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New fire district a good idea

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When a homeowner places an urgent call for help because the house is on fire, the least concern of all should be which jurisdiction responds. All a person in need wants is a quick response.

With that in mind, the Salt Lake County Commission is to be commended for taking an important first step toward forming a countywide consolidated fire department — a move that would resolve jurisdictional disputes in fire and police emergencies. This move should ultimately eliminate duplication and confusion. It is a much needed and long overdue change in policy.

Earlier this week, the County Commission voted to form a special fire district to serve all areas that consent to be part of it. That means cities have the option of becoming part of a larger fire department, which would enable them to handle larger fires and emergencies without substantially increasing costs.

To sign on, residents of the unincorporated county and any city whose leaders want to be part of district will be asked to vote Nov. 7 whether they support a direct special service district levy for the fire department. Instead of paying for fire services from general property taxes, a specific levy will cover the fire district.

Some naysayers complain that their respective cities would have no representation in the consolidated district. One possible remedy for this would be to place the district under the control of the new county council, a geographically based body that could ensure representation for all county residents.

As this page has said before, the most logical evolution of the new form of county government is consolidation of all emergency and municipal services, with the county council serving as the large representative body that could be broken down into neighborhood subsets to ensure that government stays close to the people.

As Salt Lake County continues to grow and more cities incorporate, it makes even more sense to consolidate emergency services. How pointless it is that cities and counties provide overlapping services. Consolidation would help maximize resources and improve communication.

That should sound a positive note with residents of newly incorporated cities and those who reside in the unincorporated county. This proposal demonstrates innovative thinking that Salt Lake voters should endorse on Election Day.