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LDS Church announces Orem Temple groundbreaking

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday the date for the groundbreaking for the Orem Temple.

The ceremony will be held Saturday, Sept. 5, under the direction of Elder Craig C. Christensen, Utah Area president. He will be the presiding authority.

Because of current COVID-19 restrictions, arrangements are being made for a video recording of the groundbreaking ceremony to be made available for viewing. More information surrounding the details will be forthcoming.

It may not have an Angel Moroni on top, but the new Orem Temple will be seen by thousands along Interstate 15.

“The city looks forward to the groundbreaking of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Orem Utah Temple. Since the announcement, the church has served as a wonderful partner in addressing concerns and issues associated with development of the temple site,” said Jamie Davidson, city manager. “As a community of faith that prides itself on being family-centered, the temple and associated buildings will be a welcome addition to Orem.”

Orem Mayor Richard Brunst said that while most of Orem will not be able to readily see it, the edifice will be a blessing to the community.

“I’m very excited to have the temple here,” Brunst said. “We are blessed and lucky to have it.”

Brunst notes that the UVX route is close to the temple as is Utah Valley University. He hopes that Utah Transit Authority will have some sort of shuttle from the nearby FrontRunner station to the temple for patrons wanting to attend.

“It’s a beautiful design,” Brunst said. “Even though there is no Angel Moroni on top.”

Brunst and others on the city council were hoping for the iconic symbol of Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet to be on top like many other temples in the areas and throughout the world. However, the newest temple designs have kept Moroni off.

He believes the LDS Church has taken time to understand the history of the area and that will be manifested in the interior designs of the building. This could include nods to the many orchards of apple, peach and cherry trees.

The new temple will be located on a 16-acre site at approximately 1471 South Geneva Road, west of Interstate 15 and south of University Parkway.

Plans include a three-story temple of about 70,000 square feet with a center spire. A 20,000-square-foot meetinghouse is to be constructed on the temple site as well.

The Orem Utah Temple is one of two Utah temples announced in October 2019 by Church President Russell M. Nelson. Utah currently has 17 operating temples. In addition to Orem, temples have been announced in Syracuse, Taylorsville, Tooele Valley and Washington County.

Temples in Layton and Saratoga Springs are currently under construction. This brings the total to 24 temples announced, under construction, under renovation or in operation in the state.

There are currently more than 2.1 million Latter-day Saints in Utah, which is just under two-thirds of the state’s population of nearly 3.2 million residents.

Latter-day Saints consider temples to be the “house of the Lord.” Temples differ from the church’s meeting houses. Unlike meeting houses, where Sabbath worship and weekly activities take place, temples are open throughout the week and are closed on Sundays.

Water experts warn about drought after Utah’s third driest spring on record

Water and weather experts are warning of “moderate” to “severe” droughts throughout nearly all of Utah after the state experienced one of its driest spring seasons in recorded history.

Glen Merrill, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Salt Lake City office, told the Legislative Water Development Commission on Monday that precipitation levels throughout most of Utah were “well above normal” heading into the year due to an abnormally wet spring season in 2019 — the second wettest since the late 1800s.

Normal temperatures in northern Utah and below-average temperatures in southern Utah for the month of March made experts optimistic about the upcoming months.

“And couple that with still quite decent normal to above-normal precipitation, and we headed into April looking really good,” said Merrill.

The rosy picture dulled between April 15 and May 15, according to Merrill, a time period where Utah was “largely precipitation-void.”

“And that was a contributing factor in how our water year has started to take a little bit of a nosedive,” Merrill said.

Merrill told the legislative commission that a combination of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation in June has created a drought that is “starting to expand across the state.”

“We were nearly drought-free after last year’s spring going into the summer season across the area, because … we had our second wettest spring on record,” the meteorologist said. “This year, by the way, was the third driest on record.”

A map of monthly precipitation prepared by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center shows that vast areas of southern and central Utah had between 0% and 30% average precipitation in May.

This is the case for nearly all of Utah County, with the exception of northern parts of the county that had 30%-50% average precipitation.

Additionally, temperatures throughout most of the state, from north to south, were 1-3 degrees Fahrenheit above average during the month of May.

A United States Drought Monitor map shows that, as of June 16, nearly all of Utah is designated as having a “moderate drought” intensity.

The western half of Utah County, including Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, Cedar Fort and Fairfield, is listed as having “severe drought” intensity.

Northeast Juab County, just miles away from the southeast corner of Utah County, is the only area in the state designated as having “extreme drought” intensity.

The only regions in the state that have no drought intensity are Daggett County and the northern parts of Uintah and Box Elder counties.

“Pretty much the whole state (is) in some sort of elevated drought status,” Merrill told the commission. “And that’s a direct result of the weather conditions over the last few months being exceptionally warm and dry.”

Utah Division of Water Resources Engineer Laura Haskell told the commission that reservoirs throughout the state “are struggling with capacity,” adding that water levels in most of these reservoirs have peaked for the year and are starting to decline.

“We’d like to see these reservoirs full for the year starting off the summer,” Haskell said. “Unfortunately, they aren’t in some areas.”

Abnormally little rain and snowfall has led to increased wildfire risk in Utah County and throughout the state.

Kaitlyn Webb, a wildfire communications specialist with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, told the Daily Herald Thursday that the dry spring season has resulted in “a much busier” wildfire season than normal.

Utah County Commission adjusts 2020 budget to account for CARES Act funding

The Utah County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to adjust its 2020 general fund budget to account for over $111 million in federal funding allocated to the county to aid in local response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approval came after a public hearing held Wednesday to discuss “increases and amendments in Utah County’s 2020 General Fund and various other Utah County 2020 budgetary funds for the Coronavirus Relief Funding (CARES Act) received from the United States Department of Treasury,” as stated in the resolution that was voted on.

No members of the public gave comment during Wednesday’s public hearing.

Utah County received $111.6 million in federal funding through the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March.

On June 17, the commission voted to allocate $45.8 million of that money to cities and towns in the county based on population and for the county to hold onto $45.8 million. The remaining $20 million will go toward economic relief for businesses and nonprofits throughout the county.

A committee composed of six mayors and Commissioner Nathan Ivie, which has yet to be formed, will be responsible for determining how specifically the $20 million is spent.

The budget adjustment Wednesday was largely procedural, according to Danene Jackson, a financial officer with the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office, and how the county will spend its portion of the federal funding intended to cover local government coronavirus-related expenses still needs to be determined.

“And so this whole budget amendment is just to appropriate those funds related to the CARES Act,” Jackson said. “The county already has the $111,630,342 in its bank account, and this is just going through the public process to spend those funds.”

The addition of the $11.6 million in CARES Act funding, as well as $5 million in “intergovernmental revenue,” brought Utah County’s total revenue and expenditures from grants and outside projects for the year to $159.7 million.

Jackson told the commissioners that the additional $5 million was a placeholder for any additional federal grants or funding related to COVID-19 that gets approved by Congress.

“And so that $5 million would be if those grants actually ended up being awarded,” she said. “If they were never awarded, those funds would not be spent.”

Along similar lines, the commission approved increasing its “building maintenance” budget by $10 million and “computer support” budget by $8 million, which Jackson said would both be paid for by “other grant opportunities that may be available.”

“At the beginning of next week, we are going to kind of refine these numbers a little bit,” Commissioner Bill Lee said. “And so these are just numbers that are plugged in there for now to start the process.”

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the commission voted 2-1 to approve a $50,250 contract between Utah County and Provo-based Interwest Safety Supply so that the company can provide the Clerk/Auditor’s with three variable-message signs.

Deputy Clerk/Auditor Josh Daniels told the commission the signs would be used to convey information to voters during the upcoming primary election, which will feature four outdoor drive-up polling stations throughout the county.

Daniels added that he believed the signs could be paid for with federal COVID-19 funding since the pandemic has forced election officials to adjust how they are conducting the primary election.

Lee, who voted against approving the contract, said he recognized that the signs would be useful for the upcoming election but didn’t think the need was great enough to warrant the funding.

AP featured
Herbert: Face masks required in Utah state buildings, largest county

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Hebert said Wednesday he will require face masks at state-run buildings that include liquor stores and higher education offices and approve a request from the state’s largest county to make face coverings required in certain situations.

But the Republican governor stopped short of implementing a statewide requirement for face coverings as several other states have done such as Washington, California and New York.

Herbert called face masks an inexpensive and proven way to slow the spread of COVID-19 that should be worn at all times indoor settings and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

He said everyone needs to “dial up” their personal responsibility as Utah deals with a troubling rise in infection rates and daily case counts since Herbert allowed many businesses to reopen last month.

Rather than a statewide face covering requirement, though, Herbert said he would like to instead have local government leaders request permission to make face coverings mandatory in their counties.

The expansive state that is mostly rural and sparsely populated other than a few counties around Salt Lake City has distinct environments and cultures, he said.

“The heavy hand of government sometimes has a negative reaction with the people,” Herbert said during his weekly briefing with the media. “I’m hopeful we can get people to do the right thing for the right reasons, because they love their neighbor and want to protect their neighbor as well as themselves from the coronavirus.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson requested authority Tuesday to make face coverings mandatory in the county at retail and commercial establishments, restaurants while waiting to be seated and served ,and at community gatherings.

Herbert said he and his staff will meet Thursday to make a formal decision about that request, but said he expects to approve if if the data supports the reasoning.

About 1.1 million of the state’s 3.2 million residents live in Salt Lake County.

A face mask requirement was among the recommendations in a memo sent last Friday by state epidemiologist Angela Dunn to Herbert and state leaders. Dunn cautioned that a complete shutdown might be imminent if Utah can’t stop a prolonged spike of coronavirus cases.

Herbert said he will not loosen any more restrictions on businesses for at least two weeks, but has made clear he won’t shut down the economy. Most of the state has already been allowed to reopen a number of venues such as restaurants, gyms, salons and pools.

Dunn said during Wednesday’s briefing that her memo was meant as a starting point for discussion with state leaders and that she didn’t intend to say the state economy should shut down. Herbert said he appreciated Dunn’s analysis and input.