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UTAH COUNTY ANNOUNCES INTERIM FIRE CONTRACTS PACTS WILL COVER AREAS NEAR SPANISH FORK

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Utah County residents living in unincorporated areas near Spanish Fork will not be left without firefighting protection as of July 1, county commissioners said Monday.

Commissioners have received calls from several county residents who believe they will have no fire coverage because Spanish Fork and the County Commission have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.The county is responsible for fighting fires in unincorporated areas. Because it has no fire department, however, it contracts with nearby municipalities to provide fire coverage.

Spanish Fork Mayor J. Merrill Hallam told commissioners in a letter last week that his city no longer will respond to fires in nearby unincorporated areas without a new "fair and equitable" contract.

Spanish Fork, which received $40,839 last year to fight fires in nearby unincorporated areas, wants $90,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Because the county can't afford to fund the requested increase, the commission has entered into interim contracts with Payson, Salem, Mapleton and Springville to cover areas previously part of the Spanish Fork contract.

"There will be continued fire protection after July 1," Commissioner Malcolm Beck said. "We're still hoping we can negotiate and work out the problems we have with Spanish Fork."

To fund Spanish Fork's request, commissioners said they would have to raise taxes sharply in special service districts - something they refuse to do. The other option is for the county to decrease what it pays other cities so it can pay more to Spanish Fork.

Spanish Fork officials, however, say a contract of only $41,000 doesn't cover its costs of fighting county fires.

"I speak for the entire City Council when I indicate that the city does not feel it is fair or just to residents of Spanish Fork City to subsidize county fires," Hallam said. "While Spanish Fork City does not desire to inconvenience these people, the city's first and main responsibility is to its residents and taxpayers."

Spanish Fork officials are concerned about losing money fighting fires, especially in light of city plans to construct a new public safety building for the city's fire department and equipment. Hallam said efforts to reach a new contract with the county were in vain.

Commissioners said Spanish Fork officials are forgetting that residents living in nearby unincorporated areas pay a large percentage of the sales tax that goes into the city's coffers. Spanish Fork has the second largest contract of 14 cities the county pays to fight fires.

"If we increase it any amount, every other city is going to come back and ask for an increase," Commission Chairman Brent Morris said. The county, even if it raises taxes as high as legally allowed in special service districts, would be unable to meet the anticipated requests for larger contracts, Beck said.

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CHART

Funds to 14 cities

CITY AMOUNT

Lehi $58,528

Spanish Fork 40,839

Provo 37,850

Springville 27,405

Payson 23,867

Goshen 20,249

American Fork 19,581

Salem 13,573

Santaquin 12,331

Pleasant Grove 9,573

Alpine 6,163

Orem 5,306

Mapleton 3,670

Eureka (Juab County) 1,462