SALT LAKE CITY — After learning how much it costs for Mayor Jackie Biskupski to have a security detail, Salt Lake City residents are raising concerns about how the money could be better spent.
During a Tuesday night meeting of the Salt Lake City Council, Bonnie Peters Gabrielson read a letter she penned on behalf of neighbors she met with to discuss the $163,000 annual cost for protecting Biskupski.
"In a city of approximately 193,000 people, and in this age of advanced security and technology, the cost for providing two bodyguards to protect one person seems unreasonably high," Gabrielson read.
That the associated cost of protection, $58,811 for one bodyguard and $66,185 for another, plus $24,400 in overtime and $13,663 in travel costs, she said, could otherwise be spent providing for four more police officers to patrol city streets.
Gabrielson, who delivered her letter to the City Council, also wrote that if Biskupski was at risk, what measures were being taken to protect residents and visitors to Salt Lake City?
She also asked whether the protection Biskupski is being offered is excessive and if costs there could be cut.
The City Council did not comment on Gabrielson's letter during the meeting, but Councilman Derek Kitchen later expressed some doubts about the necessity of Biskupski's security detail.
"I'm not entirely sure that there is a true threat against the mayor," said Kitchen, who is openly gay and received death threats over homeless shelter site discussions, "but maybe there is, and maybe it's totally justified."
He said it's difficult to know whether Biskupski needs the security without information about alleged threats made against her.
"Obviously the community is concerned about that expense," Kitchen said.
Kitchen, like Gabrielson, said he considered where police efforts might be better spent. He said he made requests for more police presence in Pioneer Park and suggested that city funding would be better spent in providing patrols in neighborhoods that are seeing an increase in reported crimes.
Despite his comments, Kitchen said no action has yet been made to evaluate or decide on whether to continue Biskupski's security detail.