Provo residents have experienced many things in 2020 they never expected and others they have highly anticipated and hoped for.
To show that even COIVD-19 can’t keep Provo from moving forward, here is a look at the top five stories in 2020.
Construction on the new Provo city hall officially began at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10, with the demolition of the old Rocky Mountain Drive-in at 50 S. 500 West.
Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, after brief comments on a live Facebook feed, climbed into a large backhoe and dropped the first smashing claw on the drive-in’s southeast side.
“Today is a historic day for Provo city as we see the first visible signs of construction on our new Provo City Center,” Kaufusi said at that groundbreaking. “This day would not be possible were it not for our citizens seeing this need and trusting us.”
After more than two years of looking at options and warming residents to the needs and wants of the city, voters approved the Police, Fire and City Facilities Bond in November 2018.
That vote authorized the city to issue up to $69 million in general obligation bonds for the new city center, and for a remodel on Fire Station 2.
“Our goal for the new public safety building is focused on safety and security for our employees and guests, a facility that allows us to be more efficient in our work and large enough to handle future growth,” said Rich Ferguson, police chief in Provo.
The center is not just for the personnel and safety officers but for the residents as well, according to Kaufusi.
“Provo City Center will be the ‘Citizen’s City Center,’ and I want each citizen to be able to track the construction progress, know their money is being wisely spent and feel confident we are keeping the promises we made to them,” Kaufusi said.
With that goal in mind, the city released a new construction website at http://ProvoCityCenter.org, complete with videos, renderings, a feedback form and a timeline.
While COVID-19 may have slowed some aspects of construction, Scott Henderson, serving as project manager, remains optimistic with the set timeline.
“Construction of Provo’s New City Center building remains on budget and on schedule. The pandemic has made large crew management difficult and many supply chains are not as reliable,” Henderson said. “Working with our design team, VCBO Architecture, and general contractor, Layton Construction, the focus has stayed on quality and efficient construction management. This beautiful and effective building will be a net result of these committed efforts.”
The beginning of 2020 was also a celebration period for Provo residents as plans for the new and expanded Provo Municipal Airport and its four new gates took shape.
Anticipated costs includes $40 million for the terminal and apron expansion, along with additional costs for parking, utility extension and road connections, according to city administration.
The latest allotment, granted on May 4, from the FAA is $9 million designated for terminal expansion. City funding includes utility and road improvements, grant matches and internal projects for cost savings.
“Of the 439 grants given nationally, the Provo Airport was #9 and was the only regional airport in the top 10 (the other nine were international airports),” said Kaufusi in a press release. “Provo is destined to be the second busiest commercial airport in the state upon completion.”
Kaufusi added, “The cumulative governmental funding commitment shows not only the airport’s economic potential, regionally and statewide, but also our geographic ability to partner with the Salt Lake International Airport and other airports in the region to foster growth in commercial air service in the future.”
So far, the airport has been awarded $23 million from the FAA in infrastructure grants. The announcement of an additional $9 million comes from a $1.187 billion grant fund for airport safety and infrastructure throughout the country.
The money will be available for 100% of the eligible costs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. An industry report on these grants can be found at https://flyingmag.com.
To keep the flying customers happy, Allegiant airlines announced on Aug. 27 a new Provo to Denver route and on Nov. 17 Allegiant announced flights to Orange County, California, the gateway to Disneyland and other amusement and entertainment locations. It is anticipated that other airlines being talked to will come to Provo when the new terminal and gates are completed in 2022.
In order to facilitate the building of a new medical school adjacent to the East Bay Golf Course, a three-hole redesign was started and completed.
As part of the completion and redesign, the facility dropped the name East Bay Golf Course and went back to the original name of Timpanogos Golf Club.
“Transformative change is a term you hear every once in a while. If you want to see an example of it, look at the new Timpanogos Golf Club,” said Scott Henderson, director of Parks and Recreation. “Pick your most dynamic change. Is it the newly remodeled championship course, the lighted par 3 course, family-friendly golf facility, or the lighted driving range and golf training features? All this progress was made and finished during a pandemic.”
Labor and operations were tough, but success is always tough, Henderson added. The Timpanogos Golf Club will revolutionize golf nationally through these dedicated efforts.
As part of the November 2018 bond election, residents of Provo voted to renovate and rebuild Provo’s Fire Station 22 in northeast Provo.
The station was dedicated and had a ribbon cutting for the public on Sept. 11, Patriot’s Day.
“For the first time in 20 years, I have the honor of opening a new fire station,” Kaufusi said at the event. “It is appropriate to open it this Patriots’ Day. It needed to be opened today. This is a noble and selfless profession — firefighting. They run into a burning building while everyone else is running away.”
Kaufusi added firefighters look out for all because they have an inner calling.
“We can never truly repay you for your sacrifice,” she said. “What we can give you is a place to lay your weary heads at night.”
The station includes not only sleeping areas, restrooms and showers, but also a fully equipped professional kitchen and a community center. The community center is one of only a handful included in fire stations across the country and is not just for the firefighters but also for others to hold meetings, including Boy Scout troop meetings and other kinds of neighborhood gatherings.
Provo’s Fire Station 22 is located in northeast Provo on Canyon Road.
Coupled with that addition to the public safety of Provo, Police Chief Rich Ferguson and Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Parker received special recognition in 2020.
Ferguson was named Utah’s Police Chief of the Year. Parker was named the International City Manager of the year.
“Chief Richard Ferguson has always been a leader. From his days in Major Crimes to rising through the ranks, he has always been a positive role model to those above him and below,” said Brent Jex, President of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police. “He has been a long time member of the FOP. To watch his leadership when Joe (Shinners) was killed last year was remarkable. He was there for us, cried with us, prayed with us, and made sure we were all ok, well as ok as we could be in that situation. For those reasons, I submit Chief Ferguson as FOP’s Chief of the Year.”
Kaufusi added her thoughts to Jex’s comments.
“I’ve always known we had the best police chief and I’m glad it’s finally official,” Kaufusi said. “Despite the challenges COVID-19 is creating for everyone, I’m so glad we have the technology to make sure every citizen who Chief Ferguson tirelessly serves can see this recognition and know how much he cares for them and this community.”
Parker has served three mayors and nearly 20 years in Provo. He is the person many people rely on for institutional knowledge and understanding of Provo.
Provo Fire and Rescue Chief James Miguel says he is excited to have his new station fitted for high tech and to have much more room for his firefighters.
In addition to the administrative stories of 2020, the Provo Municipal Council had two major long-running discussions that should be noted.
After months of working on the issue, the council approved a zone change and a Class F beer license that now allows ancillary breweries in restaurants in certain areas of Provo.
This took seven months, numerous public hearings, discussions, a public try at a referendum that came up short.
After several zoning proposals, lobbying by residents and developers, the council approved a new hillside overlay zone to protect the east benches of Provo.
The long-term effects will still allow for development but with stringent rule and regulations, particularly on keeping the hillside in its natural state as much as possible.
Editor’s note: Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.
Kayla Bradshaw, director of Volunteers at the United Way of Utah County, is still basking in the glow of another successful holiday season of giving.
As director of volunteers, Bradshaw oversees the Sub for Santa program as well as the Day of Caring and the Digital Inclusion programs at United Way of Utah County.
By far, the biggest event is Sub for Santa, which Bradshaw said is ongoing.
“It’s on our minds year-round,” Bradshaw said. “We start actively planning in August.”
Bradshaw and several volunteers worked to make sure families through the Sub for Santa program were taken care of before Christmas Eve.
“Kayla led a team of superheroes this Christmas,” said Bill Hulterstrom, president and CEO of United Way of Utah County. “So many amazing volunteers stepped up and did miraculous work.”
Numbers were up from last year, according to Bradshaw, but not as much as they anticipated, taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bradshaw said she noticed that families that were already struggling seemed to be struggling more this Christmas.
“We worried we weren’t going to have enough volunteers,” Bradshaw said. “But volunteers signed up early and were there to serve.”
Sub for Santa helped 1,885 families and 5,967 individuals this Christmas.
In addition to the volunteer families, individuals and businesses also helped in taking care of Sub for Santa families. Bradshaw said she had several volunteers working in the warehouse and registering families in need.
There were approximately 221 volunteers that helped with the new drive-thru sign up at the Provo City Library underground parking lot, and about 45 working in the warehouse pulling books, clothes and toys for distribution.
Because of COVID-19 and social distancing concerns, Bradshaw and her volunteers — working with Google — developed the new drive-thru registration at the library.
Volunteers were there to input information as individuals remained in their cars. After they completed the registration, applicants were able to drive out the other side of the underground parking lot.
“Volunteers braved the cold to help families sign up to receive the needed help,” Hulterstrom said. “Kayla has worked long hours to ensure that all families in need got the help that they needed. I was getting emails from her at 2 a.m.”
Some of those volunteers have been helping year after year. According to Bradshaw, the Sub for Santa program gets a lot of return volunteers.
“Sub for Santa usually takes a lot of hard work, but in 2020, the workload was even greater,” Hulterstrom said. “Kayla not only worked hard but she also had to constantly adapt and change to accommodate the strange year and growing needs.”
“You would often hear volunteers saying, ‘I am done with this assignment, what more can I do?’” according to Hulterstrom.
Bradshaw said 2020 is ending in good shape.
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I thought we would have to quarantine and that there would be no one that would want to help us.”
Bradshaw added: “I’ve been impressed on how many came out. I want to believe that Utah County has the highest numbers of volunteers than anywhere else in the country.”
While that may not be the case, Bradshaw is proud of the efforts made here in Utah County.
“I really only get to facilitate other people’s service,” Bradshaw said. “I get to orchestrate it, but I’m not the power behind it. It’s individuals in the community that make it happen.”
That is not only true for Sub for Santa but for all of the services that need volunteers through United Way of Utah County.
According to Bradshaw, there were about 2,500 volunteers that signed up through United Way online sites in 2020 with many more out in the community that didn’t go through the online method.
Bradshaw said partnerships with local media have greatly impacted the Sub for Santa program.
“People would call saying they have a toy for a child they read about that wanted that exact toy,” she said. “We got books from a publisher of children’s books that saw stories as well as two car dealerships that wanted to give a family a car.”
That kind of service, according to Hulterstrom, continues through the year with a newer program called Sub for Santa Plus. It takes the program further to help those in need to find resources, sign up at food banks or provide whatever is needful to get families back on their feet again.
That is why Bradshaw and her volunteers continue to do what they do. It is because they can not only see how much they help but how good it makes them feel.
For now, Bradshaw and her volunteers are revving up for Day of Caring in late summer, continuing to find new avenues of help and connection for the Digital Inclusion program, and hoping that things will be better for the 2021 holiday season when Santa will call again from the North Pole, wondering if Utah County has some helpers for him.
The Utah Valley Earth Forum released its “Environmental Survey of Greater Utah Valley Communities” for 2020, highlighting recent efforts by Utah County cities to become more environmentally sustainable.
The survey, which the Utah Valley Earth Forum has conducted annually since 2012, covers a myriad of environmental policies, including energy conservation, air quality and transportation, land use, zoning and growth, water conservation, consumption and solid waste, trees and local food and light pollution.
One of the objectives of the survey — according to James Westwater, chair of the Utah Valley Earth Forum — is to “inventory what (Utah Valley) communities say they are doing to help improve the health of their citizens and the environment we share.”
But the survey is also meant “to suggest to communities many things they can do to help improve environmental and human health, to motivate and encourage communities to do more to improve their environmental sustainability, to acknowledge outstanding achievement in environmental sustainability, and to inform the public as to who is doing what to help the environment and improve sustainability.”
“So it’s not just an inventory,” Westwater said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s also a list of things that our communities can do to improve their stewardship.”
Seven Utah County cities responded to the 2020 survey: Lehi, Lindon, Orem, Provo, Salem, Spanish Fork and Woodland Hills.
Four cities — Provo, Orem, Lehi and Woodland Hills — reported in 2020 that they had an environmental adviser or office “to steer the community in being a responsible steward of the environment.”
Cedar Hills, which did not provide responses to this year’s survey, reported in 2019 that the city had an environmental adviser or board.
This is an improvement, according to Westwater, who noted that only two communities “indicated they had a stewardship advisor person or board in 2012.”
“What is very noteworthy is the progress many communities have made in Utah Valley in being more environmentally friendly and sustainable,” he said in a statement.
Spanish Fork, Salem, Orem and Lehi reported that they have an educational program “to educate our community regarding responsible stewardship of the environment.” Additionally, Spanish Fork, Provo and Orem reported having “a way of formally recognizing community members who exemplify good stewardship of the environment.”
On the subject of energy conservation, Lehi and Provo reported having “a firm commitment to steadily replace carbon energy/carbon fuel with clean, safe (and) renewable energy,” while Salem, Spanish Fork, Orem and Lehi reported having “net-metering that credits one-to-one solar installation owners for the clean energy they produce.”
Provo was the only city that reported using tiered energy rates to “incentivize energy conservation” by rewarding conservation and discouraging waste, while Lehi joined Provo in reporting that “over the past five years, we substantially reduced our entire community’s ‘carbon footprint.’”
When asked about water conservation, Lindon reported that it prices irrigation water for “both residential and agricultural use.” Lindon, Orem, Provo and Woodland Hills all reported having tiered water rates “that reward conservation and discourage waste,” something Lehi said it is currently working on.
Lehi, Orem and Provo are the only cities in the county to indicate that they provide receptacles “where residents can deposit their waste glass,” while Lehi, Lindon, Orem and Provo reported having green waste recycling programs.
Lehi, Orem and Provo reported having public community gardens “where citizens can grow fresh produce,” which Highland indicated in 2019.
Westwater said the survey results will benefit current and future residents, noting that “it’s good for the public to know that there are good things that are going on here.”
“So if you were thinking of moving into a different community or moving into Utah Valley, and you wanted to live in a community that you felt is really doing a really good job to help the environment, this list will help you,” Westwater said. “Because it will show you who’s doing what.”
Westwater noted fewer cities responded to this year’s survey because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The full Utah Valley Earth Forum 2020 survey is available at http://uvef.org/2020_ES.html.