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Utah County Commission signs agreement for second Eagle Mountain data center

The Utah County Commission voted on Wednesday to approve an interlocal agreement between the county and the Eagle Mountain Development Agency as part of a proposal to build a second data center in the north county city.

Eagle Mountain is currently home to the Facebook data center, which announced earlier this year it will expand by 900,000 square feet with two new buildings.

On March 16, the Eagle Mountain City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance adopting the “Sweetwater Industrial Park Community Reinvestment Area #2 Project Area Plan” to “allow for the creation of a Community Reinvestment Area in order to allow for an enterprise data center project development on approximately 327 acres of land.”

“The project area is adjacent to the Facebook data center site and is currently in the Regional Technology and Industry Overlay Zone,” according to a report outlining the project plan.

The report also states that tax increment arising from the $600 million development “shall be used for public infrastructure improvements,” off-site and on-site improvements, land and job-oriented incentives and other items approved by the Eagle Mountain Redevelopment Agency.

Among the anticipated benefit to the public and taxing entities — including Eagle Mountain, Utah County, Alpine School District, Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Unified Fire District — are “increased property tax revenues, job growth and affordable housing opportunities in the community.”

During a Utah County Commission meeting on Wednesday, Commissioner Bill Lee said he had “negotiated” with the company proposing to build the data center, which he did not name, and said he “asked some really, really super hard questions with the company and with their firm that represents them.”

“I see my role as one where I’m negotiating on behalf of the citizens of Utah County, and trying to find a place and pattern that makes sense as we’re competing in a worldwide market,” Lee said.

As part of his negotiations, Lee suggested that the county receive 100% of affordable housing subsidies included in the project, meaning none of that money would go to Eagle Mountain.

“It’s the ability for the county to be able to use that, and so I see it as a benefit countywide,” Lee said.

Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner said she agreed with Lee’s suggestion. “I don’t know what their plan is, I don’t know how much affordable housing they plan to put in their city or how many single-family homes they plan to put in their city, but I know that there’s a lot of other areas in the county that could really utilize that money. So I think it sounds like a good idea.”

Commissioner Tom Sakievich asked whether it would be better to split the affordable housing subsidies 50-50 with Eagle Mountain “to keep the city some funds coming to them for that future need that they’re going to have.”

“I’m pretty stubborn at the 100%,” said Lee. “I’ll just tell you.”

The commission voted unanimously to approve the interlocal agreement with the Eagle Mountain Development Agency with the amendment suggested by Lee.

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Alpine School District honors graduating classes of 2021 at Rio Tinto Stadium

The largest school district in the Beehive State, the Alpine School District, welcomed its 6,099 graduates from 10 different high schools to the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy this week to celebrate the graduating classes of 2021.

The ceremonies started on Tuesday with Timpanogos, Orem, Mountain View and Lehi high schools, continued on Wednesday with Cedar Valley, Skyridge and Pleasant Grove, and ended on Thursday with American Fork, Lone Peak and Westlake.

The graduating classes were able to welcome in a large number of family and friends, adding to a celebration marking the end of each student’s high school experience.

Cedar Valley Principal Courtney Johnson said that the 2020-2021 school year was the most turbulent year in her career as an educator. Speaking prior to Cedar Valley’s graduation on Wednesday, Johnson said that kids, parents, teachers and staff were scared about what the year had in store, but she has been reflecting on what the school has learned and done as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Turbulence is not fun when you’re going through it, but at the same time it teaches you a lot about what we can control and what we can’t,” Johnson said. “We can control our attitude, effort and how we treat others, so I tell the kids that those are the things we can control. Turbulence kind of forces us to come face to face with who we really are and during stress we have two options, we can be compassionate or we can choose the other options like many in the world — hatred and contention. That to me is kind of the overall theme to this year. We’ve learned that all of the events that come to us and our response will equate to either a good outcome or a bad outcome. Standing in the middle of that chaos and finding the calm of the storm in your heart, that’s what this year has been like for me.”

This was similar to the message Johnson gave to the Cedar Valley seniors on Wednesday, saying that the students leveraged the storm and triumphed through it all.

She added that students have seen contention through this year and have been through the thick of it all, but they have not complained, they have not been yelling, and they have not screamed.

According to Johnson, the seniors are a part of an awesome generation that is resilient.

“Now we look back and say that we’ve gotten through this time,” Johnson said. “If something is dealt to them in the future, students can reflect back and say they’ve done this before. At the end of the day, they can just buy more toilet paper. They can do hard things and that is a powerful message to carry throughout their life. As an adult, things don’t always go the way they are planned and true mental toughness kicks in when you’ve had experience.”

For Cedar Valley senior Nathan Ford, who was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, that message rang true. Ford said that the year was full of ups and downs, and learning online was a struggle for him.

Between juggling a job, all of the clubs he is involved with, and the pandemic, Ford had his hands full. He summed the year up into one word: chaotic.

With the movement from remote learning, to a hybrid model, then shortened days, and even dealing with quarantine, the year dealt a tough hand to Ford and his fellow graduates.

While it was a chaotic year, Ford was excited to celebrate his graduation in person, with many of his family and friends being able to attend due to the size of Rio Tinto stadium.

“I love it because we get to go there in person and each of us gets to be recognized,” Ford said prior to his graduation. “I also like how we’re doing it at the Rio Tinto Stadium because we can invite a whole bunch of people to our graduation. It’s crazy, I can’t believe I’m graduating. It feels like only yesterday I was a ninth grader — the time flies.”

Ford said that it meant a lot to him to be able to have his family attend as well. He spoke to how much his parents supported him through high school, and especially this year as he participated in athletics with the swim team, math competitions and much more.

While his graduation marks the end of an era for Ford, he is looking to the future with high hopes as he prepares to attend Brigham Young University.

“High school was fun, but I feel like in college you get a lot more opportunities,” Ford said. “I would probably be able to get a great internship at a great company because I really love working with microcontrollers, programming, soldering, all of that stuff. I think it’s so exciting to be able to move on to a new step.”

Ford is a bit nervous about having to pick his schedule, veering away from the traditional K-12 timeline, but the new options should be a new challenge for the future electrical engineer.

Below is a list of the Alpine School District’s high schools and the total students that graduated from those schools.

American Fork: 807

Cedar Valley: 466

Lehi: 483

Lone Peak: 807

Mountain View: 430

Orem: 419

Pleasant Grove: 750

Skyridge: 740

Timpanogos: 447

Westlake: 750

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Provo opens new Unlimited Play Center

It has taken a while to complete, but on Thursday Provo opened its first Unlimited Play Center at North Park, 400 West and 500 North.

The opening featured the release of several butterflies to represent the freedom the new play center will bring to children in the city.

“Provo is known as a wonderful place to live with a diverse variety of recreational opportunities, but Provo Parks and Recreation noticed that it was missing something important,” said Doug Robins, assistant director of Parks and Recreation. “About four years ago, Provo Parks and Recreation initiated a project to address an underserved part of the community, children that for one reason or another, often get left out of the opportunity to play.”

Mayor Michelle Kaufusi noted that Parks and Recreation facilities like this are gathering spaces, places where the community comes together.

“These parks are the great equalizers in a community, open to everyone regardless of background, they are places that we share and value together,” Kaufusi said.

“They are the places where families gather together to celebrate, and they also provide relief to the community during hard times. Just remember how much we missed interacting at our favorite parks, trails and recreation facilities during this pandemic,” Kaufusi added.

Places matter in our lives and that’s why such pride is taken in creating outdoor spaces worthy of being the backdrop to your memories, Kaufusi noted.

“Now this playground is special. I love this idea that has now become a reality as the Unlimited Play Center,” Kaufusi said. “I can think of no better symbolic gesture than a butterfly release to represent how we hope every child will feel at this playground, free to roam and explore, uninhibited by only their curiosity — never their ability.”

Kaufusi welcomed everyone, on behalf of Provo, to the Unlimited Play Center, “because everyone deserves a place to play.”

In 2018, city staff began working with a committee of residents and experts to discuss how to extend recreational opportunities to all children in the community.

“Following multiple design committee meetings, a needs survey and a design open-house to gain public input, the solution was the creation of a unique play space at North Park adjacent to the Provo Recreation Center at 500 North 400 West. This new playground features environments where all children will find opportunities to participate and enjoy the social, cognitive and physical health benefits of play and inclusion,” Robins said.

Designed by Landscape Architects with G. Brown Design, the site features:

  • Accessible elements – pathways, ramps, surfacing and a massive concrete slide.
  • 2 Zip line tracks — running parallel so that you can race your friend down the track.
  • Lots of different textures, colors, sounds, adventures and challenges
  • But also, quiet places and space that is not so busy.
  • Elements for the entire family — seat walls near amenities.
  • Swings and amenities for multiple participants.
  • Preserving existing trees where possible, not easy — been here forever.
  • Water-efficient landscaping.
  • Fencing, gates and landscaping is functional without the feeling of confinement.
  • Convenient accessible parking.
  • New pavilion with accessible picnic tables – allowing multiple families to drop-in.

With a total project cost of $964,000, funding came from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Provo Recreation Arts and Parks (RAP) tax. Private donations also were received from doTERRA, Zions Bank, Larry H. Miller Foundation and Eagle Scout Enoch Robertson.

“The design was successful in creating a fun and inclusive park around existing shade trees, giving the impression that this new playground has been here forever,” Robins said. “The Unlimited Play Center is now the largest playground in the city, and we appreciate the ongoing support of Provo’s mayor and city council in our effort to deliver next-level recreation facilities to the community.”

The play area and all other activity areas at North Park will be open throughout the summer for residents to come and enjoy, including the Pioneer Village and the outdoor pools.