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Fountain Green Holds open house to

discuss new city hall and fire station


By James Tilson

Sports writer


FOUNTAIN GREEN—About two dozen residents attended an “open house” last week to learn about plan to build a new combined city hall and fire station.

The proposed site is on State Street between 300 and 400 North, and the estimated cost is $2 million. While public approval is not required, the city plans to send out ballots to citizens in the next week or two to get their approval before moving forward.

At the open house Thursday, Aug. 23, Mayor Willard Wood explained the plan was to sell the present city building, once an elementary school, and use the proceeds to match a potential 50/50 grant or loan from the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB).

The mayor said the existing city building would be sold to a family who plans to turn it into a combined “activity center” and private residence. He said the building would be sold at its “full appraised value” of $300,000. Meanwhile, he said, the city hopes to retain the old fire station for storage.

Wood laid out the schedule for the project. A planning meeting will be held in October, where the city will present its plans, get CIB input, and based on the input, possibly amend the plan. The city’s formal application would be due in January 2019, and the CIB would make its decision in February 2019. If everything went as scheduled, the city would break ground in March 2019.

The city plans to apply proceeds from sale of the current city building toward its expected payments on the new city hall from 2019 through 2025-26, Wood said. By then, debt on some earlier city projects will be paid off. Then the city can divert funds now budgeted for the earlier debts to meet its new obligation. By doing so, the mayor said, the city would not need to raise taxes to pay for the new building.

The mayor told the audience that plans for the building had not yet to be prepared, but blueprints for a similar building in Elsinore, Sevier County, were on display for the audience. The city is considering using the same design.

In response to questions from the audience, Mayor Wood said the new building would “absolutely” have a library in the basement, although it would only be reached by stairs or a ramp. “An elevator cost as much as half the building,” he said.

Wood said the proposed budget for the building included “contingencies” for any cost overruns, although any “extra” money could not go to any other project, but would have to be returned to the CIB.

At the end, Wood said that even if the city doesn’t get approval from citizens or the CIB to build the new combined city hall and fire station, it will go ahead with a new fire station. “Everyone needs to know that,” he said.


Fountain Green outlines proposed

buffer zones around municipality


By James Tilson

Sports writer



FOUNTAIN GREEN—The Fountain Green Planning Commission has proposed a buffer zone around the city that will define the lot sizes for future development and potential annexation into the city.

Brian Allred of the commission presented the proposal to the Fountain Green City Council last Thursday, Aug. 23.

The proposal was developed in response to a directive from the Sanpete County Planning and Zoning Commission to municipalities to develop buffer zones plans and provide them to the county for planning purposes.

The directive was issued in April 2018. Fountain Green has been working on the plan since then, Allen said.

A map of the buffer zone showed two “perimeters” around the city. Land inside the first perimeter would be zoned Residential-Agriculture (RA-1), which requires lots to be a minimum of 6 acres.

Land between the city limits and first perimeter on north side of town would also be available for light industry.

Land between the first and second perimeters would be zoned as Sensitive Land (SL-1 or SL-2). That classification requires lots to be at least 40 acres. The land can be used for either agricultural or residential purposes.

A document accompanying the map explained that the city would not provide water or sewer services to lots in the buffer zone, and developers would be required to provide roads aligning with the city’s current transportation grid.

Allred told the council his commission required 40-acre lots in the outer band of the buffer zone to protect the city water infrastructure; this will reduce the number of wells drilled near the city and avoid depleting water aquifers. He noted that Nephi had also used 40-acre lots in its buffer zone.

Allred also said the plan was only a first step. A public hearing will be held on the proposal, after which, he said, he expected “fine tuning” from the council.

Once completed, the plan could be presented to the county for approval, he said.

The council promised to review the plan and bring it before a public hearing in the near future.

Colored area around Fountain Green map show details of proposed buffer zones.


New supervisor takes over

Manti-LaSal National Forest


By D. Yvonne Folkerson

Staff writer



Ryan Nehl, the new supervisor of Manti-La Sal National Forest headquartered in Price.

PRICE— The new supervisor of the Manti-La Sal National Forest knows how to build relationships among different cultures.

Ryan Nehl arrived at his new office in Price last week after working as deputy forest supervisor at the Malheur National Forest in John Day, Ore.

He worked at the Malhuer Forest from 2015 until present. While there, he ran operations for the 2017 Rainbow Family Gathering, a kind of counter-culture gathering of people from all over the world, and the Great American Solar Eclipse

“I look forward to leading the forest in developing a revised land and resource management by engaging stakeholders and incorporating best available science,” Nehl said.

Those duties involved building relationships with local citizens.

“One of my main goals is to enhance relationships with the counties, tribes and other partners,” he said.

Prior to his service in the Malheur, Nehl worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and before starting his federal service in 2007, he was employed with Chrysler Corporation and the Howard County (Indiana) Health Department.

Nehl and his wife, Sherry, will live in Price with their four sons (ages 21, 13, 12 and 8) and their dog.


Sterling man appears in

court on fraud charges

By James Tilson

Sports writer



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.


Ephraim City reports water

struggles may be ebbing


By James Tilson

Staff writer



EPHRAIM— The Ephraim City Council received the first jar of water drawn from the city’s new test well, and with it, news that city’s water woes may be ebbing.

Holding up a jar of water, director of economic development Bryan Kimball told the city council that he is “very encouraged” with the progress of the city’s new test well, which is located on city-owned property at about 450 S. 400 West.

After three days of pumping, the well is emitting 700-800 gallons per minute, Kimball said, and he believes the results bode well for the well in the future.

The city also received the initial arsenic test results. The test well’s arsenic levels are well below the state’s minimum standards, and much better than the existing well, said Kimball.

The arsenic levels of the city’s existing well in the west-center part of town were what started the city looking into drilling a new well.

Kimball told the council the city would send samples of the test well water to the state for full testing when the water clears up from sediments in a few days.

According to Kimball, the city hopes the state will send its “punch list” for meeting state municipal water requirements in October. Once that is done, the city would be able to put its final designs for the new well out to bid and then start drilling in the late fall. If that happens, Kimball is optimistic that the new well would be online by early spring 2019.

Kimball then talked about how the city was dealing with its water restrictions. He said the city water tanks are filled to the top every day at 5 p.m. And then, after a night of watering, the tanks have been emptied again.

Kimball described how every day Chad Parry, the city utility director, has to perform “a ballet” of redirecting the water flow from one tank to the next to make sure each tank is re-filled and the city’s water flow stays constant.

Kimball related that most houses are using less water than last year, although there are a few that still use more water than most. With this year’s water shortages, the city has had to manage its water supply much more actively than ever before.

Councilman John Scott reported that a new concrete subcontractor has been hired to work on the Ephraim tunnel. He said the new contractor “was on the job.”

The city was forced to recruit a new subcontractor after the contract with the first one ran out because the tunnel project has run at least a year longer than originally anticipated.

City Manager Brant Hanson added “he is very well qualified, even more so than the previous contractor. We feel like we got lucky.”

Kimball said the tunnel workers are “going as quickly as they can” in order to beat the weather and finish the mammoth project year. They have laid 1,000 feet of pipe in the 7,000 foot tunnel.

Ephraim Police Chief Aaron Broomhead delivered an initial report to the council regarding the number of calls the Ephraim Police Department answered outside city limits. The council had asked for his report because of concerns over whether Ephraim was getting the full use of its own police officers, or whether other municipalities were over-relying on Ephriam.

As Scott put it, “They’re [other cities] not hiring, because we’re supplementing their [police] force.”

Chief Broomhead told the council that so far, all he had been able to determine was that the dispatch operator might call Ephraim police for lower priority calls (such as VIN checks) because no other police agencies were available. Broomhead said he would discuss this situation with dispatch to resolve it.

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An interview with John Coltharp,

reveals he thinks he will be martyred

like Joseph Smith, for his beliefs


By James Tilson

Staff writer



MANTI—Before he left the Sanpete County Jail to go to prison last week, John Coltharp agreed to an interview in order, he said, to clear up inaccuracies in the way he had been portrayed in the media.

The first inaccuracy he wanted to clear up was that his order was not a “doomsday” cult. “The Knights of the Crystal Blade was a fraternal order,” he said. “It was basically a way to be organized in whatever it is we decided to do, because we felt that the church in Utah, the LDS church, was falling short on certain things that were its responsibility to do. We believed we were led by revelation, and by spirit, by good principals as we went.”

However, on further questioning, Coltharp continued to fall back on language referring to the end of time and the destruction of present-day society.

“We’re living in a time when gross darkness covers the Earth and all flesh is corrupt,” he said. “The whole world is going to suffer destruction, because the majority of people fight against Zion, they fight against the laws of God.

“Isiah says the Earth is destined to burn, and few men are left. Many are called, but few are chosen. We will be gathered out from the midst of the terrors. I look at the way society is today, there is an all-out war against sanity. I look at the promotion of transgenderism, homosexuality, all these people praising weird, disgusting things.”

Coltharp repeated what he had said at his sentencing hearing that he doesn’t believe he will serve to the end of his prison sentence.

“I don’t think the present structure of society is going to survive the duration of my sentence,” he said. “I know the Lord has promised me and has shown me certain things I will do in the future that obviously necessitate me not being in here. [But] I don’t plan on escaping and having the U.S. Marshalls go looking for me.”

When asked to describe his beliefs, he said he was following Joseph Smith, but picking up where he left off and moving forward based on personal revelations. “I believe the work [Joseph Smith] did was good, inspired, and I believe I have been called to pick up where he let off.”

“I believe Joseph Smith is what he claimed to be. I believe the Book of Mormon and the (Doctrine and) Covenants. I believe in the restoration. And I believe that because the Saints did not live up to all the commandments they were given, the Lord allowed them to be driven from place to place.”

But, he was quick to add, his version of God’s message did not derive from other sources, but from his own “revelations” and “visions.”

“Those things came to me so powerful, in experiences, including experiences in this jail, that when I say now I know ‘perfectly,’ I know perfectly. I’ve pierced the veil several times; I’ve spoken to God. I don’t have doubt anymore.”

Since his actions were dictated by revelations, he said he did not think that he had done anything wrong by the child victims.

“Based on the research I had done, I knew that in ancient time, the marriage consisted of two or three stages, depending on which period of time you’re talking about,” he explained. “The first part was just a promise of a future relationship, from the father to another man with regard to the daughter.

“The next step was a formal ceremony, where we married each other’s daughters, and they consented to it. The third stage of marriage was sexual consummation. We did receive revelation that it was not only appropriate, but ideal to a certain extent to have some degree of physical affection with the person.”

When asked if he thought that having sexual relations with so young a child might be seen as abusive, Coltharp replied, “I think that taking a child and abusing that person, not loving them, doing it outside a celestial marriage outside God’s laws, could be abusive.”

When told others had described him as “manipulative and controlling,” he said, “I tell people the truth. I show people what the facts are, and some people absolutely hate that. And they feel like they are manipulated because they can’t sit on the fence anymore. They’re compelled by the force of reason, by the force of evidence, to take a hard proposition on something now, because now they know what the facts are.”

He was asked if he was afraid of what might happen to him in prison. “

“I’m aware of the danger,” he said, “but when I went down this road a long time ago I was prepared to face whatever consequences there are. I believe I will probably be killed for what I believe; that’s a pretty likely scenario.”

The Coal Hollow Fire has jumped US 6 just west of the junction with Hwy 89 north of Sanpete County. As of Aug. 13, US 6 was closed for part of its length, but the closure was lifted on Aug. 16, with the speed limited to 45 mph.


Coal Hollow Fire has long road

ahead towards total containment


By James Tilson

Staff writer



FAIRVIEW—The Coal Hollow Fire grew over last weekend, as thunderstorms provoked a spike in activity and the fire jumped US 6 just west of the junction with Hwy 89.

The Coal Hollow Fire started on August 4, due to lighting strike. It soon became aggressive and fast moving in steep terrain. As of August 16, the fire had grown to 26,380 acres with 14 percent containment. No containment lines have been lost, however, and with calmer weather and cloud cover on Wednesday fire containment continued.

On Sunday afternoon, thunderstorms caused a spike in activity, with high winds pushing the fire on its north edge near US 6. With the fire jumping the highway, US 6 was closed on Monday through Wednesday, but was then re-opened on Thursday with speed limited to 45 mph.

After the change of weather on Wednesday, firefighters on the north edge of the fire were able to continue working on containing the fire. Firefighters on the southern edge reported minimal growth, and were able to re-inforce existing lines.

David Vining, operations section chief with the U.S. Forest Service, explained to the audience at the community meeting at North Sanpete High School on August 9, “We have to identify the values at risk. When we talk about values at risk, we’re talking a lot about this Highway 6 corridor… It’s a main highway corridor. There are power lines that feed six towns. There are railroad tracks that are used about up to six times a day. There are houses in there. There’s a lot going on in that corridor there.”

The areas to the east and northwest of the fire were the most active. Fire crews had built a fire line around where the fire had jumped US 6, and are hopeful that US 6 will continue to hold as a border for most of the north edge of the fire.

On the east flank, the fire is coming up to Starvation Road, which firefighter hope to use as a containment line. There was little growth reported on the south side of the fire.

Cody Harmar, councilman at Spring City and a fireman himself, has been in close contact with the Spring City crew that has been working on the Coal Hollow Fire. He said that the messages from the crew indicate the crew is happy to be working the fire, and “They’re kicking butt up there.”

Vining echoed those sentiments. “We’ve been really lucky for the support Type 2 team we’ve received in both the Hilltop and Coal Hollow Fires from Utah County and from Sanpete County volunteers. ‘You guys are really, really lucky. So if you see a volunteer out there, or a county sheriff, or an equipment operator, be sure to say, ‘Thanks.’”

Harmar said the Spring City crew was working on the south side of the fire, and he noted that forest fires often burn slower on the downhill side of a slope. At the same time, conditions can change rapidly, and crews must be alert.

Harmar, noting that the fire picked up activity during weekend thunderstorms, do not wish for storms, but rather calm weather. “Thunderstorms bring high winds and lighting, neither of which firefighters want. We’d rather have calm conditions so that we can finish our jobs.”

Vining warned that Coal Hollow was not going to be cured right away. “Moving forward, Coal Hollow is going to be a fairly long duration event for you guys. It’s not going to be put out in the next three days, seven days, maybe even two weeks. So just prepare yourselves for that.”

Spring City has sent one truck, with three to five people to work the fire. Harmar notes that resources throughout the West have been stretched thin, because of the many fires going on all over.

The Coal Hollow Fire has 729 total personnel, with 37 engines, 4 dozers, 7 water tenders, 6 helicopters and 2 fixed wing air tankers.

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John Coltharp, with his attorney Paul Frischknect, listen as Judge Marvin Bagley prounounces Coltharp’s sentence of 1-15 years for child bigamy to be followed by a sentence of 25 years to life for sodomy to a child.


Coltharp sentenced to 26years-to-life,

claims divine revelation for acts


By James Tilson

Staff writer



MANTI—John Coltharp, the Spring City man whose children were rescued from a religiously oriented camp in Iron County, was sentenced to prison for 26 years to life last week  while proclaiming himself to be Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, in open court.

John Coltharp, 34, pleaded guilty on May 2 to one count of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and child bigamy, a second-degree felony, for sex crimes on his “child bride.”   In a plea agreement, charges of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, were dismissed.

The main question before Judge Marvin Bagley at the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Aug. 8, was whether sentences for the two counts were to run concurrently or consecutively.

Coltharp’s charges arose from his belief in “child marriage” and what he claimed were  personal revelations from God.

In late 2016, Coltharp and his co-defendant Samuel Shaffer founded the Knights of the Crystal Blade. Coltharp claims the order is not an off-shoot from the LDS church, but does follow some of the teachings of Joseph Smith and other religious texts.

In December 2017, after his estranged wife had won a divorce decree and custody of the couple’s children, police began looking for Coltharp and the children. Coltharp was arrested in Spring City but refused to reveal where his four children were.

After Sanpete County detectives figured out that the Knights of the Crystal Blade were headquartered in a remote part of Iron County and an Amber alert was issued, the children were found in unheated portable storage buildings.

Further investigation found Cotharp and Shaffer had “married” each other’s elementary-age daughters in accordance with their unconventional religious beliefs.

Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels addressed Judge Bagley first during the hearing.  “I do want to preface this,” he said, “by stating that this is the type of case I wish that the Legislature empowered me to seek the death penalty.”

Daniels supported his statement by referencing the level of damage to the victims, the number of victims, and the fact that the victims “will be dealing with this for the rest of their lives.”

Daniels said he had met with Coltharp on more than one occasion and had been able to communicate with him in a very respectful manner. However, he said, “We fundamentally disagree on life philosophies.”

Specifically, Coltharp continued to defend his practice of “child marriage.” Daniels read from the presentence report that Coltharp had told the investigator how much marriage meant to him.

“It is a vital part of my religion,” he told the presentence investigator according to the report. “My marriage and subsequent relations were not sinful. To suggest so would be to dishonor the name of Joseph Smith and every other prophet that lived these ancient laws of God.”

While Daniels read from the report, Coltharp could be seen nodding in enthusiastic agreement the descriptions of his beliefs.

And then Daniels told the judge, “If he is contending the government is waging a war on his beliefs, then sign me up as a general in that battle.”

Daniels made other arguments as to why Coltharp should receive consecutive sentences. The county attorney said Coltharp would never follow the law, and would re-offend if released.

He said Coltharp’s crimes caused long-lasting trauma to the child victims and a financial burden to those now raising the children. The crimes exhibited extreme depravity and cruelty, and were committed over a long period of time. And Coltharp committed the crimes while in a position of trust with the victims.

Daniels then read into the record a letter from foster parents of the Shaffer children, whom Coltharp had taken as his “child brides” describing the after-effects of Coltharp’s actions. The children have trouble eating, cannot speak up to their age group, have difficulty with balance and have many misunderstandings of personal relationships.

The letter also described how the children talk about their “marriages” and the fact that Coltharp engaged in sexual conduct with them.

It ended by saying the children have been in therapy since they arrived with the foster parents but the full realization of their trauma will not occur until they have reached adulthood, and find out their childhood was taken from them.

The presentence report also contained a letter from Coltharp’s ex-wife. She told about the trauma her daughter had faced by being the child bride of Samuel Shaffer. When her daughter came back to her, her daughter was terrified to talk about what happened.

But when she finally did, she confirmed Shaffer had engaged in sexual practices with her. “This was something all the other children confirmed they had seen firsthand,” the ex-wife’s letter said.

In the letter, Coltharp’s ex-wife told the judge why she could not attend the sentencing. “I know I would not be able to restrain myself from hurting the man who hurt my babies.”

The maternal grandfather of the Coltharp children, Steve Soble, who was in court, said he was glad the case had been resolved short of trial so that the children avoided being re-traumatized by testifying against their father. But at the same time, he said, “I’m frustrated that not all of his behavior can be addressed.

“He’s a predator. He preyed on my daughter when she was a teenager. He preyed on these children.”

And then he told the judge what his grandchildren asked him to tell the court at the sentencing, statements such as, “He’s a big fat idiot” and “I hate him so much.” Other reported comments from the children were, “You’re such a piece of poop” and “a really rude person, a fat bubble-butt.”

When it came time for Frischknecht, Coltharp’s attorney, to speak, he seemed at a loss for words, “What can I say, your honor?” he said.

After expressing his sympathy to the victims, and telling the judge that there would not be much difference between concurrent and consecutive sentences, he turned over the podium to his client.

Coltharp, after thanking Daniels and the Adult Probation and Parole for accurately relating his religious views, told the judge, “I know that my religious views are not shared by society, and that puts me in the minority. But that’s exactly where God’s chosen few have always found themselves, in the minority.”

Coltharp argued to the judge that society was, in fact, “going down the wrong road,” and his religious views were the result of “visions, revelations and speaking with God.”

“My marriage was the right thing to do. If Joseph Smith were here today, he’d probably be a sex offender for the things he did, including under-age marriage,” he said.

Coltharp said when he was with his “child brides,” they were happy and that any trauma suffered by them did not occur until the state intervened in his family.

Then Coltharp told the judge he had something to say that God had asked him to say. “Changes are coming. This government will be overthrown. I am Jacob, in the Old Testament. Also Elijah, and the Apostle John. I am here before the Second Coming to set an example with regard to marriage, and to teach the keys of the gospel, and to warn the people, especially of this state, to repent before that destruction is coming.”

Judge Bagley did not take much time to consider his options. He told Coltharp that the only real issue is whether his two counts should be concurrent or consecutive. Bagley asked Coltharp why it should be one or the other. Coltharp replied, “It doesn’t matter to me, I don’t think society will last that long.”

Judge Bagley then announced, “I don’t believe any scripture condones sexual relations between an adult and a 7-year-old.”

For that reason, the life-long trauma to the children, the nature of the offenses, and the fact that it was Coltharp’s and Shaffer’s daughters that were the victims, Bagley sentenced Coltharp to consecutive terms in prison, for 1-15 years, and 25-to-life.

Afterward, Soble said, even though Coltharp’s religious beliefs surprised them somewhat, “from the beginning, he’s been very controlling, very manipulative. He’s always felt himself to be important, more important and smarter than everyone else.”

Daniels called the sentencing “a bizarre event. It was expected, however.”

Daniels said the Knights of the Crystal Blade were effectively disbanded. “I would say with their prophet and their second-in-command serving time in prison for life, it is safe to say the head of the snake is removed.”

However, another member of the cult is still facing felony charges—and new charges will be filed against Coltharp’s parents.

Robert Rowe faces charges of sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony. Keith and Cathy Coltharp will be facing obstruction of justice charges, a Class A misdemeanor, for their part in covering up evidence during the investigation.

“They were indeed members of the Knights,” Daniels said. “They were not, however, involved in the sexual abuse or the sexual activities. They could be facing a lot more serious charges, but because of the nature of their cooperation, they will face much less serious charges.”

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