Fire Authority to annex Eagle Mountain's local fire department into the larger entity.

    The United Fire Authority is a comprised of the fire departments of Salt Lake City, Draper, Holladay, Taylorsville, Alta and other cities and unincorporated areas.

    "It's a fire department that has many, to me, things that we can't afford to have," Eagle Mountain fire chief Rand Andrus said. "They have a fleet replacement plan, they have hazmat, they have a USAR team, they've got a wildland team, they've got a lot of expertise in various fields."

    Mayor Heather Jackson said she would put the UFA proposal on the next city council agenda. Should the council decide to pursue annexation into UFA, several hurdles remain for that to come to pass: notices will be mailed to all property owners in Eagle Mountain about the proposal; a public hearing will occur, no sooner than 10 days from mailing of the above notices; a 30-day protest period happen; the UFA District Board would have to approve of the annexation; and the state's Lt. governor would need to certify the annexation.

    The annexation process must be completed by Dec. 31, to be effective by Jan. 1, when the UFA board annually allows new members to join.

    UFA representatives presented Eagle Mountain City and its leadership with a two-hour presentation Tuesday concerning what they can offer the city, what the city can add to the entity and what it will cost.

    When asked about her views on the benefits, Jackson said the city had received bills totaling upwards of $250,000 this year alone. Additionally, the department has several pieces of equipment that need replacing, including a fire truck built in 1977 and another in 1986. Each new engine would cost a minimum of $250,000, with needed ambulance replacements and other maintenance or replacement costs approaching $100,000.

    "When you're looking at the potential bill to citizens over the next little bit, it's close to $1 million that we need to pay, to include some staffing as well," Jackson said. "So when you weigh that out, and can spend 1 million and find a way to set aside money annually in a fleet fund so that we're prepared for things in the future, how do you do that?"

    Approximately $1.1 million of the city's budget is allocated to the fire department every year, with about $200,000 contributed from ambulance revenues. If they don't join UFA, the city will need a tax increase of about $1 million to pay for the equipment and the cost of the fires.

    If the city were to join with UFA, the municipal annual cost would remain about the same, $1.25 million, but without a tax increase.

    "Kind of, you know, a significant savings," Jackson said. "And, obviously, we have to look at that. We have to propose that and present that to our citizens."

    The mayor also said UFA would be able to assist in staffing issues. The city staffs one fire crew at any given time, which is about four to five people. If two calls are simultaneous, there would be no one left to field any additional calls. The UFA, which is a much larger entity, can backfill that need as required.

    In early April 2010, UFA first approached the neighboring town of Saratoga Springs with an offer to include them in the United Fire Authority. After a little more a year of debate, the city elected not to participate, citing that the benefits for doing so could be met in other ways that did include increasing financial costs, when compared to their other options of keeping their fire department independent or joining the Utah County Metro Fire Agency.
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    Eagle Mountain proposes lower taxes to offset fire cost spike

    EAGLE MOUNTAIN -- Eagle Mountain has announced plans to dismantle its fire department and put in place a new property tax as part of joining a regional fire district.

    The city is facing huge cost increases for firefighting equipment, not to mention a $250,000 bill for wildfires this summer alone. Rather than increase taxes to cover $1 million needed in upcoming years, the city will save money by closing its fire department and joining the United Fire Authority.

    As a requirement of joining UFA, residents will see a new UFA portion on their property tax in 2013 and beyond. The tax will be $43 per year for a home valued at $200,000.

    To offset that cost, the city will lower its property tax rate and utility bill. Those reductions will happen in July.

    Eagle Mountain Mayor Heather Jackson told the Daily Herald Monday that residents will see an increase in their property tax despite the city's effort to reduce the bill, but the increase will be a quarter of what it would have been if the city had continued with its own fire department.

    A portion of the profits from city-owned utilities now go to help support the city's budget, including the fire department. With the new property tax, Eagle Mountain will reduce utility bills because utility fees will no longer go toward firefighting. The city also will reduce its portion of the property tax, part of which now goes to support the city fire department, Jackson said.

    The city's portion of the property tax is expected to go from .001668 to .001477.

    The city will have 24-hour fire coverage with the new service, which is part of the reason residents will ultimately see a property tax increase.

    "Our level of service is going to increase," Jackson said. "They will have a firefighter on duty at all times."

    Residents will get a letter inviting them to an open house about the issue. There will be a 30-day protest period for residents to voice concerns, and if enough residents file protests, the action could be canceled.

    If all goes according to plan, the city will dissolve its fire department on Dec. 31. All staff now employed by the city fire department will be employed by the district.

    "Eagle Mountain will no longer operate a fire department in our city," she said. "UFA will take all our firefighters, full-time and part-time. No one is losing their job."

    United Fire Authority includes the fire departments of Draper, Holladay, Taylorsville, Alta and other cities and unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County.
    Front line since 1983 and still going strong

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