NEWS ANALYSIS: Mt. Pleasant Council must rebuild trust in face of conflicts that have simmered for years

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

10-4-2018

 

Editor’s Note: James Tilson has been covering the city of Mt. Pleasant, including nearly all city council meetings, for more than two years. In this article, he reports his findings and gives his insight into a conflict between the city council and the executive branch of city government that has been churning during most of the time he has been reporting. Ordinarily, the Sanpete Messenger does not mix news and opinion in articles appearing on news pages, but we feel Tilson’s views of what has been happening merit this news analysis.

 

MT. PLEASANT—The recent drama playing out in public view in Mt. Pleasant city government points to a deeper conflict that has been bubbling just out of view for several years.

The city council can solve these issues and heal the rifts within the city—if it accepts responsibility for the conflicts and works to rebuild the trust of city workers and residents.

One city official’s resignation from office is unusual. Five elected officials or key managers resigning in a little more than one year is alarming.

Mayor David Blackham resigned his office on June 1, 2017. In March of this year, Jane Banks resigned as city recorder. In August, Mayor Sandra Bigler and Sam Draper, public works director, resigned from their posts. And then in September, Laurie Hansen, library director, submitted her resignation.

Such an exodus of experience and talent got the attention of residents and triggered some blowback.

The fallout included recriminations and allegations by people who blamed the city council for the resignations. Some of the blamers were people who had resigned. The allegations included overreaching by the council into the executive responsibilities of the mayor, and financial misconduct by council members Kevin Stallings and Justin Atkinson.

In turn, council members, both individually and as a group, made statements defending their actions and attacking their accusers.

From meetings and public records, this reporter cannot tell the truth of some of the allegations. For example, Draper placed the blame for his resignation on the council. He said in his resignation letter the council had meddled in the day-to-day administration and had hired an unqualified employee, leading to a dangerous situation.

The council has answered that Draper himself  has been cited by OSHA and by the county for multiple safety violations. Council members say Draper was an inefficient  administrator as evidenced by increased productivity since Paul Madsen, a city council appointee, has begun working with the public works crews.

At this point, this writer has not seen enough evidence to completely validate either side.

On the other hand, the claims by former Mayor Blackham and others that Councilman Kevin Stallings and Councilman Justin Atkinson have steered work to their companies are  unfounded.

As the Messenger reported last week, after a careful analysis of public records and interviews, the paper found no evidence of misconduct by either Atkinson or Stallings.

The remaining persons who resigned have been reticent about making any public statements. Former Mayor Bigler has only stated that the council’s actions made it impossible for her to execute her duties as mayor the way she felt she had been elected to execute them. Neither Banks nor Hansen made any public statement at all.

However, the resignation of so many city employees and officers cannot be ignored. This reporter, who has followed Mt.. Pleasant city government and attended nearly all city council meetings for more than two years, has looked deeper into the conflict to see whether it is more than just a “clash of personalities.”

The legality of the city’s new hires must be addressed before we can look at the larger issues facing the city. A lot of criticism has been aired over the hiring of Lynn Beesely and Paul Madsen earlier this year.

Beesely’s hire was made after proper posting and an interview process, which was in the usual course of business and supported by then Mayor Bigler. Nothing in his hiring is out of place.

The hiring of Madsen is a more difficult case. A “temporary administrative support” position filled without a posting or interview process is outside the statutory guidelines.

Councilman Stallings has asserted that the city received a legal opinion from an attorney with the Utah League of Cities and Towns saying that the city was facing an “emergency” that allowed for an exception to the statutes.

This reporter, a former attorney himself, does not think the council’s position will be challenged in court, and is quite dubious of such a lawsuit’s chances to prevail.

The larger issue facing Mt. Pleasant, and indeed all of Sanpete County and Utah as a whole, is growth. Mt.. Pleasant is growing, and will continue to grow.

Utah and Salt Lake counties are running out of room, and new housing starts in Sanpete County have broken records in the past year.  The northern part of the county will feel the effects of this growth before the rest of the county—and already is feeling those effects.

Mt. Pleasant may or may not need full-time management yet, but it is at the very least on the cusp of needing it. There is no doubt the city will need it in the not too distant future.

The council’s concerns about growth have been simmering for years. The issues have been obvious to everyone that lives in the city. Road repair has often lagged behind. City buildings have been difficult to maintain. More businesses and more houses have been, and will continue to come to Mt. Pleasant. And more businesses and houses mean more demand for city services.

These concerns are legitimate and valid. They need to be addressed, and the council is right to act on these concerns.

But it is the manner in which the council has acted that has led to the drama in the city government.

First, the “less-than-open” process with which the council made its decision to hire new employees has engendered suspicion.

Councilman Keith Collier hinted at the council’s frustration at the council’s last meeting. He said the council needed more work meetings in which to hash out the details of agenda items they would be voting on during the regular council meetings.

This writer believes open work meetings would go a long way toward bringing deliberations out into the open and building back trust among residents.

Second, when council members began responding to criticisms personally, such as the statement singling out former Mayor Blackham and Sam Draper, the former public works director, they inserted themselves into the drama instead of dampening it.

At a packed council meeting where scores of residents showed up to criticize the council, or at least to find out what was going on, the council did not assure citizens that their concerns would be addressed. Instead, they made themselves out to be the victims and sought to defend themselves.

The council can heal these rifts and move forward. But it needs to make a few notable changes.

First, council members must stop defending themselves (regardless of the merit), accept responsibility for the crisis and promise to make things better.

For better or worse, with resignation of the mayor and until a new mayor is elected, the council is in charge. And it was their actions that led to this situation.

This writer believes the council has valid concerns and was justified in acting to address those concerns. All the same, those actions led to the resignation of several city employees. Acting as if criticism of their actions is unfair will not make things better.

Next, if the council decides to go ahead and hire a permanent city manager, the council must “toe the line” in its procedure and be extra open to the residents about how and why it is  doing so. It must do this to rebuild trust among citizens.

Most of all, the council must get results. The road situation must improve. Repairs have to be done more efficiently. And needs arising from population growth must be addressed. If council members get results, that will cure all.

Sanpete fly-in draws good crowds

 

By Ken Hansen

Staff writer

10-4-2018

 

Participants of the fly-in event at the Ephraim-Manti Airport tour a jet owned by Ephraim’s Tom Bailey on Saturday.

EPHRAIM—Speaking about the economic importance of rural airports at the Ephraim-Manti Airport fly-in event Saturday, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said rural airports provide millions of dollars of economic benefits to the counties they serve.

According to Cox, a 2004 study of general aviation, which does not include commercial flights, put the direct and indirect value of aviation in Utah at about $250 million.

“That’s now at least half a billion dollars if not more,” he said.  The Ephraim-Manti airport was at the time calculated to be worth $1 million a year in economic benefits to the county and is probably worth closer to $2 million a year now.

Airport Board Chairman Jeremy Hallows, who also pilots the jet owned by Ephraim’s Tom Bailey, stated that the current growth rate of the airline industry requires more than 40 new pilots a day. Currently, only 10 per day are being trained.

“I think Sanpete County can be part of that growth,” Hallow said. When Hallows started flying, pilots for regional airlines were paid around $22,000 a year, but that pay has since increased to around $80,000 a year because of the shortage. “So it’s a good time to be in aviation,” he said.

Flight schools from Southern Utah University and Utah Valley University were on hand with some of their training aircraft. They were there to recruit for their flight schools; participants were allowed to tour the aircraft and take pictures.

Visitors were also able to tour the AirMed air ambulance and an Ephraim City fire truck. Those who felt a little more adventurous were able to climb in to a hot air balloon basket and operate the burner, which heats the air inside of a balloon.

 

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SPONSORED: Michele at Guinevere’s Bake Shop does creative cakes and ‘man bouquets’

 

  

Popular now are “man bouquets,” edible gifts just for men!

    FOUNTAIN Green—You can buy a cake from just about any grocery story or whip one up from a mix yourself, but if you’re looking for something truly special, Michele Green of Guinevere’s Bake Shop in Fountain Green can bring your vision to life.

      Some of the cakes Michele has done are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Check out the birch bark cake, a wedding cake that looks just like a tree with the couple’s initials carved into it, and others Michele has done on her Facebook page (Michele Green, Guinevere Bake Shop), for example. And how many cake decorators do you know who can take a 4-year-olds’ drawing and transform it into a cake as Michele did recently for her niece?

      Michele got her start when she designed and made her sister’s wedding cake more than 35 years ago with basic skills taught to her by her mother. Since that time she has honed her craft, keeping up-to-date on the newest techniques and latest trends.

      She had to take a break from cake decorating when she moved to Fountain Green in 2005 because the home she rented did not facilitate a cake business. These days she has a kitchen specially designed for her business in her home and, with the encouragement of her husband Daniel, for the last year or so has decided to pursue her passion. Since that time they have advertised the business on Facebook and in the Sanpete Messenger and have seen great results.

      The trend Michele sees most right now is a return to simplicity. Some couples who are getting married want what are called “naked cakes,”—essentially cakes that have just a first layer of icing designed to capture crumbs before the second layer is put on. While it’s not Michele’s taste—she feels the cakes need more finishing—she is happy to fulfill any request.

      Another trend is black and white ‘photos’ encircling a cake. Michele can print any photo you’d like (including color if you prefer) using edible ink on edible icing sheets.

      One trend Michele is excited about is geode cakes: brightly colored and sculptured to look like geodes. She hasn’t had any orders for one so far, but she did try one out that you can view on her Facebook page.

      While she began with wedding cakes, and that is still her most-requested item, Michele can do cakes for any occasion such as birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms and baby showers.

      Fillings and flavors can be anything the clients request. Red velvet is very popular, but Michele also shares her grandmother’s special hummingbird cake recipe, along with more common flavors.

Michele begins to make finishing touches for a new cake.

      She also offers what she calls “Man Bouquets” – bouquets that look like flowers but are actually made up of things most any man loves to eat: bacon, cheese and bacon-wrapped treats—“all the things that make a man unhealthy,” Michele says.

      Michele also does special occasion candies, doggie treats and even doggie cakes for those who want to celebrate a much-loved pet’s special occasion. Currently she is experimenting with ideas for Super Bowl bouquets, haunted house cakes and gingerbread houses.

      While her prices are competitive, “people are paying for my art, not cake,” Michele says. “You can go anywhere and buy a cake for ten bucks but what I do is art.”

      Michele can turn around a wedding cake order in as little as three days if she needs to but prefers to have at least two week’s notice if possible. For cakes for other occasions and other items, just a couple of days is fine, she says.

                So for something that is sure to wow and delight you, your guests and the people whose special occasion you’re celebrating, give Michele a call today at 435-262-0796

Messenger finds no evidence council members have steered city business to their companies

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

9-27-2018

 

MT PLEASANT—Claims that Mt. Pleasant councilmen are enriching themselves at city expense by steering city business to their companies do not appear to be valid based on a Sanpete Messenger review of transactions.

In recent weeks, the Messenger has received and published letters to the editor claiming  Councilman Kevin Stallings was steering business to Stalling Sheet Metal, his heating and air conditioning company, and Councilman Justin Atkinson was directing city business to his employer, Sunrise Engineering of Fillmore.

The Sanpete Messenger conducted an analysis to see whether any contracts awarded to the two businesses excluded other possible bids or cost the city more money than might be expected.

To do so, we made obtained the invoice records for Stallings Sheet Metal, for Sunrise Engineering, and for all other engineering firms doing work for the city from 2010 until present.

We also studied Mt Pleasant purchasing policies and conflict-of-interest statements. We conducted interviews with the people involved as well as people from other municipalities and engineering firms.

Regarding Atkinson, it should be noted he has no ownership position with Sunrise Engineering. Sunrise Engineering is a large engineering firm, with 12 offices scattered over four states and 250 employees. Atkinson is neither an executive nor a shareholder with the firm.

While an engineering firm owner or executive may have responsibilities for finding business for the firm and be compensated for doing so, Atkinson does not hold that type of position with Sunrise. His title is “project manager.” As such, he receives no extra compensation for procuring new business, although bringing in business could help with advance in the company.

The Utah Legislature has passed a law requiring elected officials to sign conflict-of-interest statements disclosing any conflict they may have between their private financial interests and government activities. Atkinson disclosed his position with Sunrise in his conflict-of-interest statement, which is on file with the city. He has recused himself from city council votes in which Sunrise was a possible beneficiary.

Kevin Stallings, however, is an owner of Stallings Sheet Metal. Even though he retired in 2014 and turned management over to his son, Chet, Stallings retains an ownership interest. So any benefit to Stallings Sheet Metal from work for Mt. Pleasant City would benefit Stallings. Stallings has also filed a conflict-of-interest statement with the city disclosing his relationship with Stallings Sheet Metal.

An examination reveals the dollar volume of Sunrise Engineering and Stallings Sheet Metal invoices after Stallings and Atkinson came on the council were not out of the ordinary.

Eight engineering firms submitted invoices to Mt. Pleasant City between 2010 and August 2018. Besides Sunrise, the main firms were Jones & DeMille and JUB Engineering.          During that time period, Sunrise Engineering had invoices totaling $192,555.55. Jones & DeMille’s total invoices came to $602,021.06. JUB Engineering invoiced the city for $82,574.15; however, city officials say that JUB will soon be involved in a $15 million water project funded by grant money, which will increase the company’s invoice total significantly.

The invoice totals for Sunrise Engineering are within the range of transactions between the city and other engineering firms. Sunrise is far from the largest provider of engineering services to the city.

Stallings Sheet Metal’s invoices from 2010 to Aug. 2018 came to $379,964.12. However,

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‘United We March’ tests endurance of marchers, honors heroes

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

9-13-2018

 

Gunnison Valley Fire Department volunteers Kelby Nay and Stockton Hansen march down the path during the United We March fundraiser on Saturday in Gunnison. Their team ended up coming in first place in the light half-ruck race. Photo courtesy Rebecca Bown Withers.

GUNNISON—Despite challenging terrain and injuries on the trail, the inaugural United We March fundraiser, which took place in Gunnison on Saturday in remembrance of 9/11 and to support America’s heroes, was a big success, said event organizers—thanks to the enthusiastic participants and volunteers.

“United We March 2018 was successful because of the amazing committee and those who participated,” said Justen Mellor of Gunnison, one of the organizers. “The stories of struggling through, whether they finished or not, show the amazing hearts of people and how they love all of our heroes.”

“Ruck” is a military term for a hike, often through rough terrain, and often carrying military gear. The full-ruck race was 26 miles and the half-ruck race was 16.1 miles.

Participants had a choice of racing in the heavy class, which required carrying a 35-pound backpack, or the light class, which didn’t require a backpack.

Only one team, the UVU veterans, entered the heavy full-ruck race. During the race, one racer broke an ankle and another suffered dehydration and had to be hospitalized. Despite those setbacks, some of the UVU Veterans crossed the finish line.

Mellor participated in a Bataan Memorial March in New Mexico in 2017 and modeled the march Saturday in Gunnison after it. (The original Bataan March was a 65-mile march in the South Pacific during World War II, where many American and Filipino prisoners of war died.)

The local march honoring service members, fire fighters, EMS, Search and Rescue and law enforcement, raised funds to benefit the UVU Veterans Success Center; the Utah 1033 Foundation, which provides financial help to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty; the U. of U. Burn Camp, which helps firefighters and fire victims recover from burn injuries; and Sanpete Search and Rescue, which performs rescues and helps out with a variety of law enforcement functions in the county.

Although the committee is still finalizing numbers, it estimates more than $30,000 was raised.

Jace Sorensen of Salina took first place in the individual heavy class full-ruck race. Camille Mason of Salina came in second.

Sue Williams, 60, of Salina won first place in the individual heavy half-ruck race. Robert Thomson, 44, of Ephraim won second-place in the same class.

Mike Bartholomew, 61, of Sterling came in first place in the individual light full-ruck race. Alyssia Stevenson, 38, of Manti, came in second in the individual light full ruck.

The individual light half-ruck race winners were John St. Clair, 56, from Fairway, Kansas, (first place) and Jayne Green, 46, of Gunnison (second).

Alyssia Stevenson, 38, of Manti, a nurse at Gunnison Valley Hospital, came in second place in the individual light full-ruck march. “Ruck” is a military term for a hike, often through rough terrain, carrying military gear. Photo courtesy Rebecca Bown Withers.

In the team heavy half-ruck race, Ash Grove and Christensen Arms came in first and second, respectively.

In the team light half-ruck race, the Gunnison Valley Fire Department won first place and the Gunnison Valley Hospital team took second.

Another race, the Gunnison Hospice Run to Remember 5K, took place at the same time. The winner was Wyatt Monroe, age 11. Second place in the 5K was taken by Valerie Anderson, 30.

Event committee member Mike Wanner said, “This was not one person’s effort but a whole organization. We are so grateful for all the help. There are so many responsible for such a successful event.”

Mellor credited volunteers such as Mindy Coates and Kara Jensen with helping runners stay hydrated along the long march.

“I gotta say [they] outworked and out played us all.” Mellor said. “It was an enormous task to handle water/fruit stations, and they came back dusty but smiling through it all. They were the United We March cheerleaders.”

He also thanked the Gunnison Valley royalty, Manti city royalty, and other “amazing young women who kept us hydrated all day long.”

Second-place full ruck winner, Alyssia Stevenson, said, “Mindy and Kara were the reason I could keep running.”

Volunteer Mindy Bunnell Coats said she and fellow volunteer Kara Jensen cried a few times watching participants push through their pain. “I am proud of every person who started at the beginning,” she said. “I don’t care how far you made it, ‘cause think about it…. you made it that far and that is so awesome! Thanks for letting me be a part of such an amazing weekend.”

 

Richard Hall family to be honored at annual pioneer celebration

 

Richard Hall, early Manti settler, will be honored at the DUP event, “Settlement of Sanpete” on Sept. 22.

MANTI—The Manti Chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers will honor Richard Hall and his family at the 31st annual “Settlement of Sanpete” event on Sept. 22.

The activities will start at 9:30 a.m. and include a wreath-laying ceremony at Hall’s gravesite in the Manti Cemetery followed by a tribute program offering historical sketches of Hall and his family, along with musical performances.

One of Hall’s ancestors, Douglas Barton will speak about him and how he helped build the Manti Tabernacle.

Hall was a master mason and is credited with building dozens of stone homes and other buildings in Manti.

He also performed stonework on the St. George and Manti Temples.

Born in 1817 in Yorkshire, England, Hall immigrated along with his wife Anne Boardley through New Orleans to St. Louis.  While in St. Louis, Anne died shortly after giving birth to their fifth child. Hall and his children eventually arrived in Provo where he remarried and subsequently relocated to Manti.

In his later years, Hall married Catherine Jack of Scotland, and together, they raised seven more children. They lived in a stone home on their 20-acre farm, which included the area now occupied by the Sanpete County Fairgrounds. Hall has a large posterity throughout the western United States and southern Canada.

After the family tribute program and luncheon, tours of historic Manti and Hall family sites will take place.

Family representative Kent Barton said that a committee of Hall’s descendants has been working closely with the DUP in planning the event and reported that a Hall family history book has been compiled, with over 100 pages of history, photos and documents related to the family.

The books can be pre-ordered prior to the event, with all proceeds going to the Manti DUP. For more information call 435-851-4906 or email richard.hall.manti@gmail.com

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Gunnison City leaders met with the BYU Urban Planning Group to begin creating a new general plan on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Dr. Michael Clay (standing, left) and his students said the city needed to decide on its goals and priorities for the group to move forward with the plan.

 

Gunnison says growth is the goal and the challenge in general planning meeting

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

9-6-2018

 

GUNNISON—To kick off a discussion on creating a new general plan, BYU’s student-staffed Urban Planning Group told Gunnison City leaders and residents a tale of two cities last week.

Not the book, mind you, but the group’s experiences in helping two other Utah rural towns craft its general plan.

Accompanied by Dr. Michael Clay, professor of urban planning at BYU, the student planners told the city council the first step is to prepare a vision statement at a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 26.

“A vision statement is a clear and simple statement that declares what the city intends to become,” said Jake Harding, BYU student and project manager for the Gunnison plan.

Harding challenged the city leadership to prioritize Gunnison’s values and ambitions.

“What is it to you that makes Gunnison great?” Harding asked. “All the goals that we create with you will be pointing back to your vision statement.”

Harding showed examples of the goals adopted by Manti City and the town of Eureka in Utah County. The two municipalities had very different visions and goals.

For example, in the area of land use, Manti and Eureka had some shared values, but Manti was focused more on growth, while Eureka’s land use goals were focused on maintaining what the town had.

The Manti City vision statement is: “Be a beautiful, clean, healthy, safe, friendly small town; preserve, restore and honor the community’s heritage in all actions taken; and foster a community that is progressive, organized and attractive to new businesses.

Several of the Gunnison City leadership commented that Manti’s vision statement paralleled the Gunnison City motto, “Progress with purpose.”

Essentially, Harding said, Manti’s priorities were maintaining a small town feel, while boosting economic development without ruining the historic nature of the town.

Eureka’s plan focused on paying homage to the town’s heritage as an historic mining community.

“Manti was about growing, Eureka was about not losing any more (population),” Harding said.

Harding and other BYU Urban Planning Group members encouraged the mayor and council to consider their priorities.

Growth, both economic and residential, and how to encourage it, was the dominating goal raised by Mayor Lori Nay and the council members.

Harding told the council that, according to the group’s research, for a long time, Gunnison City had flatlined in population—until the prison came.

Now, based on their projections, Harding says the growth expectancy for the city over the next 20 years is approximately 25 percent. In 2040, the BYU group expects population to reach nearly 2,500 people.

The general plan needs to address potential growth before it becomes a problem, Harding said.

“If half of the 200 families that work here and live elsewhere decided to move here, I don’t think the infrastructure could handle it,” Councilman Andy Hill said. “If we threw a hundred more homes in the mix, how do we handle that?”

Councilman Robert Anderson added, “Our culinary water is sufficient for our needs right now, but if you add more people, it won’t be.”

Jeff Coons, assistant project manager in the BYU group, said, “It’s possible that other things like the prison could come to the area and boost growth beyond expectations, but that could be regulated, if desired.”

Councilmember Michelle Smith and Nay both said they felt it was important to draw both tourists and move-ins to the city.

Nay said the area needs more nice rentals, but the area doesn’t offer enough incentive for people who have land available to develop homes or rental housing on it.

Councilman Blane Jensen said the reason lots don’t get developed is because fees for hookups make it unprofitable. He added that there are only so many places that can be developed, because Gunnison is mostly landlocked, and much of the surrounding area is state trust land.

Hill posed the question, “Do we as a city want to foster partnerships with the people who have land to encourage development? Subsidies? How can we make it worthwhile to develop the land?”

Harding said it was possible that if the city incentivized growth, demand for homes could increase enough to make hookup and other fees bearable.

“These people cannot afford it with wages they make,” Jensen said. “You can demand prices go up, but if people still can’t afford payments, what do you do?”

Coons said emphasizing the development of duplexes, triplexes and other multi-family housing units might offer greater incentive for people to develop their available property.

Nay mentioned a proposal to use the old Gunnison City Elementary as a site for a subdivision of multi-dwelling units.

Well,” Anderson said, “If people want to be inspired to live here, they need something to set a little fire in them.”

Councilman Blake Donaldson said he thought the city’s Main Street needed to improve to attract more businesses, and Nay agreed, saying they should lean on the historic nature of Gunnison Main Street in the process.

Hill mentioned improving recreation in the area to attract people. This started a discussion about how Gunnison could take advantage of people visiting 12 Mile Canyon or possibly even develop a trail system within the city that linked up with the canyon, or circles the city.

“We need to help and promote those who are here and that have gone through the struggle,” said Matt Reber, director of public works. “Why don’t we take care of who is here and focus on them a little bit. They’re the ones who have got us to where they are at. Yet we’re willing to go out and waive fees for someone new to come in. You got to take care of the ones who have got us to this point.”

Around that time, Harding broke in and said, “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and we’ll start working on (ideas) and come back with some suggestions. Once goals and mission statement are firm with the mayor, council, and planning and zoning, we will start involving the public in things.”

He added the city will try to complete plan discussions in eight meetings. The council set a tentative date to meet again about the general plan on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.

Ruben Hernandez

 

Inmate firefighter accused of raping woman at Coal Hollow camp

 

By Suzanne Dean

Publisher

9-6-2018

 

INDIANOLA—A woman working in the Coal Hollow Fire Base Camp was raped last week in one of the trailers in the camp, according to the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office.

Ruben Hernandez, an inmate from the Idaho Department of Corrections, who had been brought in to help fight the fire, was booked into the Sanpete County Jail on Wednesday, Aug. 29, in connection with the incident.

According to Det. Derick Taysom, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, the victim said Hernandez had been flirting with her over the previous week.

On the day of the assault, she was inside a wash trailer when Hernandez entered. He asked for her phone number. In an attempt to get him to leave her alone, she gave him the number for a friend’s husband. That’s when Hernandez raped her.

The woman said she did not scream or try stop Hernandez, because she knew he was a prisoner and was afraid he might hurt her. She said she “froze” and didn’t know what to do. Following the assault, the victim went to a local hospital for an examination.

The victim’s name and role in the fire fight were not released. The case has been referred to the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office.

Rocky Mountain Power tells county it is reducing power rates

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

9-6-2018

 

MANTI—The Sanpete County Commission heard good news from a Rocky Mountain Power representative that residents will be saving about $4 per month on their power bills.

Brent Dewsnup of Rocky Mountain Power gave the county commission an “annual update” on activities of the power company in Sanpete County.

First, Dewsnup told the commission that the tax reform bill passed by Congress in December 2017 would allow Rocky Mountain Power to pass along tax savings to rate payers. The effect on a typical residential customer bill is a reduction of $4.17 per month, based on usage of 698 kilowatt-hours per month.

The reduction will appear on customer bills as a separate line item, “Tax Act Adjustment.” Following an order by the Utah Public Service Commission, which regulates large utilities, $61 million in benefits will be passed through to Utah customers by Dec. 31, 2018.

Dewsnup also told the commission Rocky Mountain Power had contributed to local celebrations, including $500 for the Fourth of July celebration in Moroni.

Commissioner Claudia Jarrett pointedly asked Dewsnup if Rocky Mountain Power would ever consider the same kind of sponsorship for a countywide event. Dewsnup replied, “Definitely.”

Dewsnup said Rocky Mountain Power could contribute to the county fair in the $400-$500 range as it did for Moroni’s celebration.

Dewsnup then talked about Rocky Mountain Power’s “Blue Sky Program” which aims to support efforts to bring renewable and sustainable energy production to the county.

He said a project to install solar power at the North Sanpete Middle School was part of the program even though the project was administered by Siemens under contract with the school district.

The commission also announced it will hire the law firm of Durham, Jones & Pinegar of Lehi to be the local counsel in national tort litigation against opioid manufacturers. The Utah firm will work with Phipps Deacon Purnell of Texas.

J. R. Reichl of Phipps Deacon Purnell said, “The opioid epidemic has become a line-item expense in most every local government budget. We must work together to hold them (opiod manufacturers) accountable.”

Well-known Sterling man facing charges of of fraud

 

MANTI—A well-known Sterling resident has made his initial appearance in 6th District Court on charges of committing fraud against his wealthy father-in-law amounting to at least $93,000.

Kevin Pete Conover, 67, and his estranged wife, Heidi Conover, 57, were both charged with multiple counts of communications fraud occurring between February 2014 and July 2015.

The charges ranged from second-degree felonies to Class B misdemeanors, depending on the amount of money involved in each individual incident.

Heidi Conover faces 14 counts of communication fraud, while Kevin Conover only faces five counts.

Deputy Sanpete County Attorney Wes Mangum suggested Kevin may have been the smarter of the two co-defendants, since he did not sign the majority of documents that make up the “paper trail” of evidence in the case.

Kevin Conover has also been charged with three misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, wrongful posting, and unlawful use of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) property arising from an unrelated incident, where Conover is alleged to have bulldozed a pond on property he didn’t own.

Both of the Conover cases came before Judge Marvin Bagley last Wednesday. Both cases were continued to Oct. 3 at 9 a.m., in order for the defendants to hire counsel.

Mangum explained the cases arose out of time when the Conovers had moved her father, W. Lynn Benson to their home in Sanpete County when he was having physical health problems.

During that time, between January 2013 and July 2015, the Conovers used a fraudulent power-of-attorney document to access her father’s corporate accounts for their own personal use. According to Mangum, they got Benson to sign the document without him understanding what he was signing.

While Mangum said his office has not totaled the entire amount the Conovers are alleged to have taken, charging documents state the amount taken is at least $93,992.04. The actual amount will probably be more than that.

Mangum said it is too early to determine how this case is going to be resolved. At this point, the county attorney’s office is preparing to take the matter to trial.

 

 

‘Team Wyatt’ run to raise funds for boy with leukemia

 

By James Tilson

Sports writer

8-30-2018

 

Wyatt Craven of Fairview will be the focus of a benefit on Saturday in Mt. Pleasant. He is fighting myeloid leukemia and is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant later in September.

MT. PLEASANT—Friends in the community have scheduled a benefit this weekend for a boy in Fairview who is fighting leukemia.

A group calling itself Team Wyatt is organizing a 5K charity run on Saturday to help Craven’s parents, Mike and Chrissy Craven, with medical expenses, especially the high cost of a drug that is not covered by insurance.

Festivities will be centered at 180 Fitness, located in the old North Sanpete High School building at 180 N. State Street in Mt. Pleasant.

At 10 a.m., the 5K race will start. It costs $15 to enter. At 11 a.m., a prize drawing will be held with tickets $5 each or five for $20. And then at 11:30 a.m., a fund raiser luncheon will be held.

According to the family’s LDS bishop, Wyatt suffers from acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the immune system. He is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant later in the month.

September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Wyatt’s parents hope to raise awareness of all forms of childhood cancer.

To preregister, go to www.180.fit/WyattCraven5KCharityRun.com. Supporters can also go to Facebook, under “superwyfoundation”; Instagram “@craventhegoodlife”; or Blog Spot “craventhegoodlife” for more information.