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Isaac Hale Daily Herald 

Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) runs into the end zone for a touchdown as wide receiver Akile Davis (1) celebrates with him during a game between Brigham Young University and New Mexico State University held Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

A peek at the new proposed Provo city hall design

One year ago, voters in Provo said yes to a $69 million bond to build a new city hall, police station, fire station and to redo Fire Station 2.

The progress since has been fast for Station 2, which is already under construction, and slow and methodical for the new city building.

On Wednesday, residents will be able to help move along the build out of the city hall when architects, department heads and Mayor Michelle Kaufusi hold an open house to get input on what the exterior portions of city hall should look like.

The open house begins at 6 p.m. at the Provo Rec Center and will feature five areas for resident input and information as well as a video of what has happened so far and the timeline yet to be fulfilled.

“The design (so far) has been an internal design process and who better to know what police need that the chief of police or fire chief on the fire station,” said Scott Henderson, project manager.

What needed to happen first, and may still be in progress, are the internal changes on departments and personnel.

“The whole reason we’re doing this is to move people around now, then move them into a new building,” Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi said she is wanting the one-stop-shopping to be implemented and be going strong so personnel can get to work the first day and be successful.

“Citizens have sent us a huge amount of trust,” said Isaac Paxman, deputy mayor. “We said, let’s pull this whole thing apart and see what’s needed. I can’t overstate how monumental the process has been.”

Henderson added, it has caused organizational changes in departments for ease and best design in the building.

Police Station

Police Chief Rich Ferguson said the new safety facility has been on his mind for a very long time. He has had serious discussions on how to do things right.

“Our current facility has been insufficient for so long we have to think what is right and adjust,” Ferguson said. “We will have the ability to grow for the next 30 to 40 years out and meet the public safety needs of Provo.”

The police department will be professional right from the lobby. There will be an element of privacy that doesn’t exist now, Ferguson said.

“There will be security for the staff and our vehicles,” Ferguson said. “These architects understand public safety buildings and they understand my needs.”

Ferguson added, “I am confident our evidence room will be secure. And we will have a crime lab.”

The Emergency Operations Center will be between the police, fire and the legal departments. Public Safety will occupy five stories with the fourth level being the administration, fire administration and EOC right between.

The EOC will have dedicated spaces for all of the partners that join in during an emergency, including the Red Cross, Dominion Energy, Brigham Young University reps, and more.

And most importantly there will be kennels for the four police dogs.

“We are already seeing changes in the morale. These officers are being validated,” Ferguson said.

Fire station

Fire and Rescue Chief Jim Miguel is not only excited to have a new high-tech emergency operations center, but his new station will also be fitted for high tech. And, he will have more room, much more room.

“We’ll have adequate office space enough to have our command staff in one building,” Miguel said.

The current downtown fire station, other than the truck bays, is only 800 square feet for office space.

“Now we can have the appropriate number of people and resources in downtown,” Miguel said. “I can’t begin to tell you how excited our fire staff are. It’s a big deal.”

With a 14-story building being built in Provo, Miguel is also looking for more high tech operations and ways to handle potential fires in this and other high rises.

Fire Station 2, which was part of the bond and located in northeast Provo, is in the construction phase now. It should be functional by next summer according to Miguel.

“This is the first new fire station in 20 years,” Miguel said.

Public areas

The design team responsible for the new facilities is VCBO Architects, with Brent Tippets as lead architect. This is the same company that designed the Provo Recreation Center, Fourth District Courthouse and the Provo Power building.

“We have met multiple ties with department heads and developed layouts in relationship to the building,” Tippets said. “It’s been a challenging process. People have been without for so long they didn’t know their need.”

Tippets said they still struggle with the $69 million budget, but he also said the building will not be opulent but functional.

As for the technology, Tippets said that is always a moving target. The interior designs are being made to accommodate change and upgrades as they are needed.

“Conference and meeting spaces with have connectivity and flexibility,” Tippets said. “The current police state was built when GPS was still just used by the military.”

Tippets added the design is focused on service, safety and community.

“People will come and have their needs met,” Tippets said. “it will be safe for staff, a place of pride and a place to gather.”

Henderson and team encourage the public to visit Wednesday night and put their suggestions in on how the exterior, plaza, landscaping and other outer aspects of the building should look. Renderings will be on display.

breaking featured
Provo school bond failing, according to early election results

The Provo City School District’s $245 million bond appeared to be slated to fail, according to initial election results posted after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

About 63% of voters, or 7,883 of 12,499 votes, voted against the proposal for a bond.

“Thank you to the citizens of Provo who have supported the district throughout this process and voted in favor of this bond,” the Provo City School District said in a written statement Tuesday night. “While not a final count, we recognize that the results are not promising. While the bond may not pass, the issues at each of the schools are not going to improve or change without significant work. Assuming the results hold, we will regroup and begin to look at what steps must be taken next to address these issues.”

If passed, the bond would include a $145 million rebuild of Timpview High School, except for the Thunderdome, a $55 million relocation and rebuild of Dixon Middle School on Provo’s west side, a $30 million rebuild of Wasatch Elementary School, a $10 million addition at Westridge Elementary School and $5 million for security upgrades.

The bond appeared on the ballot years earlier than the district anticipated after deteriorating conditions at Timpview High School caused the soil underneath part of the school to settle and a piece of the masonry to fall through the media center’s ceiling tiles. Cracks also continue to appear in the school’s walls.

The effect of the bond’s passage would vary over the next few years on the average $270,000 home in Provo. Property taxes would go down by $21.12 in 2020, would increase by $11.44 in 2021, would increase by $63.95 in 2022, would increase by $36.85 in 2023, would increase by $41.83 in 2024, would increase by $85.51 in 2025 and would increase by $25.19 in 2026, leading to a total increase of $264.77 in property taxes over that time period that can be attributed to the bond. After 2026, taxes attributed to the bond will go down as principal is paid off.

If passed, the bond was expected to be paid off in 20 years.

“We are happy to hear that the Provo School Bond was defeated this election,” the No On Provo School Bond PIC said in a written statement. “We offer a heartfelt thanks to the many people who have volunteered, donated and otherwise engaged in the political process, no matter how they voted. We hope that the issues many have with this bond proposal can be addressed when the board decides to bond again. We look forward to continuing to work with the school board to achieve the best outcome for our community.”

This story is developing and more will be added as it is made available.

AP featured
Romney, McAdams, Trump talk on 9 with Utah ties killed in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Drug cartel gunmen ambushed three SUVs along a dirt road, slaughtering at least six children and three women — all of them U.S. citizens living in northern Mexico — in a grisly attack that left one vehicle a burned-out, bullet-riddled hulk, authorities said Tuesday.

The dead included 8-month-old twins. Eight children were found alive after escaping from the vehicles and hiding in the brush, but at least five had bullet wounds or other injuries and were taken to Phoenix for treatment.

Sen. Mitt Romney says he’s been briefed on the slaying of nine U.S. citizens in northern Mexico and calls it “a great tragedy” and something “really unthinkable.”

The Republican from Utah said Tuesday that the attacks were probably “associated with the business of the cartels” rather than a targeted attack on the U.S.-affiliated religious community.

He said he agrees with President Donald Trump that “Mexico has to really knuckle down and go after some of these cartels and stop this escalating level of violence.”

The victims are members of a faction that long ago broke away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and some have family ties in Utah.

Romney’s own father was born in a similar but different group in northern Mexico. He said he doesn’t know any of the people involved.

Utah Congressman Ben McAdams also released a statement on the tragic event.

“It’s outrageous that mothers and children cannot drive in the area without being gunned down by these violent criminals,” McAdams said in a press release. “I learned from my recent visit with Republicans and Democrats to border facilities in McAllen, Texas that the drug cartels operate with near impunity and are a threat to the safety of U.S. and Mexican citizens, to asylum-seekers from Central America, and to our border security.”

McAdams expressed his “deepest sympathies” for family and friends of the shooting victims.

Mexico’s foreign secretary says President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has phoned U.S. President Donald Trump to express condolences at the slaying of nine members of a religious community in northern Mexico, saying they were citizens of both nations.

Marcelo Ebrard says the Mexican leader expressed “thanks for the offer of help, if Mexico needs some sort of help.” And he said Trump “reiterated confidence” in Mexican authorities “to apply justice.”

The comments were carried in a video on the Reporte Indigo news website.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted an offer to help Mexico “wage WAR” against drug cartels suspect of committing the killing in a mountainous part of northern Mexico.

López Obrador expressed thanks to Trump during a later news conference, but demurred at Trump’s offer, saying “The worst thing you can have is war.”

The attackers apparently killed one woman, Christina Langford Johnson, after she jumped out of her vehicle and waved her hands to show she wasn’t a threat, according to an account published by family members and corroborated by prosecutors and a relative in a telephone interview.

Around the ambush scene, which stretched for miles, investigators found over 200 shell casings, mostly from assault rifles.

The attack took place Monday in a remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico where the Sinaloa cartel has been engaged in a turf war. The victims had set out to see relatives in Mexico; one woman was headed to the airport in Phoenix to meet her husband.

Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said the gunmen may have mistaken the group’s large SUVs for those of rival gangs.

“There’s apparently a war right now,” a relative of the dead who did not want his name used for fear of reprisals said wearily. “It’s been going on for too long.”

While a drug-related violence has been raging for years in Mexico, cartel gunmen have become increasingly unconcerned about killing children as collateral damage. In August in Chihuahua state, gunmen fired 123 bullets at a man but also killed three girls, ages 4, 13 and 14.

The victims in Monday’s ambush lived in neighboring Sonora state, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, in the hamlet of La Mora, which was founded decades ago by an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A number of such American farming communities are clustered around the Chihuahua-Sonora border. Many members were born in Mexico and thus have dual citizenship. While some of the splinter groups were once polygamous, many no longer are.

All of the victims were apparently related to the extended LeBaron family in Chihuahua, whose members have run afoul of the drug traffickers over the years. Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist who founded neighborhood patrols against cartels, was killed in 2009.

State prosecutors said Johnson, the woman who waved her arms, was found 15 yards away from her Suburban van, shot to death. Her 7-month-old daughter, Faith Marie Johnson, was discovered uninjured in her car seat.

Kendra Miller, a relative, wrote that the baby’s car seat “seemed to be put on the floor, by her mother to try and protect her. ... She gave her life to try and save the rest.”

A short distance away, Dawna Ray Langford, 43, lay dead in the front seat of another Suburban, along with the bullet-riddled bodies of her sons, ages 11 and 2.

Some of the children who escaped had grisly wounds. One had been shot in the face, another in the foot. One girl suffered gunshot wounds to her back and foot.

Cowering in the brush, one boy hid the other children and then walked back to La Mora to get help. Another girl, who was initially listed as missing, walked off in another direction, despite her gunshot wounds, to get help.

A group of male relatives set out to try to rescue the youngsters but turned back when they heard gunfire ahead.

The relative who did not want his name used said in an interview that when they finally made it to the scene where the ambush started — about 11 miles from where the two other mothers were killed — they found a burned-out, shot-up Chevy Tahoe.

Inside, they saw the charred remains of Rhonita Miller, 30, her 10-year-old daughter, a son, 12, and 8-month-old twins. They were “burnt to a crisp,” the relative said.

The gunmen had riddled the vehicle with dozens of bullets and apparently hit the gas tank, causing it to explode. There was nothing the relatives could do but watch the still-smoldering vehicle.

“When we were there, the cartels from Sonora, there were probably 50 or 60 of them, armed to the teeth, about a mile on this side,” said the relative.

Trump tweeted that a “wonderful family” got “caught between two vicious drug cartels.”

He tweeted that the U.S. “stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively,” adding, “The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

But Mexico’s president said: “The worst thing you can have is war.”

It was the second failure in recent weeks for López Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” anti-crime strategy. Two weeks ago, Mexican forces seized a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman but had to release him after cartel henchmen launched a furious counterattack in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

Prosecutors on Tuesday said a suspect was detained near Agua Prieta, but it was unclear whether the person had taken part in the ambush. The suspect had assault rifles and a .50-caliber sniper rifle and was holding two bound kidnap victims, authorities said.

The 2009 killing of Benjamin LeBaron marked a watershed in Mexico’s 2006-12 drug war. Gunmen tortured him in front of his family, then killed him and his brother-in-law.

But the 2009 killings — which sparked a further crackdown on cartels — also showed how much worse things have become: No children were killed back then.

Utah works to counteract unintended backfire in prison reform

SALT LAKE CITY — A new state task force will try to unlock the puzzle of criminal justice system changes that are counterintuitively increasing Utah’s prison population.

In 2018, 82% of prison admissions were due to probation or parole violations, a more than 15% boost since 2012.

Many offenders are being sent back to prison for technical violations of probation or parole, rather than new crimes.

“What was intended to be an alternative to incarceration, probation and parole have become its leading drivers,” Gov. Gary Herbert’s office said in a news release announcing formation of the task force.

Reforms in 2015 that reduced penalties for drug possession and cut down on prison sentences led to increases in the number of offenders on probation. In the first 18 months after the reforms, Utah’s prison population fell.

But since then, probation and parole violations have climbed and more of the supervised offenders are ending up incarcerated.

Meager availability of substance abuse treatment for those on probation and parole means more people are failing. Plus, parole and probation staffs are overworked.

This all adds up to a problem that needs intervention, the governor said.

The task force aims to increase successful outcomes for offenders, reduce revocations due to technical violations, and focus supervision resources on individuals who pose the highest risk, the news release said.

Prison admissions are to be reserved for “serious offenders,” it said.

The Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is spearheading the task force, which will develop recommendations for the 2020 Legislature.

“Probation and parole are meant to hold individuals accountable and help them successfully exit the criminal justice system, not become a revolving door back to prison,” Mike Haddon, Department of Corrections executive director, said in the news release.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which is providing technical assistance to the task force, recently issued a report on the effectiveness of probation and parole processes.

“In Utah, 70 percent of people on supervision said that incentives as simple as verbal praise and recognition motivated them to improve their behavior,” the report said.

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah in 2018 said Utah could cut its prison population by half and save $250 million by implementing a series of changes on a range of justice system elements, such as sentencing and crime classifications.

One key recommendation: Eliminate incarceration as an option for technical violations of parole or probation.