Riverton in Review: 2017
Jan 01, 2018 11:33AM
● By Mariden Williams
2018 is poised to breathe new life into Riverton’s tired downtown area. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)
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Law enforcement service area
2017 has seen Riverton City take several steps to become more self-sufficient and more cash-efficient—perhaps most strikingly in its bold decision to break away from the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area (SLVLESA), and instead create their own Riverton Law Enforcement Service Area (RLESA).
A service area makes a single contract with a separate entity, in this case the Unified Police Department, on behalf of all the individual municipalities within it. Then the service area uses the combined property tax money to pay the UPD. This is what SLVLESA did, and RLESA will do essentially the same thing. But while SLVLESA is large, containing multiple cities in the Salt Lake Valley, RLESA is confined to Riverton alone, essentially creating a single-municipality service area. According to mayor-elect Trent Staggs, who has represented Riverton on the UPD and SLVLESA boards for the past three years, this will “keep Riverton property tax within Riverton, and use that then to pay for the Unified Police contract.”
With SLVLESA, Riverton paid substantially more for law enforcement services than it would if it just contracted directly with the UPD. In 2016, Riverton’s UPD contract was worth $4.9 million, but with SLVLESA, it actually paid $5.2 million. Further tax hikes proposed by SLVLESA would have resulted in Riverton overpaying by as much as $800,000 in 2018.
With the creation of RLESA, tax rates will instead be rolled back to essentially what they were in 2016; a move that has inspired neighboring cities Herriman and Millcreek to follow suit and form their own service areas, using RLESA as a model.
Residents may be startled to see RLESA’s bill on their property tax statements listed as a 100% increase, but there really is no cause for alarm.
“Because RLESA is a new entity, state law requires it show as a 100% increase. However, if you compare the proposed amount on the 2018 RLESA postcard to the SLVESA (shown on statement as SL Vly Law Enforcement) line on your 2017 property tax statement, you will see that the 2018 dollar amount proposed for RLESA is actually lower, resulting in a property tax savings,” city officials explained on the Riverton City website.
Further information can be found at rivertoncity.com, under “About RLESA”. A final public hearing will be held on December 19, 2017. Riverton will be officially out of SLVLESA beginning in January 2018, and will collect all UPD funds from RLESA instead.
New sheriff in town
Another 2017 change to Riverton’s law enforcement was the exciting August promotion of Riverton’s own former UPD Precinct Chief Rosie Rivera to the position of Salt Lake County Sheriff. Following her promotion, the city council selected Jake Petersen as their new Chief of Police Services.
“I think you just made a great decision,” Sheriff Rivera told the city council as she stepped up to the podium to formalize Chief Petersen’s promotion— her first promotion as county sheriff. “I knew early on that if I ever left, I wanted somebody that could fill the shoes, but also have that same passion for my city. I think that you chose the best person possible to do that. I know that Jake has that same passion for the citizens of Riverton, and will serve them very well.”
Even with a new tax service area and a new precinct chief, Riverton will receive the same service from the Unified Police Department as always. “We still operate under an interlocal agreement with the UPD… and that has not been changed at all as a part of this process,” said Interim City Manager Ryan Carter. The only thing that will change is the means by which the UPD is paid—and, of course, the amount of money that Riverton residents will save as a result.
Riverton reinforced its self-reliant approach to serving its citizens with its June decision to bring animal control services in-house, a long journey that finally has its end in sight. The city is set to officially transition from Salt Lake County Animal Services to in-house animal control by Feb. 1, 2018.
Previously, Riverton contracted with Salt Lake County Animal Control Services for both animal capture and animal shelter, but back in May, the county unveiled plans to increase the contract fee from $287,000 a year to more than $400,000. While the county provided exemplary service, the price increases were “reaching a breaking point for Riverton’s budget,” according to Carter, so the city began pursuing other options.
The animal control equation has two main factors: first, catching the animals, and second, housing them until they can be claimed. The Council’s solution to animal apprehension is pretty straightforward. They plan to hire two additional city code enforcement officers—who ordinarily handle such problems as inappropriately placed signs, weeds, and other general community complaints—furnish them with a truck, and cross-train them in animal control. “The idea is to get somebody hired by January, and then get them trained and equipped in January,” said Carter.
Shelter space has proven to be a slightly more complicated endeavor. Having no dedicated animal shelter of its own, Riverton has decided to provide shelter via a partnership with local animal clinic and pets hotel Stone Ridge Veterinary. The city will outfit Stone Ridge with additional boarding space and house captured animals there, where they will be treated with the same level of care and attention as any other paying customer.
While it is projected that Stone Ridge’s annual costs will be around $120,000, most of that cost will be covered not by taxpayer money, but by fees charged to individual residents upon picking up their impounded animals. “Whatever Stone Ridge is charging, we should be able to recoup on the fees,” said Councilman Staggs. “With the revenue from licensing, from vaccinations…it should be relatively cost-neutral.”
To keep all its bases covered and increase intercity cooperation, Riverton has also approved a contract to house animals in South Jordan’s animal shelter on an as-needed basis. South Jordan’s shelter is too small to accommodate all of Riverton’s animals in addition to its own, but they can take a few here and there.
“If you look at it simplistically, we’re out about $100,000 on two employees, versus almost $300,000 on a contract with Salt Lake County, which is going to $400,000 next year. So I think there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings in year one, and again, I think we’re going to get better responses, better care,” said Councilman Staggs.
In addition to savings on law enforcement and animal control, 2018 also promises to bring more options for Riverton residents to shop and have fun close to home, with the development of CenterCal’s Mountain View Village project and keen council interest in revitalizing the old downtown area.
CenterCal’s much-anticipated Mountain View Village project spans 85 acres along Mountain View Corridor and 13400 South. Though billed as a shopping center, it is hoped that the project will create not just a nice place to shop, but also a central recreational gathering place, with fountains, free concerts in the summertime and other public events.
According to the developers, the project will boast “retail, restaurant, office, gym, hotel and a full luxury theater all situated within the designated trade area of the top five cities for population growth in the United States.”
“It’ll be a major development. Many of the commercial real estate people in the state see this as probably one of the top five malls that are in the state, so it’s significant,” said Mayor Bill Applegarth. “It will really be a wonderful place to visit.”
In addition to providing a prime spot for people to come relax, the project is expected to bring Riverton millions of dollars in sales tax. Phase one of construction is slated for completion in June 2018, and features mainly big-box retailers such as Harmons, TJ Maxx, and Michaels. Phase two, which includes the outdoor fountains and more specialty stores and restaurants, is anticipated to be done in fall 2019.
Further recreational and dining options should also hopefully be making their way to the old downtown area in the coming year. Back in June, the city council commissioned Psomas Engineering to study the area along 12600 South—from about 1300 West to about 2200 West— and come up with some ways to make it more pedestrian-friendly and enticing to recreational developers.
The city park in particular was discussed as a candidate for further development. Psomas architect Greg Hawes seemed optimistic that with a few additions, Riverton could effectively “extend the park all the way to 12600 South, and really make that a recreational district for the city.” One proposal that garnered particular council approval was to encourage sit-down restaurants along the park edge, providing diners with an opportunity to sit out on the patio and enjoy the view.
Also coming to Riverton in 2018 are new mayor Trent Staggs, who will take the seat of longtime mayor Bill Applegarth, new council members Tawnee McCay (District 3, formerly represented by Trent Staggs) and Tish Buroker (District 4, formerly represented by Paul Wayman), and a new city manager, who will be selected by the new council sometime in January.
Previous city manager Lance Blackwood retired in June— since then, the position has been temporarily filled by City Attorney Ryan Carter. The city was scheduled to begin advertising for a permanent city manager on Dec. 1, so by the time new officials are sworn into office in January 2018, there should be a good pool of applicants waiting for them. From there, they can immediately begin the process of interviewing and hiring a new city manager.