By Mayor Trent Staggs
I represent Riverton City on the Unified Police Department (UPD) Board. The July board agenda showed an action item to change the share of assets for a withdrawing member. Repeated attempts to get the details of the change went unanswered until the night before the meeting; whereupon it was revealed that the change would severely impact Riverton if it ever chose to withdraw. Ultimately, the change would prevent us from getting back all of the assets to which we were entitled under the original agreement that we entered into back in 2009 and that we have contributed to the organization over the years; totaling millions of dollars. This proposed change came in the midst of ongoing negations with UPD about serious concerns that had not been resolved. I personally felt this move was underhanded and was meant to make it financially painful for a city to ever leave the organization.
An emergency city council meeting was therefore called right before the UPD Board meeting, to take action that elected officials felt was in the best interest of the city and its taxpayers. The council held a vote, which passed unanimously, and we proceeded to submit our intent to withdraw from UPD prior to the UPD Board meeting to preserve our assets and our negotiating power. I understand these actions were rushed and did not leave time for public input, but given the urgency of the situation, immediate action was needed.
I appreciated the input from those who attended our town hall meeting on the topic on August 14 and those who have otherwise reached out to me or a council member.
Here is a summary of the concerns we have:
- Governance: With the current composition of the board, our city has less of a voice and representation than we should, with cities comprising almost 75% of the service area population representing just 46% of the vote.
- County Centric Emphasis: The board has not enforced the interlocal agreement in instances where the county should be funding certain services. Not all contracts for services go through a competitive process and we often pay more than we should.
- Pooled Services: The formula to calculate pooled services is not representative with one’s actual use. Our fee for this area has doubled in the last eight years, accounting for nearly 1/3 of our total bill to UPD. We are no doubt subsidizing costs for other communities.
- Officer Allocations: A clear policy is not outlined on how officers are allocated to each community. As our population and costs have grown, the number of officers in our precinct has remained the same.
- Financial Accounting: The difference between budgeted amounts for direct precinct personnel and operations costs and the actual costs do not come back to us as a credit. UPD takes that unexpended Riverton taxpayer money and spends it elsewhere.
- Coverage: With Herriman’s departure in September, there are serious concerns about the level of officer coverage along our western border.
- Share of Assets: The proposed change to the withdrawal formula will have a detrimental effect on Riverton taxpayer assets. Changing from the current agreement, without the consent of Riverton and other communities, is underhanded and dishonest.
I want you to know that Riverton is generally pleased with the UPD officers that serve in Riverton, however staffing levels for a city our size are concerning. With the amount of money we pay currently, and given our share of existing assets, our own analysis shows we could have at least 10 more officers in our precinct with minimal startup costs; all without diminished service. Elected officials have a duty to protect the taxpayer and ensure we are getting the best service for the best price.
We are attempting to work through our differences with UPD right now. If we are unable to resolve our concerns in the coming weeks, then we will move forward in standing up our own police department; something the vast majority of cities in the county and state do for their citizens.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or need more information.