Gunnison, Centerfield looking into municipal consolidation
GUNNISON—They’re only separated by a street sign letting people know as they pass from one city into the other, so should Gunnison and Centerfield merge into a single municipality?
A committee is being formed to look into how feasible it would be to do just that.
“This is still very much in its infancy stages,” recently-appointed Gunnison City Councilman Shawn Crane said. “It’s very conceptual. The committee will be formed to look into all the factors, do our due diligence. We have to see if it’s practical or even possible.”
The Gunnison City Council and Mayor Bruce Blackham discussed the topic during the council’s meeting on Wednesday, March 22.
Crane says there is a lot of data the committee needs to gather, once it is formed.
But it doesn’t take a big jump of logic to understand why the idea might work for the two cities. They are Sanpete County’s only contiguous cities. They share nearly all their resources, including schools and a hospital.
So far, Centerfield and Gunnison City already have successfully unified their police forces and are partners in valley-wide fire protection services and recreation departments. The consolidation of their police into the Gunnison Valley Police Department started with a similar committee, which eventually found traction and, after overcoming some hurdles and making a few amendments, formed the interlocal agreement that would become the basis of the agency.
Now the same concept is being applied, just on a bigger scale.
Crane says one thing the committee would have to determine, among many other factors, is how each city’s separate financial loans would be handled if the two cities were to become one.
Provided the committee found the idea feasible and practical, Crane says education and transparency in everything would be paramount in getting the residents of the two towns to put their support behind it.
“No matter what, it will be a challenge,” Crane said. “I think we might find that there are people firmly entrenched in their different cities and the pride they have in it as their home. Ultimately, the citizens will have to determine if it’s something they want for both communities. “I am glad we are looking into it because it’s something that should be considered. But we feel we need to do our due diligence and thoroughly investigate the idea, being very visible and transparent through the whole process,” Crane said.
Centerfield Mayor Tom Sorensen said Centerfield would be forming a similar committee at their upcoming council meeting on Wednesday, April 5.
“If the cities did combine, more federal or state funding might be available to us as a larger municipality,” Sorensen said. “Administrative costs could be cut; resources could be shared.”
Sorensen gave the city’s backhoe as an example of how combining cities could offer benefits.
“We hardly use the thing,” he said. “If we were one city, heavy equipment like our backhoe and other resources could be shared and made available to both towns.”