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Park City Council Pledges $100,000 To New Children's Justice Center

The Park City Council directed staff to open the budget to support the Community for Children’s Justice in paying off the mortgage for the new Summit County Children’s Justice Center. 

Park City Budget Manager Jed Briggs proposed donating $75,000 to the capital campaign for the Children’s Justice Center. The center, which supports victims of child abuse and their families, is moving from a small space in the Richins Building to its own designated facility. Briggs said the money could come out of the Fiscal Year 2019 general contingency account, which usually addresses unanticipated expenditures or department overages.

Councilmember Steve Joyce expressed concern over spending leftover funds instead of saving them. He said the work the center does is a worthy cause, but unlike the first phase of the special service contracts process, which was recently completed with the fiscal year 2020 budget, he wasn’t sure if maybe the money should go to another nonprofit.

"If we had come to this conclusion through comparing other alternatives and said, 'this is the best place, we ought to give these guys all the $75,000,' then I could be good with that," Joyce said. "But I'm struggling with how this happened and whether it's the right thing to do."

Funding for the center didn’t fit into the regular budgeting process—special service contract funding can’t go toward capital expenses. But Park City Mayor Andy Beerman told KPCW it’s within the council’s purview to decide to make “one-off” donations. 

“Sometimes there are opportunities because there are a lot of different parties all throwing in, so we can move the needle," Beerman said. "Sometimes it's a matter of value and urgency. We also look at whether organizations—how time sensitive it is, what other funding sources are available to them, but really it seems like every year, some critical opportunity comes up where we can step in and help, and we do when we can.”

During public input for the item, Cheryl Dejno related a comment her son had made to her when he was two years old. The comment shocked her, and she worried that her son had suffered a traumatic experience. Dejno says she’ll never know if he did, but that’s why a resource like the Children’s Justice Center matters, as she addressed Joyce directly.

"We're talking about events, Steven, that happen in the dark," Dejno said. "And we're talking about events that violate public trust." 

Summit County Councilmember Roger Armstrong presented during public input, saying this issue is deeply personal to him and something all municipalities should support. Armstrong says donating to the Center isn’t about a building, it’s about kids.

“As your colleague in the local legislature, our sole task, I would argue to you, is the health, safety and welfare of our citizens—just about everything we do relates to it," Armstrong said. "Arts and culture, social equity, open space all touches on health, safety and welfare. It's our sole function. Our kids are the least powerful in this community. We stand up for them—that’s our job.”

After the public comment, Councilmember Nann Worel suggested the council authorize $100,000 from the contingency fund. The council agreed, and the budget item will be brought back for Council approval likely in the next month. The donation is quite a bit larger than funding that was allocated to any one organization during the special service contract process, with the Park City Chamber/Bureau receiving $85,000 at the top end of the list.

As of Saturday, the Community for Children’s Justice has just under $450,000 left to raise to cover the mortgage for the building. They’re shooting for a Sept. 1 deadline. Those interested in donating can find more information at the Community for Children's Justice website.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.