The Utah County Commission hit pause on Friday on a controversial staffing change that officials criticized as a “power grab” that “should be extremely concerning to everyone.”
On Wednesday, commissioners Bill Lee and Tom Sakievich approved a staffing change moving county budget staff from under the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office to under the commission. The move was widely criticized as an erosion of the separation of powers, including by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner.
On Friday, Lee told the Daily Herald that he is placing an item on the agenda of the commission’s April 7 meeting “to put a pause on the actions that we took last Wednesday.”
“I would like to see us put this on a pause, get people together,” he said. “There are issues, and there’s probably issues (on) both sides that need to be addressed ... and as we get together and kind of iron them out, I think that we’ll wind up in a better place going forward.”
Lee, who noted that the change had technically already gone into effect but “nothing’s really been done,” said he notified Gardner on Friday afternoon that the commission would be hitting pause on the change.
The two commissioners made the change after complaining about a breakdown of communication between the commission and budget staff as they look to amend the 2021 budget and roll back a 2019 property tax increase.
“The budgeting process belongs to the commission and is supposed to be handled directly by the commission,” Sakievich said during Wednesday’s meeting, citing a 2012 bill giving a county’s legislative body the authority to appoint a budget officer.
But the sponsor of that bill, Republican Provo Sen. Curt Bramble, told the Daily Herald on Thursday he believed the commission’s action was not in line with the intent of the law and that the Utah State Legislature “likely will be revisiting” the law “to have a discussion about it, because what’s happened in Utah County was never anticipated in the statute.”
Bramble, Utah State Auditor John Dougall and other officials met with the county commissioners on Friday morning and expressed their concerns with the staff change.
In a written statement on Friday afternoon, Lee said that “after careful consideration and deliberation with legislators, I support indefinitely pausing the action taken on Wednesday regarding the budget office, and I have placed an item on next week’s Commission meeting agenda that will do just that.
“This means that the budget office would remain under the supervision of the Utah County Auditor,” the commissioner said.
The resolution, which Lee placed on the meeting’s agenda on Friday afternoon, states that the commission “desires to rescind the action … designating Rudy Livingston as the Utah County Budget Officer, to allow for time to further deliberate, study, and receive input regarding the proper designation of the Utah County Budget Officer.
“After the discussions I have had over the past couple of days, I now feel confident that the Utah County Commission will receive the full and impartial budget information we need as we seek to responsibly reduce the massive property tax increase of 2019,” Lee said in his statement. “I look forward to working with the budget office in achieving that goal.”
When asked for his response to the widespread criticism of the staff change, Lee told the Herald that “without fully hearing our side, the criticism can easily be seen,” adding that “there’s definitely more to the story.”
Sakievich said in a written statement that “after further dialogue with the Clerk/Auditor staff to find ways to reduce the $19.4M property tax increase, I intend to pause the action of moving the Budget Department to the Commission Office.”
Gardner, who called the change a “frightening idea” and rejected the claim that there had been unanswered communications between budget staff and the commission, said she was “very encouraged” by the commission’s decision to back away from the change.
“I’m happy that they’re willing to have open communication and to do things out in the sunshine,” Gardner told the Herald on Friday. “I’m very encouraged that we can come to a good conclusion and that we can have good government for the people of Utah County.”
Utah officials from various agencies and groups are making progress on the Provo River Delta Restoration Project after initially breaking ground on the 260-acre project last summer.
The restoration project is a multiagency effort to connect Utah Lake with the Provo River to aid in the recovery of the June sucker, fish native only to Utah Lake, as well as to increase access to trails and provide other recreational amenities around the lake.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources lent a helping hand this week with the project by transporting massive tree trunks and stumps that will be used as “habitat features” throughout the area.
On Thursday, the DWR, one of multiple state and federal agencies involved in the project, tweeted photos of the “strange cargo” loaded onto the back of service trucks.
“We’ve been busy loading and transporting tree trunks and stumps that will become habitat features at the Provo River Delta Restoration Project,” the agency announced.
The Utah Lake Commission thanked the state wildlife division for its help and said, “We’re excited to see the delta project coming together.”
Officials first broke ground on the project, which has taken more than a decade to plan and coordinate, in June 2020. They expect the project to be complete, with a new trail leading to the lake and “recreation features,” by 2024.
“The key thing about this project is we’re attempting to restore, if you will, the environment that was there in the past,” Mark Holden, executive director of the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission, said at the groundbreaking. “An environment that is supportive not only of the June sucker life history, but also for other species, other aquatic life that utilize Utah Lake and the Provo River.”
Throughout the latter half of 2020, officials excavated a series of delta river channels to divert the flow of the lower Provo River, according to the project’s website, which noted that officials will continue “excavating delta ponds and channels throughout 2021.”
Officials closed the north half of the Skipper Bay Dike Trail in mid-March to “lower” the section of dike and relocate the trail and noted that doing so is “needed for delta restoration.” The south half of the Skipper Bay Dike Trail will remain open throughout construction.
Included in the project is the Provo River Delta Gateway Park, which will feature “interpretive exhibits and a themed playground and will serve as a hub connecting the existing Provo River Parkway trail to the planned Skipper Bay trail that will be built along the southern boundary of the new delta,” according to a description of the park, which noted that “Phase 1 of (the) Delta Gateway Park was supposed to be constructed last fall, but the schedule has been delayed while needed agreements with Provo City continue to be negotiated.”
“Timing of park construction depends on the progress of these negotiations,” the project website said.
Throughout the coming months, the Provo River Delta Restoration Project will host tours to help the public learn about the restoration effort. The tours will take place on the second Saturday of the month beginning on April 10 and ending on Oct. 9.
To sign up for one of the tours, which will require masks and physical distancing, visit http://www.provoriverdelta.us.
The UVU athletics department celebrated this week the opening of the new dõTERRA Athletic Performance Center on campus, which will include coaches’ offices, a film screening room for performance evaluation and preparation, a lounge, and training and locker room spaces.
The new facilities will act as a hub for the women’s volleyball team, taking up half of the space at the site, while also being used periodically by the women’s basketball team and the wrestling team.
“The dõTERRA Performance Center provides state-of-the-art locker rooms, rest, rehabilitation, recovery, sports medicine, and office space for multiple UVU athletic teams to use,” UVU Athletic Director Jared Sumsion said. “This elevates our recruiting profile, and allows our programs to be more successful both on and off the court.”
One of the other important things to note is the possibility for expansion within the athletics department, leading to the addition of more teams to the program moving forward.
In a press release from the university, the women’s volleyball team’s outside hitter Tori Dorius spoke about the team never having anything like this facility. She added that it offers a space for the team to relax, do homework, hold team bonding events, watch film and interact with coaches. She said it will help the team athletically, physically and mentally.
“The world of Division I athletics has evolved so much and in order to be competitive from a recruiting standpoint, you have to be able to provide the student-athletes the best resources possible,” Sumsion said. “Our focus is not only to win in competition but also to win in the classroom. Being a student-athlete is not easy, and this helps give them the tools to be successful in all facets of what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Assistant women’s volleyball coach Scott Lee said in the release that the center, which opened Tuesday, also will help greatly with recruitment for the team going forward.
The center also shows a commitment from the university and athletics department to women’s sports, something that Sumsion spoke about.
“Our women’s programs are of the utmost importance to us,” Sumsion said. “Finding the resources for all 16 of our sports is difficult, and it’s humbling for dõTERRA to come in and help provide support for all of them in one way or another.”
Sumsion said the university has high expectations and goals, and collaborative community partnerships like the one with dõTERRA help that growth happen. He added that dõTERRA’s generosity has been instrumental not only for the athletics department but for several academic focuses across UVU’s campus.
“At dõTERRA, we are about empowering people, and we are about excellence, and we are about making the world a better place — UVU accomplishes all of these things,” said Corey Lindley, dõTERRA founding executive and CFO, in a press release.
The UVU women’s volleyball team is hosting the Western Athletic Conference semifinals and championship games this weekend. The team is 12-4 in WAC play, and the 12 wins are the most in program history.
UVU was set to play Grand Canyon University in one semifinal matchup on Friday at 2 p.m., with a trip to the conference championship on the line.
About the time Easter and Spring Break rolls around, so do the spring cleanup chores.
Both Provo and Orem have released their dates and locations for the annual cleanups beginning Monday in Provo. The days are warming, and working in the yard and garden and cleaning out garages and other areas of the house have started. For information on cleanup, recycling and the discarding of hazardous waste not covered in the following information, residents are encouraged to call their city’s 311 centers.
Provo City is providing dumpsters free of charge to help residents clear out unwanted items, declutter, spruce up their yard, etc.
Take a look at the information below for dumpster locations, transfer station coupons, compost yard hours, and more.
Dispose of trash, yard waste and metals free of charge using dumpsters located throughout the city through May 8, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dumpsters at the compost yard are open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Residents are asked to separate the yard waste and metals from the trash and put them in the appropriate dumpsters. The dumpsters will be closed nightly, and it is unlawful to leave items on the ground. Illegal dumping costs thousands of dollars at the expense of Provo taxpayers and possible discontinuance of the program, according to city information.
Provo dumpster schedule:
• Through Saturday, Lions Park, 950 W. 1280 North.
• Monday through April 10, Pole Yard, 2027 W. 820 North.
• April 12-17, Footprinters Park, 1150 S. 1350 West.
• April 19-24, Rock Canyon Park, 2620 N. 1200 East.
• April 26 to May 1, Peaks Ice Arena, 100 N. Seven Peaks Blvd.
• May 3-8, 3850 N. Canyon Road.
• Now through May 8, Provo Compost Yard, 1625 S. Industrial Parkway.
Provo residents may take trash directly to the South Utah Valley Solid Waste District Transfer Station located at 2450 W. 400 South, Springville, through May 8, Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., free of charge using the coupon found in the residents’ Vol 2 Issue 2 Newsletter.
Residents’ “Solid Waste Transfer Coupon” is good for one pickup truck or single-axle trailer load. You must show Provo ID (drivers license or utility bill). All loads must be covered to avoid a $4 tarp fee.
If you have questions about what is acceptable, call Provo City Customer Service at (801) 852-6000 (311), or the transfer station at (801) 489-3027.
The Compost Yard, 1625 S. Industrial Parkway, will be open all week during Spring Cleanup, and drop off will be during those weeks. Hours of operation will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (weather dependent).
Drop off material is limited to Provo residents who will need to come with a copy of a current Provo utility bill. No lumber, building material, treated wood, logs over 10 inches in diameter or trash at the Compost Yard. No loads from commercial haulers or landscapers will be accepted.
Organic compost will be available to purchase for residents at $3 per yard, and for nonresidents at $6 per yard, depending on availability.
Recycling bins are available to residents at Kiwanis Park, 820 N. 1100 East, and the Compost Yard. Glass recycling is at the corner of 100 W. 300 North.
Residents should turn organic yard waste into plant nourishing compost. Sign up for Green Can Yard Waste Collection by calling (801) 852-6000. Green cans are picked up once a week, now through Dec. 2. Green yard waste cans will be emptied the same day as regular garbage pickup.
Due to COVID-19, Utah County Health Department once again will not be able to hold an in-person event. Instead, residents can bring their Household Hazardous Waste for free to the South County Solid Waste District in Springville. This includes electronic waste, paint, batteries, fuel, household cleaners, etc. For requirements and a full list of waste accepted visit suvswd.org/compost.
Unwanted bicycles can be donated to Provo Bicycle Collective, a local nonprofit. This organization of bicycle enthusiasts refurbished nearly 500 bicycles last year and sent them back out into the local community.
Depending on the quality and condition of the bike, it may be fixed by volunteers and given away to individuals in need, refurbished by professional mechanics and sold to fund the shop, or stripped for parts and recycled.
Tax-deductible receipts will be provided for your donation upon request.
As part of Orem’s spring cleanup efforts dumpsters will be placed in the parking lots of the following parks throughout the city. Residents are allowed to use any of the locations to deposit waste as long as they have proof of residency.
April 19-24, Nielsen’s Grove Park, 278 W. 2000 South.
April 26 to May 1, Scera Park, 500 S. 400 East.
May 3-15, Palisade Park, 1313 E. 800 North.
Dumpsters are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Regular trash, green waste and metal recycling bins will be available. Bins will be monitored by city employees so there is no cross contamination.
Oils and glass can be taken to the Orem Public Works Department at 1450 W. 550 North.
Trash not allowed in the dumpsters includes paint, tires, auto parts and batteries, electronics, fluorescent bulbs, appliances, concrete and mattresses.
For more information on the Orem spring cleanup, residents can look for the city newsletter in their utility bills or visit the city website at http://orem.org.