Tempers flared and passions rose in a meeting lasting more than three hours Wednesday on the city's proposed annexation of land at its southern border.
The City Council voted 6-1 to put the issue before voters on the November ballot in a nonbinding vote and agreed to continue studying the 14-year-old issue.The vote came despite an Independent Association of Community Councils' resolution and arguments against putting the annexation issue on the November ballot. Council members disagreed about how much time it would take to adequately disseminate information so voters could make an informed choice.
During the contentious debate, Mayor Randy Fitts, various members of the council and nearly a dozen residents agreed the annexation would be the biggest, most important decision the city has ever made.
South Salt Lake, now one of the valley's smallest cities, has a population of about 12,000. A successful annexation bid could double its area and population, according to a February annexation study.
But two months after the study's completion, the mayor and council have yet to analyze its results, Fitts said. As a matter of fact, they're still not sure which of four possible annexations they want to take advantage of. Fitts indicated that extending the city's border to 3900 South is at the forefront of feasibility, although expanding to Murray's northernmost boundary - along Cottonwood Creek - is also a possibility.
"The face of the valley will change drastically in the next three years. If we don't start looking at what's beneficial to us, the county will come with a mandate on wall-to-wall cities," said Fitts, president of the Conference of Salt Lake Valley Mayors. "South Salt Lake will not be a player with the way we exist today. The possibility of us existing as a city in the next 20 to 40 years is that we will not be viable."
Councilman Wes Losser sponsored the annexation issue. The outspoken councilman went to bat on more than a few occasions during the extended meeting. Losser defended citizens' right to vote in a nonbinding election. He also suggested the ballot issue be posed as "a pro and con" issue, or "Should the city pursue annexation?" question.
Council Chairman Boyd Marshall agreed with Losser, prodding the council with: "Bring it out and get it done. We can't keep putting it off."
Councilwoman Judy Siebach disagreed, though, saying she doesn't think the ballot is the best way to get information to and from citizens.