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Summit County Council to revisit North Summit Fire tax increase following resident pushback

The majority of calls that the fire district responds to are related to emergency medical services.
North Summit Fire District
The majority of calls that the fire district responds to are related to emergency medical services.

Dozens of Summit County residents spoke out against a proposed 300% increase in taxes last week.

Over 100 residents attended a public hearing on the North Summit Fire District’s proposed tax increase Wednesday in Coalville. The meeting lasted several hours. 

The district is based in Coalville, and covers Wanship, Henefer, Peoa, and the rural areas of the county spanning from the Morgan County line to the Wyoming border. It’s estimated that roughly 5,700 people live within district boundaries.

Many called for a smaller, incremental tax increase at the hearing. They said the proposed increase of more than 300% is simply too much and feels rushed, especially amid skyrocketing property values and inflation nationwide.

The county is conducting a study of emergency services, looking at where crews are needed most and where first responders should be stationed. Results are expected next year, and several people said the tax increase should wait until then.

Jared Bates is a resident of Wanship and spoke at the Wednesday meeting.

“My mother is 75-years-old, she’s surviving cancer, she’s never had her house burn down to this point, despite the best efforts of me and my brother,” Bates said. “We can get by a little longer and have a better plan than this folks, I’m certain we can.”

Tollgate resident Jenny Williams echoed the same concern as others in her tough-to-reach neighborhood.

“I mean this is outrageous, because in the winter, we have our volunteer people up here,” Williams said. “Nobody is going to get up here. If I have to take my husband or son to the hospital, I have to take them down the canyon and meet somebody down there. It’s just what it is in the winter. Which means we're paying for this for a couple months a year.”

The North Summit Fire District went through an overhaul earlier this year after its entire volunteer crew was suspended for insubordination and its then-chief, who worked part time, was fired. In late March, Ben Nielsen was hired as North Summit’s first full-time chief. He is spearheading the district’s work to expand operations.

With the new tax revenue, the district’s budget would more than double to a little over $2 million. If the council approves the increase, a home worth $500,000 would pay an additional $300 per year. The additional money will pay for more staff to improve response time and equipment upgrades.

At the meeting, council chair Chris Robinson emphasized that the tax increase is for service needs right now, despite the development that may come in the future.

“This budget is not for Ivory Homes, it’s not for Wohali, it’s not for Cedar Crest,” Robinson said. “We didn’t get another home. It’s to manage the job we have today. I want to dispel that myth.”

Summit County Councilman Glenn Wright told KPCW that despite the sharp response from the community, the council feels the tax increase is crucial to improve service on the East side.

“We really feel that it’s absolutely necessary," Wright said. "The volunteer system we had really was not working anymore. We found out last year around this time that a significant number of the volunteer shifts were not even being filled. And we didn’t know about that until we fired the previous fire chief.”

The county council could approve the North Summit Fire District’s budget and tax increase at its meeting Wednesday, which begins around 3 p.m. at the Richins Building in Kimball Junction.

A public hearing is not scheduled.

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