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Orem council sees designs for HIllcrest Park

The Orem City Council was presented with its first look at the Hillcrest Park design plan during Tuesday’s work session. Prior to this the council had been given options but nothing specific.

The design takes into consideration requests made by the city, public works, residents and stakeholders, according to Brenn Bybee, assistant city manager.

The park’s design concept has several added amenities and adaptations from neighborhood requests and from the original concepts.

“There is a big emphasis on walking paths and connectivity,” Bybee said. “I’m really excited for what Landmark put together.”

According to Lisa Benson with Landmark Design, the company designing the project, along with Method Studios, the newest portions of the existing Hillcrest Elementary school are retained, including the gym, stage and kitchen areas.

New restrooms are added on the southeast corner of the building that provide for an inside and outside entrance. The water supply for the restrooms also will be attached to the water being supplied to a new splash pad.

“Two large open lawn areas provide flexible play and gathering space. Perimeter pathways offer multiple options for circulating through the park and also provide access to exercise stations and small pavilions,” according to the design description.

A “tot lot” and playground for school age children flank new restrooms and a large pavilion to the east and a natural playground is located west of the structures. The splash pad is also located in this active area, according to the design specifications.

Twelve pickleball courts and a demonstration garden offer two distinct activities in the northwest corner of the park, according to Benson.

A courtyard with flexible seating, raised planters and game tables connects the modified school building to the park. Other key features include a fire pit (or gathering area with interactive art), permanent nine-square courts and a hammock/slack line hill.

The total cost to build at one time is approximately $11.1 million. There is also an option to build in three phases but that could cost up to 9% or 10% more.

Orem leaders found out recently that money from the American Rescue Plan can be used to help build the park which could mean the park could be on a fast track to completion once officially approved.

Construction would most likely take 18 months and over two summer seasons with completion in 2023. The biggest problem at the moment is finding workers to do the buildout, according to Benson.

For the moment, city council members liked what they saw in the new design.

“I like the way it looks,” said Mayor Richard Brunst. At the same time he was concerned about things like lawns during a drought and why there were no basketball courts, as requested by residents.

“It would be nice if it could be done yesterday,” said Terry Peterson, city councilmember.

Peterson has been the champion of this park since the possibilities opened last summer.

When asked about concerns over safety or homeless people in the park, Jamie Davidson, city manager, said like any other park in the city, he hopes residents would become the eyes and ears for the park.

Davidson said the city will now take the plan the council indicated it is happy with and start honing it for final approval, hopefully much sooner than later.

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Utah County ballet school, dancer leap above competition

Utah County is pliéing its way to prima ballerina status thanks to the achievements of a local ballet school and dancer.

Jacqueline’s School of Ballet in Lindon and its student Sylvie Squires, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School, took home top honors at the recent Youth America Grand Prix 2021 Finals for North America in Tampa, Florida.

The Lindon school was selected out of 234 schools throughout the world to win the Outstanding School Award.

“There are many schools that attend that have beautifully trained students so it’s an honor for us to be recognized in that way and receive that title,” Brittnee Squires, director of Jacqueline’s School of Ballet and Sylvie’s mother, said in an email.

Sylvie won first place for women in the senior age division, beating out 132 senior division finalists chosen from thousands of dancers at regional competitions.

“I haven’t been able to attend that finals for a few years first because of an injury and last year because of COVID,” Sylvie said in an email. “It was amazing just to be there, but to win was super exciting!”

The school also placed second in the large ensembles category with “Cortex,” a piece choreographed by Heather Gray, Sylvie’s aunt.

The Youth America Grand Prix, an international ballet competition for dancers ages 9-19, is “the world’s largest global network of dance,” according to its website.

“I feel that YAGP is one of the largest reputable ballet competitions for youth in the world,” Brittnee said.

Jacqueline’s School of Ballet loves having its dancers compete in the Youth American Grand Prix because it’s “not only about the competition,” according to Brittnee.

“They help young dancers to get scholarships to many prestigious ballet schools and jobs in professional ballet companies,” Brittnee said. “Many dancers who have competed at YAGP are now soloists and principals in major ballet companies throughout the world.”

Sylvie was offered a contract to perform with Ballet West II from the company’s artistic director, Adam Sklute. She said she would love to dance in Ballet West sometime in the future.

“As for now I’m planning to graduate from high school next year,” Sylvie said. “I would also like to compete in the Prix de Lausanne Switzerland in February and see where that takes me.”

The senior has been dancing for 14 years, since she was 3 years old. She comes from a line of professional ballet dancers who now have directing roles at Jacqueline’s School of Ballet.

“It’s fun having a grandma, aunt and mom that have all been successful in ballet,” Sylvie said. “They’ve always given me lots of support and lots of good advice. I’m glad I can be a part of it!”

Brittnee said it’s fun for her to be a “proud ballet teacher and mom at the same time.”

“Sylvie has always been a dedicated dancer,” Brittnee said. “She has always put in the time required plus she works and studies on her own so I always knew she would succeed.”

Jacqueline’s School of Ballet, founded in 1985 by Jacqueline Colledge, Sylvie’s grandmother, is home to the Utah Metropolitan Ballet, one of two professional ballet companies in the Beehive State. The school’s focus on ballet technique as the foundation sets it apart from other ballet schools, according to Brittnee.

“We also add modern contemporary and other types of classes, but always make sure that ballet technique is our main focus,” Brittnee said. “We love to see our students succeed in whatever goals they have set for themselves and try to help them individually to attain their goals.”

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Eagle Mountain seeks public comment on updated Transportation Master Plan

Eagle Mountain is launching a 30-day public comment period beginning on Wednesday to seek community input on the rapidly growing city’s recently updated Transportation Master Plan.

The public comment period, which ends on Aug. 11, will kick off with an in-person open house at Eagle Mountain City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, during which “the planning team will provide details and answer questions as part of the open house,” according to a press release from Horrocks Engineers.

“The City is proactively planning and developing transportation solutions to accommodate future mobility and access needs,” the press release reads. “Eagle Mountain City’s population is projected to grow to more than 114,000 residents by 2050, which is a 434% increase from 2010.”

Eagle Mountain officials recently updated the Transportation Master Plan, which “serves as a 30-year planning guide for all modes of transportation within the community.”

An interactive version of the Eagle Mountain Transportation Master Plan shows existing and future highways and major roads throughout the city.

One freeway planned for the future would wrap around the western edge of the city before connecting with Pioneer Crossing near Saratoga Springs, while a future major collector road would run south from the Cedar Valley Airport toward the neighborhoods near Frontier Middle School.

The plan also shows a number of minor collector roads planned for Eagle Mountain, including a road at 5000 North, a road running parallel with Lake Mountain Road and additions to Mt. Saratoga Boulevard.

Multiple residents have already given input on the Transportation Master Plan through a comment portal on the interactive map. On Thursday, one resident praised the city for planning a “grid layout” for some areas, which they noted “are great for encouraging walkability with smaller blocks and easier accessibility.”

“If walkability is an end goal of this future development, please consider adding additional road verges with desert landscaping and bike lanes separate from the bike trails to encourage drivers to be more cautious while driving in this area,” the resident wrote. “This is especially important if this area is planned to include more than suburbia.”

Residents expressed mixed reactions to the incoming freeway, with one person writing that it “looks like a freeway to nowhere,” while another resident said they understood “the need for a future freeway as this valley expands.”

“Running a freeway right in the middle of town will destroy this nice rural environment,” another person wrote. “Where are we imagining people will be going on a North/South freeway anyway?”

Residents who want to provide input on the Eagle Mountain Transportation Master Plan can do so by commenting on the interactive map or by filling out a comment form at Wednesday’s open house.

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Utah’s John Curtis calls for more telehealth in rural communities

U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, is calling on federal health officials to increase access to telehealth and other remote health services in rural communities.

In a letter sent on Monday to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Curtis and three other members of Congress urged the department “to work with Congress in developing a comprehensive telehealth strategy that ensures Medicare beneficiaries can continue accessing critical virtual care services following expiration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”

“We are especially interested in identifying any gaps in your regulatory authority where the agency and Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion to permanently expand and improve the accessibility of telehealth services,” wrote Curtis, along with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.

The Congress members said they “appreciate the actions taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services … during the COVID-19 pandemic that have facilitated a surge in telehealth innovation,” adding that “to continue this momentum, we ask that CMS use its rulemaking authority in the upcoming (Current Year) 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule to consider providing permanent coverage of certain telehealth services” that have been provided during the pandemic.

“The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted millions of U.S. adults to defer primary and preventative routine medical care to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the letter reads. “Providers quickly turned to telehealth to meet patients’ needs and alleviate delays in care. As the pandemic continued, the expansion of telehealth proved to be particularly helpful in facilitating access to care to some of Medicare’s more disadvantaged populations.”

Curtis and his colleagues argued that “to fully leverage the opportunities of virtual care and strength our health care system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we must evaluate the impacts that increased utilization of telehealth services has on the quality and accessibility of care,” adding that “we also must focus on establishing a framework for determining permanent reimbursement for certain telehealth services that will enable patients to reliably receive appropriate virtual care following the end of the COVID-19 (public health emergency).”

They requested that the health and human services department respond to a number of questions including, “What clinical data would be most useful to CMS to determine which of the telehealth services added to the Medicare Telehealth List during the PHE should be granted Medicare coverage on (a) permanent basis?” and “How do you believe telehealth should be integrated into Medicare’s value-based payment programs and (what) types of care ... should be reimbursed in the traditional fee-for-service model of care?”

The Congress members also asked health officials to explain what criteria CMS will use “to determine the clinical appropriateness of a telehealth service,” as well as “the process in place and the anticipated timeline for CMS to collect, analyze and share telehealth utilization data from the Public Health Emergency.”

On Monday, Curtis took to Twitter to write that “we must improve the delivery of (telehealth) care — particularly in rural communities.”

“Let’s work together to address this important issue that affects millions of Americans,” the Utah congressman said.