For Immediate Release: October 1, 2021
Utah Inland Port Authority admits it doesn’t have details regarding plan to spend $150 million in taxpayer backed loans
Salt Lake City-- At a public information session held today, staff from the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA), bankers, and bond attorneys failed to answer essential questions about the proposed creation of a Public Infrastructure District that would issue bonds for $150 million to be paid back with Salt Lake City property tax revenue from the Utah Inland Port Jurisdictional Area (and a tiny amount from West Valley City and Magna township).
During the hour-long session, UIPA acknowledged it does not have specific details for the projects it is “contemplating.” UIPA Chief Operating Officer, Jill Flygare said UIPA would “vet them out as they go”.
The fact that UIPA is intending to use public money to fund projects that haven’t been fully vetted is outrageous and should be of concern to every Utah taxpayer. This lack of planning and risk would be unacceptable if private funds were used. It is analogous to creating an enormous “slush fund” which in this instance has the potential to further degrade air quality, westside communities, wildlife habitat, the Great Salt Lake and more.
UIPA provided few details about the “transloading facility” they hope to build next to the existing Union Pacific Intermodal facility - including why it is necessary since Union Pacific has always said they would expand their intermodal facility when cargo volume warrants it. Is building the proposed transloading facility with public money intended to supplant what would otherwise be a private investment by Union Pacific?
UIPA was equally vague about the purpose of constructing a rail spur into the undeveloped portion of the UIPA area north of I-80. This, too, appears to be public infrastructure built primarily to aid a private rail company, as well as warehouse developers Rio Tinto, the Colmena group and SITLA (a partner of a private warehouse developer), all of whom have been clamouring for public infrastructure investments in this area, which is riddled with wetlands, and adjacent to migratory bird habitat of global importance.
We also heard a vague description of a “renewable energy facility” that would include natural gas. Natural gas is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and is not “renewable”.
UIPA vaguely described public funds being used for construction of a daycare facility and kitchen at Stadler Rail. This is another example of public funds spent largely for private benefit.
Overall the presentation briefly outlined 6 proposed projects but only one was within the area of the proposed Public Infrastructure District and this district contains only one property owner. Other private interests would benefit from publicly funded projects that provide refueling facilities, kitchens and day care for employers, including large international corporations.
The webinar raised more questions than it answered, leaving the impression that UIPA plans to create a slush fund of more that $150 million that will be allocated based on the interests of an unaccountable board. The discussion today also underscored that Salt Lake City’s litigation against the State of Utah over creation of UIPA, based on usurpation of Salt Lake City’s lawful taxing authority is spot on, as UIPA is demonstrating what happens when the power to tax is given to an unrepresentative body.