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Jon Huntsman Jr. announces Provo mayor as his running mate

Gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. announced Friday that Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi will be his running mate in the 2020 race.

“When I first met her, I already knew she’d make a great leader for this great state of ours. She’s already been an historic figure and a great mayor of Provo,” Huntsman said in a video posted on Twitter.

Kaufusi is in the third year of her first term of office and is the first woman mayor of Provo. During her time in office, she has added to her list of accomplishments the growth of a new terminal at the Provo Municipal Airport, the voter bond approval for a new city hall that will be completed in 2022, the completion of the UVX route with the Utah Transit Authority, and the reorganization of internal departments to streamline services, among others.

Huntsman served as Utah governor from 2005 to 2009 and as United States Ambassador to Russia until last October.

In an interview, Kaufusi said there have “been a lot of tears” among her staff as she told them about her run for Lt. Governor.

“Trust and loyalty (are) huge to me, and they know it,” Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi said she will remain focused on her mayoral duties as she moves through the campaign.

“You’ll still see me,” she said. “I’m the mayor, for Pete’s sake.”

There was “instant chemistry and a very deep bonding” between Kaufusi and Huntsman when they started working with one another, Huntsman said in an interview.

“She has the ability to inspire like no other politician I’ve seen in the state,” said Huntsman. “I think she’s going to bring a lot of people off the sidelines.”

While Huntsman said he is proud of what he accomplished in his previous stint as Utah’s governor, he added that there are still improvements to be made in the state, including addressing air quality and transportation needs.

“There isn’t a category that I care about that is complete,” he said. “But that is the nature of politics and public service.”

Kaufusi said planning for the state’s projected rapid growth and working to improve air quality are two areas on which she is focused.

“What it comes down to, for us, is getting prepared and being ready for the growth,” she said.

Huntsman’s other areas of focus during his campaign for governor include addressing mental health and suicide in the state and providing economic and educational opportunities for rural communities.

“We simply cannot be satisfied with one level of economic prosperity along the Wasatch front and another for the families living in Utah’s rural areas,” the website says.

In Provo, the Kaufusi name is relatively well known. Her husband ,Steve, and sons Bronson and Corbin are playing, or have played, in the National Football League, along with several families members with a history in Brigham Young University football. Steve Kaufusi was a football coach at BYU until Michelle Kaufusi became mayor.

“It’s after a lot of soul searching that I’ve decided to accept an invitation to run for lieutenant governor of Utah,” Kaufusi said. “Serving as your mayor has been my favorite job ever, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever enjoy another position more.”

Kaufusi added, “Is this an announcement of my resignation? No. My heart is here in Provo, and I am focused on moving ahead with the important projects we are working on here in Utah’s greatest city. In less than five months, we should know the primary election results, and that will tell us a lot. And even if I should be elected to statewide office, my plan would be to continue to serve as mayor until it’s time for a transition. At that point (next January), I would have already entered my fourth year of mayoral service.”

A Provo native, Kaufusi graduated Provo High School with the class of 1985. She has since served as the president of the Provo City School District Board of Education prior to running for mayor.

Kaufusi took the place of former Mayor John Curtis, who won the 3rd Congressional District special election filling the vacancy left by former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

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Primary Children's Hospital announces location of Lehi campus, other details

Primary Children’s Hospital’s upcoming Lehi satellite campus will be located near 3300 West and 2100 North in Lehi, the hospital announced.

The hospital released several details about the new facility Friday morning, including the size of the site and which services it will provide.

The hospital will be contained on 38 acres of land. It will have five floors, 66 beds and a three-story medical office building.

The hospital will include pediatric specialty trauma and emergency services, pediatric and newborn intensive care units, a medical and surgical unit, operating rooms and surgical services, inpatient and outpatient behavioral and mental health services, Safe and Healthy Families clinic, sleep medicine services, infusion services, rehabilitation services, specialty outpatient clinics, laboratory services and imaging services.

There will also be food service and a gift shop.

The new campus was announced last month as part of the hospital’s $500 million plan to change the structure of how it provides health care to children in Utah.

“By investing in people and programs and initiatives and most importantly, facilities, we will be able to bring that dream to life,” said Katy Welkie, the CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital.

Intermountain Healthcare plans to break ground on the hospital later this year and open it in the fall of 2023.

With Utah County’s growth, Welkie said it was time to bring a second location to Lehi.

“In the simplest terms, it is where the kids are, and we want to be where the kids are,” Welkie said.

About 9.5% of Utah County’s population is under the age of 5 and 33.4% are under the age of 18, according to 2019 population estimates from the United States Census Bureau.

The Lehi campus, she said, will place care closer to Utah County families so they do not have to travel as far to receive services.

The hospital also announced that Lisa Paletta, who is currently the administrator of Alta View Hospital in Sandy will be the administrator of the Lehi campus. Welkie said Paletta was involved in the design, construction and opening of the new Alta View Hospital campus and is known for bringing leadership together.

“She is absolutely the ideal person for this role,” Welkie said.

The Lehi campus will allow space to build additional buildings to the site as the need arises. When finished, the pediatric intensive care unit at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo will move to the Lehi campus.

High-level services, such as cardiovascular services and organ transplants, will continue to be performed at the Salt Lake City campus.

Paletta said the time was right for a Lehi campus to meet Utah County’s needs. Consolidating intensive pediatric services, she said, will allow for additional services to move to the site and be available.

“We are extremely excited and have received positive feedback as we made this announcement a few weeks ago,” she said.

Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald 

Cedar Valley freshman swimmer Braedon Scott competes in the 200-yard individual medley during the first day of the 4A state meet at BYU on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. 

Residents want to see urban centers, westward growth to accommodate Utah County's booming population, survey finds

Utahns want to see mixed-use urban centers, more public transportation options and growth in west county as Utah County’s population booms, according to results from an Envision Utah survey.

Envision Utah has worked with government officials, the Association of Utah County Chambers, the Utah County Chamber of Commerce, Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University and other groups to gauge public opinion on what growth in Utah County should look like as it prepares for rapid population increases.

According to the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, the county’s population is expected to double by 2050.

Last year, Envision Utah held workshops composed of various stakeholders to put together five “growth scenarios” for Utah County. The different scenarios included spread out growth versus high-density centers, south county growth versus west county growth or “urban infill” near Orem and Provo.

The group then put out a “Valley Visioning” survey asking the public which of these growth scenarios they would most prefer to see.

More than 11,000 Utahns took the survey, according to Envision Utah CEO Ari Bruening.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey, Bruening said, is that “people are ready to do things a little bit differently than in the past” and are open to a wider variety of housing options “as opposed to just single-family homes.”

Of all respondents, more than 31% said they wanted to see more urban centers and “walkable communities that put people closer to daily services,” according to a report highlighting the survey results. At the same time, 21% said they wanted to see empty lots near Orem and Provo be filled in and only 10% said they wanted growth to follow past trends, which has been characterized by large office parks built along Interstate 15 that residents commute to.

Residents reported that they wanted to see a greater mix of housing, including town homes, apartments and condos, while still “preserving single-family neighborhoods.”

Just over 25% of respondents said west Utah County, near Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, would be the best area to accommodate new development. Only 11.6% said growth would be best in south county near Benjamin and Salem.

“It seems pretty clear that there’s pretty strong agreement across the county that people would rather grow west than south,” Bruening said. “And I think that’s because to the south is where a lot of the best ag land is.”

Bruening added that this sentiment “wasn’t just a ‘don’t grow in my backyard’ response” and that “even the people in Eagle Mountain felt this way.”

In addition to wanting to preserve agricultural land, Bruening said these results likely show that residents want to avoid building on south county land prone to earthquake and liquefaction risk.

“The same conditions that create good soils for agriculture also create a liquefaction risk in an earthquake, which is where the soil basically turns to quicksand,” he said, adding that there is less risk of liquefaction in west county.

Another finding of the survey was that residents want more transportation options, including public transit and more infrastructure for biking and walking.

“People said … ‘We would rather have things closer to us and more transportation and the ability to walk, even if that means maybe a little bit more congestion,’” said Bruening.

One of the biggest concerns with Utah County’s population growth is how it will impact air quality, according to Bruening. A high number of survey respondents said they would support using less grass and transitioning from traditional landscaping in order to conserve water.

More than 32% of respondents said they would be open to “localscaping,” landscaping with “some grass with water-efficient plants,” to make their properties more sustainable, and 27.5% said they would consider xeriscaping with “primarily water-efficient plants (and) little grass.” Just over 18% said they preferred traditional landscaping.

Residents also expressed support for more electric cars in order to improve air quality, said Bruening.

“People want the cleanest air possible,” he said, “so they voted for more electric vehicles.”

Now that the survey results are in, the next step will be to share the results with city and business officials and “frame up a vision that’ll help the county get to where people said they want to go,” Bruening said, adding that this vision should be released in early April.

Piecing together the vision will involve creating models of land use, water use and transportation based on the survey results and input from city leaders and development experts, he said.

Bruening added that it would not be binding or mandate that county and city officials implement it.

“This is a voluntary vision,” he said. “Nobody’s required to do anything. This is just the people of the county speaking saying ‘this is the direction we want to go.’”

Sammy Jo Hester, Daily Herald  

Children make smores during the Fire and Ice Festival at the Shops at Riverwoods on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. The Riverwoods paired with the Food and Care Coalition to offer help to the homeless and low-income individuals of Utah County. Sammy Jo Hester, Daily Herald