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Draper Journal

Council reappoints three volunteers to Traverse Ridge board

Mar 30, 2023 01:20PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Snow removal is the biggest expense on the Traverse Ridge Special Service District budget. At his own home, TRSSD advisory board chair Daryl Acumen said the snowfall is waist-high and he has an 8-foot-tall pile accumulated from snow-blowing his driveway. (Courtesy Daryl Acumen)

Seven individuals interviewed for three volunteer positions on the Traverse Ridge Special Service District Administrative Control Board (TRSSDACB). The Draper City Council appointed Daryl Acumen, Ben Frederick and Drew Joosten to four-year terms. Acumen and Frederick have already been serving on the board and Joosten has been volunteering as treasurer. 

“We were very pleased to have so many who wanted to do that hard job. We had the best group of applicants we’ve seen,” Mayor Troy Walker said. 

Councilmember Mike Green commented on choosing the same people who’ve recently been volunteering. “We’ve come a long way. There was a time when this entity was adverse to this council, so I don’t want to interrupt that (current good relationship),” Green said.

Established in 1999, TRSSD residents pay a special tax in addition to regular city taxes to cover expenses unique to their mountain community. Those extra expenses include special streetlights, extra snow equipment and plowing, and road maintenance and repair.

In 2014, Draper City established an advisory board made up of TRSSD residents and tasked the board with determining a budget and establishing a tax rate for those special services. Previously, the city had encouraged the TRSSD to build up a fund balance for maintenance of Deer Ridge Drive. But an adversarial relationship developed between the city and the board (and some TRSSD residents), largely because that group opposed paying for the reconstruction of Deer Ridge Drive. The group entered into litigation with the city and successfully passed a referendum to not increase taxes.

“We ultimately settled litigation. The city would reconstruct Deer Ridge Drive and it wouldn’t come out of their funds. It was poorly built and that persuaded me. It makes sense for the city to fix the road and we are doing it,” Walker said in an August 2022 interview.

Acumen, who works as an analyst, was first appointed to the board in 2020. He became chair in 2021 and served in that position for all of 2022. He and others serving on the board realized the TRSSD was in financial straits. According to Acumen, following the referendum, the previous board cut the assessment by 75% and used the fund balance the city had encouraged them to have to pay for snow plowing, attorney fees, etc. He said there was one year that residents of the TRSSD paid nothing. “The TRSSD spends more in snow removal alone than we take in from the tax assessment,” Acumen said in an August 2022 interview. 

Because Acumen and his fellow board members found the TRSSD “insolvent” and the city knew the TRSSD was unable to pay its bills, a truth in taxation hearing was held in August 2022 and an increased tax rate was approved. Acumen estimates the new rate is $359 per household per year on average. The new tax rate took effect almost immediately after it was passed and the board got the funds upfront. “That’s why we have the cash to fix the budget…to pay for snow removal,” he said. 

Acumen said the new tax rate was “positively received” once people understood where the TRSSD stood financially. “Since then, the most common comment is that we should have raised it higher. Residents up here have an expectation of a level of service for snow removal and we have to be willing to pay for it,” he said.

Acumen and his fellow board members are strongly considering a special assessment to once again build up a cash reserve for heavy snow years like this one. “We all want the snow, we’re in a drought, but if we have one more year like this, we’re going to go bankrupt. I think this summer we’re going to push for a special assessment,” he said. 

Acumen appreciates that the city took over road maintenance and reconstructed Deer Ridge Drive. “That goodwill gesture sort of fixed everything. The working relationship with the city is a big deal. We’ve worked really hard to change the tone…from antagonistic…to a more constructive tone,” he said. “I think everyone is on the same page and the respect has returned.”