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A veto override in works?

Council upset over Workman’s tactics on VECC

SHARE A veto override in works?

Members of the Salt Lake County Council plan to huddle next Tuesday and secure enough votes to override a veto by County Mayor Nancy Workman.

Overriding the veto shouldn't be difficult — the measure passed in a 7-2 vote, and only six votes are needed to override the veto.

At a hastily called press conference Wednesday afternoon, four members of the council criticized the mayor for a press conference she had called earlier in the day. In it, Workman announced her veto of the council's resolution to end dispatching of county fire services by the Valley Emergency Communications Center.

Even Republican Winston Wilkinson, one of two council members who voted against the controversial resolution, said he was "dismayed" at the Republican mayor's tactics.

"Communication is not the problem between the county and Valley Emergency Communications Center. The communication problem is between members of the council and the mayor," he said.

Wilkinson said public safety should be debated in the council chambers, not at street-side press conference.

The councilman's dismay was echoed by council colleague Michael Jensen, who said he was "saddened" and "confused" by Workman's decision to exercise her veto power.

Citing yearlong negotiations between the county and VECC that have ultimately fumbled and stalled, Jensen said the mayor's office has given no credible update on the talks since June.

"We're operating in a vacuum, yet we are the ones in charge of the county's purse strings."

One of the first issues to be tossed on the table of the new County Council early last year was a plan by the now defunct County Commission for sheriff's dispatchers to climb on board with VECC. Problems with making two separate communication systems compatible, plus undefined costs associated with that bridge, have dominated negotiations all year.

VECC dispatches police and fire services for numerous cities in the county, including West Valley, Midvale, Murray and West Jordan.

But not only did the County Council opt out of sending its law-enforcement dispatching functions to VECC, it decided last month to yank fire from a separate agreement.

Under that contract, the county was required to give notice by Dec. 31 of its intent to possibly withdraw fire services by July if no compromise can be reached. If notice hadn't been given, the county would have been locked in for another 18 months.

At issue is the county's forfeited 911 fees retained by VECC because it performs some level of dispatching for the county. For the county to get the estimated $1.1 million in fees, it would have to opt out entirely.

Jensen said it is only fair the sheriff's office, which has been decimated by cuts for two consecutive budget years, receive a portion of that money because of its large volume of emergency calls.

Both Jensen and Democrat Joe Hatch said that because of those 911 fees, the unincorporated areas of the county, plus its six contract cities, have basically been subsidizing the cities that belong to VECC.

Hatch, citing a provision in the county operational plan approved by voters, rejected the mayor's contention that her veto nullified the notice of intention to withdraw and locked the county locked into VECC for another 18 months.

"It's a sneaky legal argument," Hatch said. "I am confident we will have enough votes that an override will occur."

E-MAIL: amyjoi@desnews.com