During the first part of the meeting Fire Chief Giles presented the truth and taxation information and potential changes to the tax rate for Wasatch County residents. (See graph below). He also gave an overlook of expenses the local fire stations have had over the past few years. Following his presentation, the Wasatch County Council open the floor for questions.
Dennis Goudy, a Midway resident and retired firefighter from Salt Lake, began by apologizing to Chief Giles for signing the petition. “I feel I was mislead and misinformed by the group that was getting signatures,” he said. Goudy went on to say that times have changed and if all Wasatch County residents assume fires are not going to happen they are incorrect. “This valley has witnessed a lot of growth and for us to think that things like taxes should not increase is crazy. Legally the equipment has to be updated and with that there is a cost,” said Goudy.
Next to speak was Ken Mickelsen of Midway. Mickelson wanted to know if there was a policy for response time [in case of a fire.] He was informed by Chief Giles that there is a national policy that the Wasatch County Fire department follows. Mickelson also wanted to know where the tax increase was going to be spent. “I still have not heard a good rationale to why we need the tax increase,” he said. “We just can not give an open check book and expect it to be spent correctly.”
One of the speakers suggested to the council that they put together a board for the fire department that consists of Wasatch County Council members, the Fire Chief, a Fire Fighter, and a couple of citizens from the county that have some expertise in the fire field.
Dave Kennamer praised the fire chief and council on getting the fire station up and going in Timber Lakes. He said he has many friends that live in Timber Lakes and their house insurance dropped adding the fire station. He commented to the council that he would like to see a referendum on the fire issue so that the group would not have to get signatures against it.
Doug Murdock spoke and said he was sorry his group did not get more signatures. He challenged Chief Giles to find out the average age of all of the equipment that the Chief thinks is old and needs to be replaced. Murdock said he does not feel the equipment really is as old as [the Council] wants to make it out to be. Murdock says he does not feel an 80% increase is needed. He also stated that he does not feel firefighters get called out as much as EMS and EMS is running on a much smaller budget.
The conclusion of the meeting was a question and answer session. One of the biggest issues that the citizens want answers to is a detailed budget on where the tax increase is going and not just an open budget to be spent wherever the council sees fit.