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South Salt Lake asking state to fund 12 new cops, firefighters to service homeless center

Bracing for the homeless resource center they never wanted, South Salt Lake leaders are asking the state for roughly $3.6 million to compensate for its impact.
Bracing for the homeless resource center they never wanted, South Salt Lake leaders are asking the state for roughly $3.6 million to compensate for its impact.
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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Bracing for the homeless resource center they never wanted, South Salt Lake leaders are asking the state for roughly $3.6 million to compensate for its impact.

South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood said Wednesday her team submitted its request to state leaders Friday, requesting $2.6 million in ongoing funds and about $1 million in one-time funds to pay for the additional police and fire needs city officials estimate will come with the 300-bed homeless resource center planned for 3380 S. 1000 West.

The $2.6 million would pay for 12 new police officers and 12 additional paramedic firefighters to ensure the area surrounding the shelter will be staffed by two police officers and two firefighters 24/7, 365 days a year, Wood said. The $1 million in one-time costs would pay for 12 new police cars and an ambulance.

"It's our intent and goal to make sure South Salt Lake is not adversely impacted by this state-mandated shelter," Wood said. "And we hope it's a safe place for the residents it services."

Wood said South Salt Lake "absolutely needs" the funds starting this year in order to start hiring and training officers in time of the center's opening, slated for on or before July 1, 2019.

Wood said city leaders drafted the request based on information collected from other facilities like the family homeless shelter in Midvale, Lantern House in Ogden, and the Road Home's downtown shelter.

After the site was chosen, Salt Lake County and state leaders made "commitments" that South Salt Lake would get funding for mitigation, Wood said, so she expects the funding to be approved. She also said she has talked about the bill with legislative leaders, including Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

If South Salt Lake doesn't get the funds, "the impacts to our community would be very harmful," Wood said.

When Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams chose the site in South Salt Lake, city leaders fought back, arguing the city of 24,000 residents was already disproportionately burdened with social service facilities like Oxbow Jail and the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. At the time, Wood called it a "lethal blow" to the city.

"We have done our fair share," Wood said. "We already support many facilities in our community that South Salt Lake taxpayers are subsidizing. Please don't make this another."

McAdams, however, chose the South Salt Lake site with a caveat: He would only support groundbreaking on the facility if the Utah Legislature passed a bill to create a funding stream for the homeless resource centers, so South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City wouldn't carry their burden alone.

McAdams renewed that promise Tuesday during his 2018 State of the County address.

But that bill, which has yet to be filed (its sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said Tuesday he hopes to file it by the end of this week), would pay for the centers' operations. Wood said she expects South Salt Lake's request for money for public safety will be included in a separate bill being sponsored by Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City — but that bill hasn't been filed yet either.

Davis said Wednesday the bill is still being drafted, but he hopes it will be filed sometime next week. The senator said he hasn't yet worked through the details, but he expects the funding to come from sales taxes from surrounding cities with a slight change to the cities' sales tax distribution.

"What it would do is help mitigate with the assistance of other cities," Davis said.

That's a similar concept to Eliason's bill, which would collect a fee from surrounding cities that don't host homeless resource center or don't have a certain amount of affordable housing in their communities.

Hughes said in an interview with the Deseret News later Wednesday that he has made "assurances" to Wood that state leaders "would make sure we would address those impacts."

The speaker said he believes South Salt Lake evaluated its police and fire needs in "a fair and thorough way, so I don't have a problem with that."

Hughes noted that the state had previously funded new police officers for the Midvale family shelter, "and we want to have that role with South Salt Lake," he said.

Hughes has also called Eliason's bill "critical," and one that must pass this legislative session to fund the centers' operations.

Contributing: Jared Page