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Social workers having ‘significant impact’ on public defense in Utah County

Utah County social workers have been having a “significant impact” on criminal defense for residents who can’t afford to hire legal counsel.

That’s according to the Utah County Public Defender Association, which provides “effective and efficient representation to those charged with crimes in Utah County.”

During a quarterly budget presentation before the Utah County Commission on Wednesday, Benjamin Young, who was hired in June 2020 as financial manager of the county public defender association, said the county recently approved letting social workers assist public defenders with their caseloads, which he said ended up being a “big success story.”

“And those social workers have been having a significant impact on the amount of work that the attorneys can do,” Young told the commission. “Because it’s taken off of their plate all of the (responsibilities like) taking a client to get services, to get them into programs, following up on them. … (It has) taken that off of the attorney’s plate where the social worker can focus on that, which lets each of the attorneys handle more cases.”

For years, public defenders in Utah County have been burdened by heavy caseloads, long work hours and staffing levels at “full capacity.”

Earlier this year, after an increase in the number of cases assigned to the Utah County Public Defender Association in 2020, the Utah Indigent Defense Commission approved a grant to hire two additional Utah County public defenders for a one-year term.

In the first quarter of 2021, Utah County public defenders handled 1,052 criminal cases, equating to about 17,500 work hours, or 56.2 hours per attorney per week, according to Young, who noted that the goal is to stay under 60 hours.

“So, I mean, that’s right there,” he said. “That’s at the funding level we want and with the appropriate number of attorneys.”

The decreased workload is mainly thanks to the social workers, according to Young, who noted that “they’re having a significant impact and it’s a huge time-saver for them (the public defenders).”

The financial manager said he is working on preparing “quantifiable data” to demonstrate the impact the social workers have had on the public defender association.

“In the interim, I would just say that it’s made a significant difference and it’s really gotten us where we should be,” he said.

According to a presentation on Wednesday, Utah County public defenders saw a decrease in drug cases and orders to show cause — where defendants are ordered to re-appear in court — in the first quarter of the year. At the same time, public defenders saw an increase in aggravated persons cases, which Young said require more time and resources to work on.

Young also noted that the public defender association is working with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services to get “special federal funding that’s reserved for child welfare,” funding that he said could be used to reimburse money spent by the county to provide public defense for parents and children in juvenile court.

“It’s just another avenue that we’re looking to expand every dollar that we get from Utah County to stretch it as far as possible. This would just expand those dollars a little bit further,” he said.

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The Lazarus Collection gets new life in form of permanent Provo display

A rare 1960s sports car assortment, dubbed the Lazarus Collection, has announced a permanent home at Specter Design in Provo.

The Lazarus Collection includes European sports cars like: A 1965 Triumph Spitfire MKII; 1967 Triumph TR4A; 1969 Triumph GT6+; 1959 Austin Healey Sprite; 1967 Lotus Elan Coupe; 1966 Honda S600 Coupe; 1968 Honda S800; 1969 MG MGB (not currently in Provo, but on its way soon); 1958 Berkeley Sports SE492 (getting put back to life in San Francisco then on its way to Provo soon); and a 1970 Triumph GT6+ modernized race car (located in Mendocino, California).from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the parking lot of Specter Design (the old Sears Tire store) just north of the main buildings of the Provo Towne Centre Mall.

A one-hour, open-to-all classic cars sunset drive will take place both days at 6 p.m. in which all of The Lazarus Collection cars will be driven around Provo.

The Lazarus Collection is a nonprofit featuring a fleet of 10 rare 1960s sports cars in original condition.

“The organization aims to promote community advancement and delight, educate and empower community members through preservation of the past,” said Anna Dunford, spokeswoman.

The Lazarus Collection offers free and donation-based classes in restoration, maintenance, and buying and selling on site at Specter Design.

Tanner Boyes — the owner of Specter Design, which renovates and rebuilds old cars — is excited to have the exhibit at his business.

“The passion for cars is universal,” Boyes said. “It gives you emotional and tangible memories. That’s why you see these cars around.”

Boyes said vintage cars are his whole life. He will be responsible to take care of the Lazarus Collection, which is owned by Cory Crellin.

According to Dunford, “the collection began to form in August of 2020, when owner and Brigham Young University Marriott School alumnus Crellin acquired a 1965 Triumph Spitfire MKII convertible dubbed ‘Little Blue.’ Since then the collection has grown to 10 sports cars, ranging in year from 1959 to 1970 and in color from Signal Red to Iris Blue to British Racing Green.”

The cars will be available for use in community events, school visits, Alzheimer’s facility visits, and as a fundraising mechanism for other nonprofits, according to Dunford.

Operations will be funded by the rental of the vehicles to photo shoots, films, weddings, for-profit companies and more.

“Each car in the collection is not only original and unique, but also carries a story with provenance from the day the car was first purchased to the present day,” Dunford said. “Like the 1968 Honda S800 in Lioness Yellow that was purchased in Guam in 1969 and owned for 51 years by the original buyer until her husband passed away in late 2020.”

Crellin sees these cars as art, history and technology all wrapped in one.

“If I had to pick a single word that I think is ever-present in every interaction I have with these lovely sports cars, the word is ‘delight.’ I want to share the delight that stems from the mere existence of these never-to-be-recreated human transportation gems,” Crellin said.

“For me the ideal dual purpose of this collection has always been and remains; to provide this collection as a community resource delivering the most value it can to the most in need, and to fund the charitable operations of the non-profit via revenue generated from customers who pay to use the cars for photos, film and more.”

Once the collection began to take shape it became clear that some of the vehicles would need an expert to properly restore the cars. Crellin enlisted the help of Boyes.

Boyes works on many different kinds of cars and is the maker of the “Specter Porsche”: a completely new sports car that features a 130-pound aluminum space frame and a Porsche 356 engine and represents a significant advancement in sports cars post-1973.

Crellin has a history of preservation and restoration. While living in downtown Salt Lake City, he purchased a 102-year old house two blocks from the Salt Lake Temple in order to preserve and maintain it.

He is also the lead preservationist and historian for the Dollaradio Station in Pacifica, California, a palatial residence built around a 1930s radio station that first enabled maritime wireless radio communications and currently stands 15 feet from an eroding 140-foot tall cliff edge.

Additionally, in 2012 he rescued more than 4,000 old library catalog cards from BYU’s Harold B. Lee library that he turned into a sculpture now housed in the entrance of the Springville Public Library.

For more information about the open house or about the Lazarus Collection at Specter Design, visit their Facebook or Instagram pages or send an email to anna@lazaruscollection.org.

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Grand celebration marks Potts' 100th birthday

As Ken Potts, one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona, made his way out of an old Buick and into the Provo Airport on Thursday, one of the many military service members on hand asked for a picture.

He laughed and said, "It'll cost you five dollars."

As everyone shared a laugh, Potts prepared to board a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter that made the trip from West Jordan.

This was his second time on the runway at the Provo Airport, as the veteran celebrated his 100th birthday on Thursday. The first time he was on the tarmac, an F-18 fighter jet made the trip from California to wish him a happy birthday.

The second time he and his wife were taken on a flight with the crew of the Black Hawk helicopter.

“It’s been almost stupefying how much interest there has been from around the country,” Wayne Potts, son of Ken and Dolores, said on Thursday.

As people have contacted Ken from around the country, sent him gifts, and helped him ring in the century mark, Wayne said that there has been a real care both locally and around the nation for his dad.

Potts then said that it is great to see the military caring about its old warriors, like his dad.

“It means a lot," Potts said. "I grew up with him, he was my taskmaster dad and he’s turned into this sweet old warrior. Everybody appreciates all of the attention that has been given to him. He’s a man of few words, so you don’t get a whole lot of emotion out of him, but I know he appreciates it.”

Surrounded by family and military personnel, Potts ended the celebration of his 100th birthday as one would expect, with cake.

To read more on Ken Potts and his story, click here.

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Utah Parents United speaks out against mask mandate for schools

Utah Parents United, a group started by Davis County parents, hosted a press conference inside of the Historic Provo Courthouse on Thursday, using the opportunity to speak out about children returning to school without masks and school districts allowing parents to write mask exemption notes.

Around the same time as the press conference, Governor Spencer Cox spoke during his monthly press conference on PBS and reiterated that there will be no change to the end of the mask mandate in K-12 schools throughout the state.

“We’re going to continue with where we are right now,” Cox said during the press conference. “Again, we’re constantly evaluating and reevaluating things. I’ve spoken to this issue many times, but to those parents and students, I understand that this is so hard. I would like nothing more than to be completely done with masks everywhere. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re driving towards. We’re so close right now though, and so my encouragement would be to stick with us, let’s finish this out, we’re not going to come back with masks in the fall, we’re going to be done with this, we’re excited to be done with this, and we’re getting there. We’re very close, but just hold on. If we were to take masks away right now, there would be a whole bunch of kids that would not be able to come to school and we want kids in school.”

His main message was for people to hold on for a couple more weeks until the end of the school year. For Utah Parents United, that message is not one that satisfies the group.

Jennifer Berry, the founder of Franklin Discovery School in Provo, said the school has allowed parents to make medical decisions about their students wearing masks. According to Berry, the added choice for parents has not impacted the school’s COVID-19 numbers and the school has operated full-time since Aug. 3 without a shutdown due to the disease.

She said that the choice given to parents brought what one parent described as a “miraculously normal school year and a haven of safety during an otherwise chaotic time.”

Berry even cited a significant playground neck injury that was due to a student wearing a mask, adding that masks are not developmentally appropriate for them.

“Nobody is saying that we should be irresponsible and do nothing to mitigate spread, no one is saying that the life of the high risk is not important, we are saying it is past time for the burden of COVID to be removed from our children,” Berry said. “We do not need to prolong the agony on our students any longer. School leaders, you can take a stand and give parents medical freedom. Governor Cox, it is time to take a stand and let our children breathe. I dare you.”

Other topics during the press conference revolved around the statewide mask mandate ending for adults, but not for children in school. Dr. Lyle Mason, a former team physician for the Utah Jazz, said that the 5-17 age range has proven to be the safest in society when it comes to COVID-19.

According to the statistics he cited, the hospitalization rate due to COVID-19 for that age range is 8 per 100,000 and the death rate is less than 1 per 100,000.

“When it comes to children, who are the safest group, they’re the least likely to get the disease, less likely to get real sick, less likely to go to the hospital, less likely to die,” Mason said during the press conference. “Them wearing masks, I do not really believe it protects them. I don’t believe they need protection. There’s been a lot of talk about the teachers and staff at schools, that they need protection. With the advent of the vaccines, which are now available, some priority was given to teachers and staff. At this point in time, if they choose to, school teachers and staff have been or could be vaccinated and immune.”

He continued, posing the question of how adults, who Mason said are much more likely to spread the disease, can be out and about without a mask while students are the ones having to wear masks in schools.

The overarching topic from the press conference was that parents should have a choice whether or not their students should wear a mask.

In a recent email to school districts obtained by the Daily Herald, Utah Department of Health Executive Director Rich Saunders clarified the situation to Utah Parents United’s argument.

He said that schools can choose to either require a medical directive documentation for the exemption or choose not to require any documentation. However, if the school decides to require documentation, that documentation can only be provided by certain types of medical providers, according to the order.

“The order does not allow for parents to grant face mask exemptions,” the email said.

The parental exemptions for masks is a decision that was made by the Kane County School District recently, allowing parents to write exemption notes that allow their students to attend school without a mask.

When asked about school districts having no alternative because of the state mandate, founder of Utah Parents United Corinne Johnson said she understood and countered.

“However, we are not asking school boards to end the mandate, we are asking them to change their policy and allow parents to declare the medical exemptions for their children as demonstrated by Kane County, charter schools, and private schools across the state of Utah,” Johnson said. “They have the power to do this, it is within their legal capabilities, and we ask every school district to allow parents to write exemptions for their children.”

While Kane County may be a small sample size in comparison to Utah or Davis counties, Johnson stressed that the data from school districts is consistent no matter the location. She argued that this showed how parent exemption notices would not make an impact on COVID-19 numbers, adding that the Davis School District has given out about 400 medical exemptions from a doctor and the COVID-19 numbers are comparable.

In response to the press conference and ongoing protest against the school districts, many have cited that it is not their decision to make. David Stephenson, administrator of public relations for the Alpine School District said that while there may be differing opinions on the mandate, the district has no legal authority to alter the mandate before June 15.

Stephenson has also talked about finishing the school year strong and on a high note.

“The strongest way a school district can finish the school year is to allow parents the right to make medical and health decisions for their children,” Johnson said. “We have to protect parent rights all of the time. This is important because these kids sacrificed for nine months, 10 months so that teachers could be vaccinated, so that we could understand how it’s spread through schools, and we have the information that our schools are safe. Yet they continue to require masks. To me that is not being a strong district, that is being a school district that is not changing, adapting, and moving with science and data. They are sticking with something they think works because they are unwilling to acknowledge parental rights.”

According to Stephenson, the Alpine School District has had minimal issues after returning from spring break.

“Our students, parents and communities have been extremely supportive as we look forward to celebrating students and conclude the school year with memorable activities over the next six weeks,” Stephenson said.

As for the support behind the See My Smile campaign, Johnson said that thousands of parents have been emailing, writing and calling local school boards around the state asking to allow the parental exemption notes for masks. She added that 10,000 parents from across the state are in Utah Parents United.

As for the thought moving forward, Cox doubled down in his press conference on Thursday and said that the children are a lot better than the parents. He said the students are showing they can do hard things and are willing to do those things to get through this.