DRAPER, Utah – The city of Draper is preparing to break ties with Unified Fire Authority within the next year, and they’ve already made the first move by appointing a fire chief.
When fires break out in Draper, Unified Fire Authority responds. The arrangement has worked since 2004, but the city is changing course and starting its own fire department.
“Every year, we’ve really had an increase every year in cost,” said Troy Walker, Draper City Mayor.
Walker says severing ties with UFA gives them local control so they can control costs. For $5.5 million, the city says they can keep 11 firefighters on staff per day, as well as their ambulance services to provide the same quality of service. If they stick with UFA, they would have to pay them $6.8 million a year.
“I think, ultimately, we'll be more responsible to our public,” Walker said.
Some wonder if Draper City ditched UFA because of their recent financial problems. Fire Chief Michael Jensen resigned last month as auditors looked into questionable expenses on gas cards, purchase cards and incentives.
“I know the timing looks like it might have, but, honestly, for me it had absolutely no bearing on it," Walker said. "This math problem that we've had has been the same math problem for a number of years."
Walker believes he has the solution. He has appointed Clint Smith as the new fire chief. He’s a native of Draper, who currently serves as Unified’s Emergency Medical Services Bureau Chief.
“Clint started out on the volunteer fire department way back when," Walker said. "As I understand it, his mom was the ambulance driver, and he was a young paramedic in the back.”
Smith is no stranger to politics. As a son of a former Draper mayor, he too served as Mayor of the city of Herriman. Walker says Smith will work on bringing a community spirit to his new department.
“He's well-trained, well-versed and well-respected," Walker said. "We're very excited."
Clint Smith's first official day on the job begins next Tuesday, when the Draper City Council will sign off on his new position.