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Midvale close to public safety merger

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MIDVALE — The Midvale City Council voted in favor of a motion that opens the door for the city's public safety arm to be annexed into the Unified Police Department and Unified Fire Authority.

The possible merger would allow the city to maintain current levels of service without raising property taxes, said Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini. The city had been maintaining operations of its public safety division by dipping into rainy day funds, but those are drying up, Seghini said. The alternative to merging with Unified police and fire would have been to lay off employees in public safety or raise taxes, she said.

"Our number one goal as a committee is to provide quality public safety services to our citizens," Seghini said.

The city spends a greater percentage of their budget on policing and fire services than 19 other cities of equivalent size it surveyed.

"The areas where we're really out of line with public spending is public safety," said Midvale City manager Kane Loader.

Altogether, the city projects a $631,400 deficit for the 2012 fiscal year. They expect the merger to save city about $2,127,900 annually.

It would cost the city $4,958,891 annually to share policing and fire services with the eight other communities merged with Unified police and fire. They would also pay a one-time start up fee of $146,000 that would pay for repainting Midvale police vehicles with the Unified Police decal, pagers for officers and other transition expenses.

Midvale would maintain some control of its public safety services if it joins Unified Police. The direction and financial decisions of the department are determined by a board consisting of representatives from each municipality partnered with Unified Police. Even so, some citizens voiced concerns that the city would lose control of public safety. One Midvale resident, Roberta Hansen, said she was worried the policing services would become impersonal and that officers wouldn't have the same investment in the community.

A public hearing about the possible merger will be held May 9 at Midvale City Hall at 655 W. Center St. A protest period will then be open until June 8 and the proposal could be on Lt. Governor Greg Bell's desk for final approval by June 22. If the merger is approved, Midvale could receiving policing and fire services from Unified police and fire by July 1, 2011.

Email: sgarn@desnews.com