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Midvale votes not to break from UPD — Not now, anyway

Posted at 11:24 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 01:24:51-04

MIDVALE, Utah — Midvale City Council members seemed to create confusion among each other, after two votes Tuesday night that simultaneously indicated they were not moving forward with breaking from the Unified Police Department right now and would potentially discuss it again in the future, but also not tabling the issue for discussion for the future.

The council dove into deep discussion over whether they should sign a letter of intent to withdraw from the police agency, to create an entirely new city police department.

Council members spoke with Unified Police at length, and mulled over the results of a study that compared the costs of leaving UPD, with the costs to run a new department.

It should be noted that the study has not been finalized.

The concerns aren't new. Midvale City Manager Kane Loader explained the city has been looking at it for over a year.

He said they worked with command staff from UPD to cut costs, and that command staff indicated Midvale would see some savings by the end of 2019.

"We didn't see that," Loader said. "We didn't see many cuts that they made at all, and so went into this budget year and of course their numbers were pretty high."

Money is just one of the worries, he indicated.

"It's deeper than just the money part of it," he explained. "It's the way the whole organization is put together. The organization is not the same organization that we joined in 2011."

Loader talked about how since joining in 2011, areas like Magna and Kearns became metro townships. Other cities have left UPD in favor of their own city-run police forces.

Midvale's influence over the organization has been diluted, Loader said, and local control might make a difference.

A growing number of cities have decided to choose local control over staying with Unified.

Herriman split off in 2018, and Riverton followed in 2019. Last week, Taylorsville voted to sign a letter of intent to withdraw in July 2021.

The Unified Police Department still serves the cities of Millcreek, Holladay, town of Brighton, all five metro townships, and unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County.

The study Midvale ordered looked at cost comparisons, and found that Midvale could potentially save up to $700,000 by running their own police department.

But, as council members pointed out during Tuesday's meeting, the city might only break even and not actually save money.

"Just because we have our own police, doesn't mean we're going stay within our budget," council member Paul Glover said.

Council members also questioned if running a new force would potentially leave them worse off.

"I don't want the ship to be sinking and us jumping off onto something that's doomed to fail as well," said council member Dustin Gettel.

The council had questions over how Taylorsville's departure would affect the UPD budget, considering the size of the city and current contribution.

They indicated to UPD that they love the police force and the service provided, and they want UPD to address the issues between the cities.

"It should be so good that we don't want to leave. I mean, that's really got to be the goal," Glover said. "You've got to make it so that it is an organization that everybody wants to belong to, not to leave."

Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, who sits on the UPD Board of Directors, told Fox 13 in an interview that they will work on restructuring UPD to accomplish the reforms that are happening, while also preserving jobs to make a better police department.

"UPD will still serve 170,000 residents," Silvestrini said. "And that's going to be the second biggest police department in the state, next to Salt Lake City."

He said they have worked to resolve budget transparency issues that led to Herriman and Riverton's departures.

"New CFO-- Chief Financial Officer-- was hired, the budget has been clarified. It's much more detailed, much more transparent," Silvestrini said, of the changes they've made.

He said he still believes UPD offers the best value for police services in Millcreek.

At first, the Midvale City Council voted on a motion to table the decision Tuesday evening.

Council member Glover said he wanted to see UPD's plans as Taylorsville leaves, including the numbers and what UPD plans to cut.

However the motion did not pass.

A subsequent motion to sign the letter of intent to withdraw also did not pass, as some council members indicated they wanted to discuss the matter later.

Other council members conveyed frustration and confusion as to what this meant, if they voted against tabling but also voted against signing the letter in order to come back and discuss it later-- therefore tabling the decision anyway.

Ultimately, it was brought up that the full study of the cost comparisons hasn't been finalized, and it might be possible to discuss the matter again when the study is complete.

The council meeting eventually adjourned without a clear path forward.