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Actions of County Commission questioned following Tooele layoffs

By Devon Dolan | Posted - Nov 20th, 2012 @ 10:52pm


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TOOELE — The latest in a wave of layoffs in Tooele County isn't sitting well with some residents.

One former employee, in particular, said he saw the $4 million shortfall coming years ago. He's just not sure why county commissioners didn't see the same thing.

The financial problems began when the last weapon was destroyed at Deseret Chemical Depot last January.

The layoffs began in August, when 22 county employees were let go.

Then in September, county commissioners went to each county department and asked leaders to cut at least 15 percent from their budget. That's a huge chunk, and it resulted in 22 more layoffs last week.

"We had some idea, but we didn't know how deeply we'd have to go," Tooele County Commissioner Colleen Johnson said Tuesday.


There were red flags three years ago, and the commissioners have taken no action to increase revenue. All they've done is cut, cut, cut.

–Harry Shinton, former Tooele Co. employee


Harry Shinton, a former member of the Tooele County Sheriff's hazardous materials division, said he decided to retire early after devoting 38 years to the county.

"I voluntarily retired because I didn't want to bump a single mother who was a patrol sergeant," he said. "I wouldn't do that."

After the disposal of a chemical weapon stockpile finished, federal money stopped coming in. The county now has $23 million to work with for 2013.

But Shinton said, as a grant writer, he saw lack of funding years ago.

"There were red flags three years ago, and the commissioners have taken no action to increase revenue. All they've done is cut, cut, cut," he said.

County commissioners say they chose those cuts over a tax increase. In fact, the county hasn't raised taxes since 1987.

The sheriff's office was among the first to see the impact of the shortfall. Now other department are feeling the pain. The attorney's, assessor's and auditor's offices, along with the county jail, all took a financial hit in November.

With fewer county employees, Tooele County residents may start noticing a difference: a longer wait time for county services, roads taking an extra day to be plowed, etc.

"We, as department heads, are trying to alleviate fears," said Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park. "But even we have some questions and concerns."

Contributing: Jordan Ormond

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