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Provo Municipal Airport takes flight with groundbreaking of new terminal

With a puff of red, white and blue smoke from a brief explosion, the ground was broken at the Provo Municipal Airport on a new terminal that will bring up to 10 new gates and more than 22 flights a day to and from Provo.

“Provo city is taking flight,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi. “This is truly an example of cooperation with the federal, state, county and city governments.”

Kaufusi was referring to the many years of preparation it has taken for Wednesday’s groundbreaking for the new terminal.

The terminal is expected to be completed in December 2021.

From Mayor Lewis Billings getting the radar and control tower, Mayor John Curtis building the first terminal, and now the new and improved terminal, there have been countless hours spent getting ready for this day.

“Flight is an integral part of what we do or who we are,” said County Commissioner Bill Lee. “I would think the Provo airport will become a microcosm of activity.”

Lee referred to a comment he heard indicating that if this terminal were to be built it would “open the floodgates of awesomeness.”

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, representing Gov. Gary Herbert, said he had been with a business group in New York City recently and the company helps large clients find the best places to do business.

“They said years ago the never looked at Utah. These are big clients,” Cox said. “Utah is now in the top three.”

Cox said he asked what Utah needed to do to stay in the top and the response was to build infrastructure.

“Utah invests in infrastructure,” Cox said. “This is a game changer, it changes everything.”

Business growth will be one of the payoffs for having the expanded airport and Rona Rahlf, president of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the county is ready to bring it on.

“Infrastructure enables trade, powers businesses, and creates opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Rahlf said. “The Utah County business community eagerly anticipates the completion of the new Provo Airport Terminal and is grateful for this visionary investment in our future.”

Airport manager Steve Gleason in talking about the future of the airport said, “Having more airlines (here) is inevitable.

“If you can fly out of Provo even once, you’ll never (want to) fly out of anywhere else,” Gleason said. “This terminal is designed around Utah County. When you walk in you’re at home. It is an extension of downtown Provo. We’ll see that it is so comfortable and so stress free.”

Gleason said the airport is the second busiest airport in the state and can take airplane sizes up to a Boeing 757. The new design even has a windowed area for families to meet and greet Latter-day Saint missionaries, which he anticipates will be a part of the future. The terminal is designed with windows that allow families to see the missionary come off the plane and right into the terminal.

Gleason said it is similar to the Colorado Springs Airport with similar demographic, colleges, families and population size.

Eli Lucero/Herald Journal 

BYU running back Sione Finau (35) carries the ball as Utah State safety Shaq Bond, left, and cornerback Andre Grayson (21) defend during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

LDS Church's Giving Machine coming to Orem this Christmas season

Orem will be home to one of 10 locations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Giving Machines this Christmas season.

According to a press release from the church, a Giving Machine will be located at University Place in Orem starting Nov. 26.

“This year we will be adding new locations for our Giving Machines,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, General Authority Seventy in a press release. “This unique way to give not only blesses the life of the giver, but also lifts the receiver in locations all around the world. Our hope is to offer opportunities to Light the World one by one.”

Along with helping worldwide charities, the Orem machine will help local groups as well. Donations in the Orem machine will include items benefiting the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, Community Action Services, United Way of Utah County, and the Family Support and Treatment Center.

“We are unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to be included in the Giving Machines,” said Karen McCandless, executive director of Community Action Services and Food Bank. “Our agency depends heavily on donations made during the holiday season, and this will help propel us toward our goal of eliminating poverty in our area.”

Bill Hulterstrom, president of the United Way of Utah County said, “We are absolutely thrilled being a part of the Giving Machines program.”

This will be the third year that the church has used Giving Machines — vending machines where people can purchase items that will then be donated to people in need around the world.

The items in the machines range in price from $2 to $310 and include food, clothing, medicine, hygiene supplies, sporting equipment and livestock.

The Giving Machines raised more than $2.3 million in 2018 for global charities.

“These Giving Machines are an example of the big things that can happen when many people give just a little,” added Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president in a press release. “That is what it means to Light the World one by one – when we each give what we can offer, our little light adds to a brightness of hope.”

Other Giving Machine locations are at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City; Las Vegas, Nevada; Gilbert, Arizona; Laie, Hawaii; Denver, Colorado; San Jose, California; New York, New York; London, England and Manila, Philippines.

Relatives remember women and kids gunned down near border

HERRIMAN — The three women who were gunned down with six of their children in northern Mexico by suspected drug cartel members were remembered Tuesday as good people who loved their families and enjoyed quiet lives centered around a successful pecan farming operation south of the U.S. border.

Austin Cloes, a Utah relative of the victims, said during an interview at his home in a Salt Lake City suburb that he saw all the victims at a family reunion in Mexico last summer, where they played basketball and spent time together.

“These sorts of people shouldn’t just be buried without their names being put out there,” Cloes said. “These are great people. These are U.S. citizens.”

Cloes knew Dawna Langford, 43, the best and called her a loving and caring woman who was proud of her children. He choked up talking about hearing reports that another victim, Christina Langford, might have saved her baby Faith’s life by placing her on the car floor.

Cloes said the members of his extended family did not follow the doctrine of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he follows, but they were religious and believed in Jesus Christ.

Cloes said none of the family members he knows practice polygamy, even though the tiny community in La Mora in Sonora, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona, was founded long ago by people who left the mainstream church in the U.S. to escape its 19th century ban on the practice.

A number of similar American farming communities are clustered around the Chihuahua-Sonora state border with many members born in Mexico, giving them dual citizenship with the United States.

Many members of the La Mora community don’t live in the hamlet full time, with a lot of the men traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico to work, said Aaron Staddon, whose wife, Leah, grew up there.

In those days, La Mora was so isolated his wife didn’t have to learn Spanish, Staddon said.

“My wife loved it, my kids love it,” said Staddon, who now lives with his wife and children in the Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek, Arizona. “We go down there because they can go out and just run and be kids.”

Staddon said he and his wife had even planned to take their children there for Thanksgiving despite growing concerns about safety by some relatives looking into buying land in Arizona.

The rule of thumb was “travel during the day, nothing will happen,” Staddon said. “Travel in a group, nothing will happen.”

Taylor Langford, who splits his time between the Mexican community and his home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman, Utah, said the three women killed were his aunt and two cousins.

His father and uncle, who were both in Mexico when the attack took place, told him each woman was driving a separate car when they were ambushed on a quiet dirt road they often traveled without problems.

He said Rhonita Miller, and her four children, including 8-month-old twins, were traveling about 10 miles behind the other vehicles when their car was struck by gunfire and engulfed in flames.

The gunmen then attacked the other cars, one carrying Christina Langford and her baby and the other carrying Dawna Langford and nine children. He said several children survived, including a 9-year-old girl who was shot in the arm and found hours later.

Miller’s father, Adrian LeBaron, said in a brief telephone conversation from Sonora state that the family had requested help from the Mexican government but had not yet heard back. He spoke during a break providing information to authorities at the medical examiner’s office.

“She was fired at, all shot up, burned,” LeBaron said of his daughter.

Miller and her children were remembered fondly Tuesday in North Dakota, where they had previously lived.

State Sen. Jordan Kannianen said Miller had attended the Sunday school class he taught in Stanley. He said she was kind and “very earnest about her faith.”

The Miller and Kannianen children had also attended Sunday school together, the senator said.

He said Miller, her husband and their two older children left North Dakota before the twins were born earlier this year.

Kannianen’s wife, Elizabeth, said she cannot bring herself to tell her own children about what happened.

“I haven’t told our kids about it,” she said. “I fear it’s too much.”

Commissioner Lee suggests abandoning death penalty, renewing ICE-sheriff’s office contract to balance 2020 budget

Utah County’s three commissioners were met by frustrated, heated county residents Wednesday evening during the first public town hall since the commission proposed a property tax increase.

The tax hike was proposed last month during a budget discussion in which the commission worked to address the county’s deficit, which has increased for years and is expected to reach $10.5 million in the red by 2020.

In its current form, the proposal would double the general levy portion of property taxes — which makes up 6.8% percent of the total property tax distribution — meaning that the average county homeowner would pay an additional $123.45 in taxes a year, or $10.29 a month.

This is the maximum increase being proposed, and it could be lower if the commission finds additional areas to cut back on expenses.

The increase would give Utah County an additional $28.6 million in revenue to address what has been referred to as “critical deficiencies in essential resources, including health, law enforcement and attorney services.

The idea of increasing property taxes has come up in previous years, but the commission has rejected implementing a tax hike and has instead dealt with deficits by dipping into the county’s reserve funds and finding ways to cut spending.

At Wednesday’s town hall, which was held at the Utah County Health and Justice Building, Commissioner Bill Lee proposed a number of cuts in order to balance next year’s budget, as well as using $2.9 million from county reserves with an understanding that the money would be returned at a later point.

Lee suggested that the county no longer pursue capital punishment cases, which would save the county $1 million annually. Instead, the county would pursue other charges, such as life without parole, and not push for death sentences.

Lee also said the Utah County Sheriff’s Office should consider re-entering a previously terminated contract with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows for immigration detainees to be held in the county jail. The contract is worth around $4.5 million in annual revenue, according to Lee.

As an alternative, Lee said the county should ask the Sheriff’s Office for $2.4 million that it said it received for backing out of the ICE agreement, an amount that has not materialized.

The Sheriff’s Office terminated the contract in December 2016 due to a lack of resources for housing inmates, the Deseret News reported. As a result, detainees being held in Utah were transferred out of state, in some cases as far as Alabama.

Various county departments who receive revenue through the general fund have asked from an additional $14 million for 2020, according to a presentation during Wednesday’s town hall. The three commissioners went through these requests and ranked them as being high, medium-high, medium, or low priority.

Lee suggested that only high and medium-high requests be approved, which means $3.3 million in requests would be approved and $10.9 million would be rejected.

The county could also request additional funds from the State Legislature, Lee said.

In all, Lee said his proposals would save the county more than $34 million.

Commissioner Tanner Ainge said he supports the majority of the cuts proposed by Lee, but that the “math was flawed” and would alone not balance the 2020 budget.

“I’ll just tell you … those holes are not filled with just those cuts,” said Ainge.

Commissioner Nathan Ivie said that, while he also supports most of Lee’s proposed cuts, that many county departments are in serious need of increased funding.

The Utah County Attorney’s Office, for example, currently has attorneys that handle between 200 and 250 cases a year, significantly more than the bar association’s recommendation of 90 cases a year per attorney.

Ivie added that “serious” crime has increased in the 15 years in the county, and that law enforcement needs appropriate staffing levels to ensure residents are protected.

The town hall became heated during moments that focused on the proposed property tax increase.

During a presentation by Utah County deputy clerk/auditor Josh Daniels, in which Daniels was describing the decrease in property tax number amounts since 1985 when adjusted for inflation, one audience member accused Daniels of using selective graphs and numbers to guide an audience toward a certain conclusion.

Daniels responded that he was presenting the relevant information and that additional graphs and information would be posted on the county auditor’s website.

Another audience member asked why his property taxes seemed to increase year after year if general levy rates have dropped consistently. Daniels responded that this would happen if a person’s house appreciated at a faster rate than other houses in the county, or if there was an increase in another portion of the property tax pie, such the portion that goes to school districts.

The commissioners will discuss the potential property tax increase further during a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Utah County Administration Building.