Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Combine five into one?

There's been several news reports over the last few days about the possibility of combining the five South Davis cities of Bountiful, Centerville, North Salt Lake, West Bountiful and Woods Cross into one city. It seems these news reports have originated because of some preliminary discussions between Woods Cross Mayor Kent Parry and Centerville Mayor Ronald Russell. All of these news reports seem to miss the fact that we already have a combined sewer district, thus eliminating the savings that would come for that small part of combining.

Does it merit a comprehensive study? Probably. Will a merger ever actually take place? Probably not. The original Salt Lake Tribune article quotes both West Bountiful Mayor James Behunin and North Salt Lake Mayor Shanna Schaefermeyer as being skeptical of the idea. If you haven't got all 5 mayors on the same page, how will you ever get a majority of the residents of all 5 cities on the same page?

I see some potential benefits in the way of cost savings. I also see some potential losses in the proposal. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the news reports is what would happen with Woods Cross' water, which is currently not flouridated? A majority of residents of the other 4 cities all voted to have their water flouridated. A majority of Woods Cross residents voted to not have our water flouridated. 

This also highlights a huge problem with the idea of a merger, the issue of losing our own independent voice and choice. If you were to take the votes of all the residents in the five cities and combine them as one city, the water in Woods Cross would currently be flouridated. In general, whatever the majority of the residents of the current city of Bountiful want, is what is going to happen. Without our independent voice and choice, our Woods Cross residents will be subject to the will of a majority of voters that currently reside outside our current city limits. What may be important to the leaders and residents of your city may not be important to the leaders and a majority of the residents of the combined city.


bekkieann said...

While I agree that bigger is not always better, this is one area where I think more consideration is warranted. Combining administrative staffs, mayor and council, city planning commission, etc., I think significant savings could be achieved. I don't think money is the only benefit. To have better coordination and use of resources in police and fire and public works departments makes sense.

The combined size of the cities would be perhaps 85,000, not even double Bountiful's current size alone.

Certainly there are details to consider like the water issue you mention.

However, the opinions of the mayors don't matter one way or the other. They aren't royalty -- they are subject to the desires of the electorate. I'm assuming something like this would have to be put to a referendum.

Allie said...

My concern is that currently, running for local office or generally getting involved in the workings of a smaller city is not so difficult that people who really want to can't.

One big city would make it that much harder for someone to run for mayor or city council, or to be appointed to any boards or committees.