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South Salt Lake Journal

South Salt Lake City Council Updates

May 17, 2021 11:45AM ● By Bill Hardesty

Upgrading the Public Work Campus is a shared FY2022 budget priority. (Bill Hardesty/City Journal)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On April 14, the City Council started the evening discussing budget priorities and ended it by discussing rank voting. In between, was a lot of other issues.

Budget priorities

In their work meeting, the City Council heard from city staff on what their budget priority is for FY 2022. Three departments – The Urban Livability, Fire, and Police – will speak at the next work meeting.

Three priorities were common throughout the presentations. They were more staff, Cost of Living increases, and an improved Public Works campus. SSL employees, except for Public Safety, have not received a COLA since 2019.

Community Development asked for additional employees for three needs. The first is to enforce the city code. The second is to handle housing issues, and the third is for additional building inspectors. The Street Division needs an additional employee on the concrete crew. The Engineering Department is asking for additional inspectors and Admin help.

Promise SSL asked that the director position be paid with city funds. Currently, the job is paid with grant dollars. By city funding the director position, a communication director could be hired for Promise SSL, and more grant money would go to fund programs. The Judicial Court asked for another clerk because of an increased workload. Fleet Management needs at least one more technician to get work done on time and reduce overtime.

Over the year, Information Technology is struggling with hiring due to non-competitive salaries and the cost of benefits.

There were some one-off requests. The Recreation Department wants more money to fund adult sports. The Water Department needs to treat the 700 East well that is working at 60% capacity. They also need funds to replace the water metering system. Due to technology changes, the current one will not work starting in 2022. Wastewater needs extra money to clean out the sewer system, which will allow assessing the system.

Administration reminded the council that the 30-year-old generator in the city hall needs to be replaced. The money was allocated in FY2021 but not spent because of the pandemic. Information Technology needs money to switch from Google Suite to Microsoft 365. This switch is necessary because Microsoft 365 is a more secure platform. 

Ray deWolfe

Councilmember at large Ray deWolfe announced he is not seeking reelection resulting in an open seat in this year’s elections.

MODA-S Townhomes

Five years ago, the city approved building the MODA-S townhomes along the S-Line with an agreement that the townhomes would be sold and not rented. The city allowed the builder to build 32 units, where 50 units are allowed. The owners have asked the city to alter the agreement to allow for rentals because none of the townhomes have been sold. The restated development agreement was recommended to pass by the Planning Commission. However, the City Council has worked on this issue for a couple of weeks.

Shane Siwik voiced concern about breaking the agreement and what message does it send to other developers. Sharla Bynum mentioned new state laws might make enforcing the agreement difficult. The deadline to resolve the issue is June 9.

Water Conservation Plan

Every six years, the Water Conversation Plan is updated. Jason Taylor, Water Division Manager, asked the council to approve it. Siwik mentioned the plan was lengthy, and the council did not have sufficient time to review it. He asked the business item be moved to unfished business for the next council meeting. The council agreed 7-0.

Rank voting

Craig Burton, City Recorder, sought approval for a resolution to enter into an Interlocal Agreement between SSL and Salt Lake County for the Municipal Election for 2021. While it sounds straightforward, the issue of rank voting came into play. The city can choose to use rank voting. Natalie Pinkney, Councilmember at large, and deWolfe said they had heard from residents supporting rank voting. Other council members said they have heard from no one.

Pinkney mentioned that rank voting would eliminate the need for a primary. 

Currently, when you vote, you vote for one name. This traditional system is known as a plurality system. The person with the most votes wins.  With rank voting, you put all the names in rank order. If a candidate receives the majority of first-place votes, they win. If not, a new counting system kicks in. The candidate who did the worst is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to their second-choice pick. This means that if you ranked the eliminated candidate first, your vote still counts because it is redistributed to your second choice.

Advocates for the change say it could help prevent polarized election campaigns, increase the number of minorities and women running for office, and reduce negative campaigning.

Critics say a new system would confuse voters, make the system more complicated, and open the door for abuse by parties trying to game the system.

Burton pointed out that the county will only allow municipal elections to have rank voting. This means that election 2021 will be rank voting, but election 2022 will be a plurality system. Switching back to rank voting for 2023 and returning to plurality voting in 2024. Burton advocated staying with the status quo instead of bouncing back and forth.

The council decided to delay a vote and to hear a presentation from FairVote, who advocates for a change., at the next meeting.