DRAPER, Utah — By a 4-1 vote, the Draper City Council voted to give Unified Fire Authority one year notice it may dump its contract for providing the city with firefighters.
“Every year we get a bill and we write a check and the bargaining power is zero for us,” said Mayor Troy Walker.
Walker said the city has no complaints about the service it is getting from UFA, but is concerned they don’t have enough local control over the fire service or how the tax dollars are spent. Draper is set to pay UFA roughly $4.2 million in the fiscal year 2016-17.
The city also estimates it loses out on collecting around $600,000 ambulance service charges that instead go to UFA.
One option presented to city council is to create the city’s own fire department. Initial estimates from staff put the cost in the first full year of operation around $5.1 million.
“I don’t think you really know for sure until you do it. But one things for sure, we’ll have the control over it and we’ll answer to our taxpayers for it,” Walker said.
At a public hearing on Tuesday night, the council heard feedback. Little of it focused on cost, instead most expressed their concern about keeping a high level of service.
“We don’t have the trucks. We don’t have the assets. We don’t have anything. Unified does and you would be an idiot to throw Unified away,” said one Draper resident.
“We now have, probably the cream of the crop as fire departments, as far as fire protection. I don’t see why we need to change,” said another resident of Draper.
Ultimately the city council still voted to give UFA its notice.
Per the agreement between Draper and UFA, a one year notice has to be given before Draper can drop the contract. Giving notice does not necessarily mean Draper will quit working with UFA, but it does open up the possibility.
UFA has been under scrutiny in recent days. The state is conducting an audit, prompting UFA’s board to order its own audit.
It’s led to the Fire Chief of seven years, Michael Jensen, stepping down. Draper’s Mayor said those concerns within UFA were not part of the reason for the city voting to give its notice.