Mt. Pleasant industrial park grant on track


By James Tilson




MT. PLEASANT—Mt. Pleasant has secured all of the money needed to match the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to improve the city industrial park, along with a surplus, which will be used to extend the airstrip road and pay for engineering fees.

During a meeting of the Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA), Monte Bona, the executive director, updated the city council on the progress of the industrial park development project.

The project is being funded by an EDA grant of $249,200, with local matching funds to be raised by the city of $123,654, for a total project cost of $372,854.

The city had planned to raise its share of the cost by selling parcels of land on the south end of town near the industrial park and ConToy Arena. Bona announced that all of those sales had been completed, and the $189,000 in proceeds had exceeded the city’s matching goals.

Bona also told the council the city’s “scope of work” memorandum had been submitted to the EDA, and he was confident the project would go forward as amended.

The project will improve and extend roads and utilities in the industrial park to allow for expansion.

Reservoirs in the San Pitch River Basin are bone dry, holding zero percent of their capacity for the second straight year. And water availability index is only 3 percent, according to water reports from the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Water woes continue, but residents hope for more snow


By Robert Green




After suffering through the driest water year on record, Sanpete Valley residents are encouraged by signs that snowpack will return to normal.

The skies opened up on Thanksgiving weekend and brought some desperately needed precipitation to the state, said Troy Brosten, hydrologist for the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), which conducts the Utah Snow Survey.

The San Pitch Basin started the 2019 water year off strong with 150 percent of its average water accumulation for the first two months (October and November).

However, this drop in the bucket doesn’t mean that Sanpete’s water woes will end anytime soon.

First of all, reservoirs in San Pitch River Basin are bone dry, holding zero percent of their capacity for the second straight year.

And water availability index is only 3 percent, according to water reports from NRCS. Springs and aquifers are drying up and it takes several years of good water for the aquifers to recover and rejuvenate, Brosten said.

Precipitation in the San Pitch River Basin was only 60 percent of normal in 2018, and this came right after a dismal water year in 2017.

“Last year was horrible for Sanpete,” Brosten said. “The snowpack was bad and the summer was worse.”

Sanpete County is facing extreme drought conditions along with some counties in Southern Utah, Brosten said.

Gunnison and Nine-Mile reservoirs are mostly dry. Many towns in Sanpete County imposed water restrictions on residents last summer.

Farmers in the region lost their irrigation water early, said Garrick Hall, Utah Farm Bureau Central regional manager.

Gunnison Valley farmer Stan Jensen said drought conditions last year reduced his crop production by 40 percent. Along with his dad and brother, he raises hay and corn in the Gunnison Valley east of the Sevier River.

Jensen said his irrigation time was restricted, and he stopped watering in mid-June. As bad as that may sound, Jensen said that farmers in northern Sanpete County probably had it worse because they don’t have as much water storage and they don’t use as much sprinkler irrigation.

“If we don’t get a lot of snow this winter, we’ll really be in a dire situation,” he said, “because the reservoirs are starting on empty.”

However, the early season snowpack looks good, he said. “And we need a good heavy base for the winter snow to pile up on.”

The Jensen’s will be hoping and praying for a heavy snowfall this winter. As will most water managers throughout the state. Without it, water restrictions will be likely be enforced next year. Not to mention the probability of more devastating wildfires.

Statewide, the 2018 water year was dismal and left the entire state in a moderate to exceptional drought category, according to the NRCS water report.

Utah received about half of its normal snowpack last winter, followed by four months of hot summer temperatures, with abundant forest fires and little rain.

Reservoirs have seen heavy use with little to no water left; across the state, reservoir storage is at 54 percent, compared to 70 percent a year ago.

Soil moisture is at 23 percent compared to 55 percent statewide last year.

Cumulative precipitation for the 2018 water year ranged from 76 percent of average in the Bear River Basin to 51 percent in Southeastern Utah, with the San Pitch River Basin reporting 60 percent and the Upper Sevier Basin coming in at 67 percent of average.

The Upper Sevier Basin is reported to be in better shape than the San Pitch. Reservoir storage is at 18 percent capacity, and the water availability index for Upper Sevier is 5 percent.

However, recent storms just glanced by the Upper Sevier Basin in November, leaving precipitation that month at just 83 percent of normal and bringing the total accumulation of water for 2019 to 136 percent of average, compared to 150 percent in the San Pitch River Basin.

Thanksgiving rains and snows gave the entire state a boost to 135 percent of average for this year. The Beaver and Lower Sevier watershed are off to a particularly good start, coming in at about 200 percent of average for this year.

Brosten cautioned that is too early in the season to know if this winter will translate to boom or bust for snow totals. He also mentioned that it will take above-average precipitation to start to replenish water storage levels.

[Read more…]

Trend toward lighter sentences affected Mellor outcome

Letter with petition reflects continued anger among some Fayette residents


By James Tilson




MANTI—Sanpete County attorneys felt they couldn’t get the sentence they really wanted in the Tracy Mellor public funds case because of recent changes in Utah sentencing guidelines.

Pointing to the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) in Utah in 2015, County Attorney Kevin Daniels said, “It changed the criminal justice system entirely.”

While many of the changes have been positive, one impact he views as negative is cases  getting an “across-the-board reduction in recommendations.”

“The reduced sentences we are seeing are not the result of lenient judges, the reductions are a by-product of a change to the sentencing guidelines,” he said.

Daniels explained how he thought that reform in the criminal justice system often ran in cycles, calling it the “pendulum concept.” He said legislators will respond to calls for change in the criminal justice system by going from one extreme to the other.

“After the Reagan era, get-tough-on-crime changes resulted in much more severe punishments. Now the reforms are swinging to the other extreme of leniency,” he said.

While there has been a lot of opposition to people being incarcerated for long periods for drug possession, he said, all cases are getting much more lenient sentences, not just drug cases.

Mellor, the long-time Fayette town clerk and recorder, pleaded guilty to writing checks out of city funds to her husband’s business. Investigators said the thefts went back to at least 2009. She was charged with stealing $153,000. But she took other money that she couldn’t be charged with taking because the statute of limitations had run out on those thefts.

Knowing how sentencing recommendations were going lately, the County Attorney’s Office planned to ask for a one-year jail sentence. But when the pre-sentence report came from Utah Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) with a recommendation of no jail time, Daniels said, “We were quite shocked.”

After seeing the low recommendation, Daniels and Assistant County Attorney Wes Mangum decided all they could realistically argue for was 60 days in jail. The court ultimately ordered 45 days.

Daniels said AP&P, using new sentencing guidelines, is routinely issuing lenient sentencing recommendations. He recalled the Mathew Malstrom case, in which an 18-year-old boy was convicted of stealing about $40,000 worth parts and weapons from Christensen Arms in Gunnison. The original recommendation was for only 45 days, with credit for time served. Daniels’s office argued for a lengthier jail term, and the court eventually sentenced Malstrom to serve 120 days in jail.

Daniels also recalled a sex crime in which the recommendation was for only 30 days in jail. Daniels argued that particular defendant needed to be sentenced to prison. In that particular case, the judge followed Daniels’ recommendation and not the presentence report.

Changes are taking place all over Utah, not just in Sanpete County. Daniels cited a Kane County case from 2017 in which a city treasurer was charged with embezzling public funds. In that case, which was tried by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of a third-degree felony, not three felonies like Mellor pleaded to. The defendant wound up with a 30-day jail sentence.

Daniels said he knew that there was strong sentiment in the community regarding Mellor’s sentence, everything from people who wanted her to walk free to people who “wanted to give her the death penalty.” Daniels said he personally felt at least a year in jail was warranted.

Since her sentencing, the community atmosphere has not simmered down. An anonymous letter has been circulating around Fayette this week, and apparently was mailed to each of the 70 households in town, accusing various government officers and entities of “not caring about Fayette.”

The letter asks recipients, “Do you care about Fayette?” and invites them to make their opinions known to Judge Wallace Lee, Mellor’s sentencing judge.

Investigations of Fayette town government are not finished. Last week, the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office sent the results of its investigation into further misuse of public funds by people other than Mellor to the county attorney’s office for review.

Daniels said the investigation is “still in the process” and he expected to have a decision on whether to file charges within a couple of weeks.


Orem man charged with LDS document forgery


Many historical photos from Sanpete destroyed in scam


By Robert Stevens

Managing editor



Kevin Schuwer, 29, of Orem has been charged with theft and forgery for allegedly stealing a historic photo of Porter Rockwell from the BYU library. He is also the target of a civil suit for selling forged historic LDS books and coinage. He particularly trafficked in pioneer-era photographs from Sanpete County.

OREM—While a confessed forger and an apparent thief of books and photographs is facing legal consequences for his actions, a local book and documents dealer who spotted the fakes and warned his colleagues says the case will damage the market for the LDS artifacts for years to come.

Kevin Mark Ronald Schuwer, 29, of Orem, was recently charged with theft and theft by deception, both third-degree felonies, and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony.

Schuwer is accused of stealing eight rare books from Special Collections at the BYU library as well as a rare photograph of Porter Rockwell from the library.

Meanwhile, he faces a suit seeking more than $500,000 in damages for allegedly selling a forged 1849 LDS gold coin and a number of counterfeit books that would be considered very rare if they were authentic.

According to the civil court documents, in which Schuwer confesses to forgery, the fake books included a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants from 1835 purported to have belonged to Emma Smith, an 1835 LDS hymnal, a 1614 King James Bible, and an 1837 Book of Mormon said to have been owned by LDS apostle James E. Talmage.

But those items were the tip of the iceberg, says Ryan Roos, owner of Thunderbird Books and Tilted Tulip Floral in Ephraim, and co-owner of Writ and Vision Rare Books in Provo with his partner, Brad Kramer.

Roos has dealt in rare books and documents for nearly two decades. He studied history, philosophy and religion at Utah State University, during which time he worked in special collections at the Merrill-Cazier Library.

Years ago, Roos gave a lecture in which he warned dealers and collectors of LDS artifacts that a forger as devastating to the LDS artifacts market as the infamous Mark Hoffman would emerge. When Schuwer started trafficking in artifacts, Roos and Kramer were about the only people in the field who didn’t get fooled by his fakes.

“I first encountered Kevin when he came into the Provo store three years ago,” Roos says. “He showed me a number of rare photos and documents. I was immediately struck by his aggressive attitude when it came to what he was selling.

“As a dealer, and someone who has spent his adult life in the field, I’ve learned that the more someone is trying to conceal something, the more overbearing they become. This was my first indication that something was wrong. My second clue was that much of what he was telling me regarding his rare items was simply false.”

After Schuwer tried to sell Roos something Roos himself had once owned, but with a completely falsified provenance (the “paper trail” of a collector’s item), Roos suspected fraud.

Ryan Roos, owner of Thunderbird Bookstore in Ephraim, holds up three authentic historic LDS photographs. For years, his warning to other book and document sellers that a young antiques dealer was creating sophisticated forgeries fell on deaf ears

Roos warned many of his customers and colleagues that Schuwer was engaged in fraud, but his warnings fell on deaf ears.

“I was largely dismissed, with several dealers who I had known for years turning on me, and thrashing my reputation for questioning the authenticity of Kevin’s offerings,” Roos says. ”Since Kevin was involved with nearly every major dealer and collector in my trade, I experienced a massive loss in business by challenging his practices.

“It’s easier to shoot the messenger, especially when you’re making a fortune or being supplied seemingly priceless materials. Customers who had invested heavily in him almost immediately refused to do business with me. Because I had questioned Kevin’s activities early, he effectively offset those criticisms by convincing a number of high-power collectors and dealers…to blacklist me.”

It was around this time that Roos started to suspect Schuwer was also forging historic photographs. Schuwer peaked Roos’s suspicion when showing what Roos considered an excessive interest in labels adorning historic LDS photos—labels that disclosed the name and often the location of the photographer.

Many of the names and locations came out of Sanpete County. When Roos noticed the red flag, he banned Schuwer from his store. He later found out Schuwer had employed a proxy buyer to continue his inquiries into Roos’s and Kramer’s collection.

It wasn’t long after that Roos began noticing a trend on eBay—a market he admits is a sometimes a “wild west” for collectibles. Someone was buying up historic, but relatively low-value, Sanpete photographs in spades. Roos began to suspect it was Schuwer. Later in a warrant search, police found more than 30,000 valuable, high-resolution historic images saved to Schuwer’s iPad.

From examining Schuwer’s photos, Roos was able to see that he would purchase an historic family photo from a small town, often in Sanpete County, remove the original image, and replace it with one that he had printed himself—one that would appeal to collectors.

Because the card stock on which he’ placed his photograph was real, collectors didn’t suspect a forgery. But when examined closely, a dot matrix appears, which indicates the image was printed.

Roos says his first confirmation of a Schuwer forgery was in 2015. So by all appearances, Schuwer had been at work for several years—maybe more—before he was caught this year.

Left unchecked, Schuwer’s work would have destroyed the market for historic Utah photos, Roos says. “With what we know now about how he would destroy legitimate history to create fake photos, it seems like had he not been caught now, we would have faced a catastrophic situation in regards to historical photos.”

The revelation of Schuwer’s thievery and fakes is already wreaking havoc on the market, Roos says. “I know that collectors, dealers and archives are in a panic. Nobody’s talking because everyone is breathlessly searching their holdings for his fakes—and they keep finding them! Nobody wants to ruin the reputation of their institution by speaking openly right now.

This scan of a historic photo looks authentic, but when magnified, dot-matrix pixels show it to be a scan of the photo, not the original., even though it is pasted on cardstock from decades ago.

“It’s going to temporarily stun the market,” Roos adds. “Until people know they can again trust that the historic documents they’re buying weren’t printed at the local Costco, the market is frozen.”

Schuwer emphasized Sanpete-based photos in his “collecting” because, while the photos indeed came out of early Mormon times, they were often not as well-cataloged, and that made them easier to forge without detection, Roos says.

“This is a monumental desecration of our past,” Roos says. “The reality is that anyone who sold their family photos to this dealer [Schuwer] based on his promise of preservation likely had their ancestors photos peeled off and thrown away, and more lucrative and freshly printed  photos pasted in their place.”

While Schuwer has been caught, and Roos’s warnings have been proven correct,  he says he has still not regained the customers who blacklisted him. Roos says he has received one apology from a dealer, but he thinks many are too embarrassed to come forward.

“It’s never easy to say the unpopular thing, but I had enough confidence in my training and myself to know what I was looking at,” he says. “I likely lost tens of thousands of dollars by not dealing with Kevin and his frauds. And honestly, it was worth every penny. Our family has chosen to lay down our roots in Sanpete, and for a stranger to come in and abuse not only my profession but my people is something I take very personally.”

Photos, recordings restricted due to disruptions by citizen’s group


By James Tilson




MANTI—A local “citizens” group has prompted a change in what the district court allows to be recorded within its courthouses.

Stating they are “concerned about decorum and the protection of persons doing business within the courthouse” as well as “persons being photographed, filmed, or recorded without their knowledge or permission,” the judges of the 6th District Court signed an administrative order on Nov. 16 prohibiting photographing, filming or recording, except in designated areas in the courthouse, outside of courtrooms.

The order also said “no one may photograph, film, or record an individual without that individual’s express consent.”

The “common area” where photographing is permitted is the county commission meeting room in the basement. The room was chosen as it was a specific area that did not block access to courtrooms or county offices in other parts of the courthouse.

According to Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels, the changes in court policy came about due to actions of a group calling themselves the Sovereign Citizens.

“These people claim the state of Utah has no jurisdiction over them, and thus the court cannot impose any judgments on them,” Daniels said.

Apparently, members of the group have been congregating in courthouses, not only in the 6th District but all over Utah, and filming people around the courthouses and conducting what Daniels called “recruiting.”

The group’s claims, when they are in court, appear to center around their contention that they are not citizens of Utah, but instead “real persons” and they do not have a “contract” with the state of Utah or its courts.

However, as Daniels recounts, those claims have had no success with the judges. “Most of the time, the person is found in contempt of court and placed into custody. Or the trial will go on anyway,” he said.

Daniels said an individual in Mt. Pleasant by the name of Jacquelyn Smith appears to be the leader of the movement, although, according to Daniels, she is currently facing an eviction proceeding from her home.

Daniels stated emphatically the regular media in no way influenced the order. The regular coverage of court hearings and trials by the media is allowed through written requests and orders by the court, and has proceeded in an orderly fashion, he said. The order does not change in any way how the media cover or photograph court proceedings.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, talks about the Utah Medical Cannabis Act during a special session of the Utah Legislature at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday.

Utah passes cannabis legislation

[Read more…]

Interior walls of the Ephraim Park Cemetery gazebo contain granite slabs that have been engraved with veteran names.

Unlisted vets will be added to Ephraim memorial

[Read more…]

Gathering about working online from home draws full house in Ephraim


By Suzanne Dean





EPHRAIM—Two meetings were held at Snow College recently to implement a state pilot program to help rural residents make good money by working online from home.

The Rural Online Initiative (ROI) meetings on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 at the Graham Science Building were “sold out,” says Paul Hill, director of USU Extension in Washington County. “There were standing-room crowds.”

Hill, who is in charge of the ROI, briefed the audience about the history of remote work, trends toward creation of remote jobs and an online training program through USU called the “master remote professional certificate.”

The premise of the ROI program is simple, Ken White, vice president of USU Extension explained in the extension newsletter. “Educate, coach, mentor and teach rural businesses and members of the workforce so they can take advantage of online opportunities.

“We see this as a way for citizens to keep the high quality of life found in these rural communities, but now they can have increased earning potential.”

It all started with Darin Bushman, a native of Marysvale in Piute County. He was working in Denver for Hunter-Douglas, the window covering company, when it closed its site there. His company kept him on, but there wasn’t much for him to do.

He and his wife decided, “Let’s go home,” he told a workshop at the Utah Rural Summit last fall.

Home was in Marysvale and Piute County, a county of 1,500 located 25 miles from the nearest freeway.

Because of his business skills and experience, he was able to quite easily get internet-based contract work. He ran projects for large corporations from Marysvale and was authorized to spend a lot of money hiring freelancers throughout the country.

One day, he told the writer for the USU newsletter, “I sat in my office posting a freelance job offer, and it hit me. Why can’t our citizens, with skills to offer, be the ones doing this job rather than someone halfway around the world?”

In 2014, Bushman was elected as a Piute County commissioner and got involved in economic development. He quickly figured out it wasn’t going to be possible to recruit a major employer to Piute County. And tourism tended to generate low-paying service jobs.

People in Piute County had talents; they had skills; but they were often unemployed or underemployed, he told the Rural Summit. Sometimes one spouse had a job, but the other could not find anything locally.

In 2018, he decided to try to get the Utah Legislature interested in the concept of promoting online work and preparing people for online opportunities.

Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, agreed to sponsor a bill in the Utah House of Representatives to create the ROI pilot program with funding of $2.27 million. Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, managed the bill in the Utah Senate.

Ordinarily, a new program and new expenditure doesn’t get anywhere without a lot of deliberation. Frequently, such a measure is studied in an interim committee. But the three-year ROI pilot program got passed and funded within a few weeks. USU Extension was assigned to implement the initiative.

“It’s a really exciting program. I think it has legs,” Bushman told the Rural Summit. “We’ve had national attention. The news articles when this busted loose were remarkable for what I think is a fairly simple idea.”

At the Rural Summit, Hill, the USU Extension director, talked about the new “gig economy.” He said there are 10 million internet-based jobs right now in the United States. By 2027, 50 percent of workers will be working full-time or part-time in the gig economy.

Types of jobs and work-related structures in the gig economy include:

  • Telecommuting: A person works from home for one company.
  • Virtual teams: A person is part of a team charged with getting a project done, but the team members are in different locations.
  • Freelancing: A person works on contract doing different assignments at different times for different companies.
  • Ecommerce entrepreneurship: A person sells products online, such as through E-Bay or an Amazon store.
  • Opportunity hubs: A drop-in site where people come to receive coaching, be lined up for internships, find on-line opportunities and generally develop their professional identities. It can also be a meeting place for people who want to start companies and private investors.

The Rural Online Initiative is being implemented in several ways.

First, rural-work town meetings are being held to get the word out.

Second, the ROI legislation authorizes the state to offer incentives to employers who contract with Utah freelancers.

Third, six USU Extension staff members have been assigned to help implement the program in different parts of the state. Representatives are located in Washington, Garfield, Sevier, Emery and Carbon counties.

Fourth, and possibly the most concrete, is the master remote professional certificate. It’s an online program with nine modules covering topics such as the typical work day, communication in an online environment, scheduling and workflow, productivity and time management, compliance (including security and privacy) and remote job development.

After every three modules, students attend an on-line workshop using “Zoom,” a software similar to Skype.

“It’s like the Brady Bunch,” Hill says. “We’ve had up to 50 students. They join us live from all over rural Utah.”

According to Hill, to date, 150 people have registered for the course, and 20 have completed it. Once a student completes, he or she is offered one-on-one help to find online work.

There is one more remote-work town meeting this year. It is Monday, Dec. 10 at the Piute County Building in Marysvale at 7 p.m.

Hill said a new schedule of remote-work meetings, including additional sessions in Sanpete County, will be set up after the first of the year.


Sen. Orrin Hatch gets presidential freedom medal

By Lauren Evans

Staff writer



President Donald Trump drapes Presidential Medal of Freedom on Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch Nov. 16.

WASHINGTON—Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch has been presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

            President Donald Trump presented the medal Nov. 16 at a ceremony at the White House.

Hatch, the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history, will retire at the end of December.

“Senator Hatch has proudly represented Utah, sponsoring more bills that have become law than any other living legislator,” President Trump said.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Provo, said Hatch had played a critical role not only in shaping the future of Utah but also in improving the lives of thousands throughout the county.

Curtis cited Hatch’s role in passage of the American with Disabilities Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as examples.

“The Medal of Freedom is an honor to me, to my family, and hopefully, to the people of Utah who have given me this opportunity to serve all these years,” Hatch said. “Everything I’ve accomplished in the Senate has been with them in mind, and I’m grateful to the president for this recognition.”

The Medal of Honor was established 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy. The 500 past awardees include musicians, scientists, politicians and philanthropists.

With water flow at historic lows, Mayfield looks to redevelop springs


By James Tilson and Dyna Folkerson

Staff writers



MAYFIELD—The Mayfield Town Board heard an update on the effort to fund the town’s spring redevelopment at a meeting Nov. 14.

Garrick Willden, of Jones & DeMille Engineering, told the board that output from the springs in and near 12-Mile Canyon that provide the town’s culinary water are at historically low levels. “The springs are down to 2 or 3 gallons per minute—it’s never been that low,” he said.

During his presentation, Willden focused on the town’s progress on raising money to pay for spring redevelopment.

He said Jones & DeMille had applied for two grants on behalf of the town: one from the Utah Division of Drinking Water and the other for an Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) through USDA Rural Development.

“It’s not 100 percent we get the money, but other communities have been successful,” Willden said. For the ECWAG application, there needed to be a signed engineering agreement between the town and Jones & DeMille, a preliminary engineering report (paid for by the funding from the Division of Drinking Water) and an environmental report sponsored jointly by all the agencies connected to the project.

Willden said the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Division of Wildlife Services all have land connected to Mayfield’s springs, and all have been consulted. The Native American tribes have also been contacted, and as soon as they respond Jones & DeMille can send in the application.

The cost to do the study to estimate the cost of redeveloping Mayfield’s springs is $27,000. The Division of Drinking Water, which funds such studies on a 50/50 basis, awarded Mayfield $13,500. Another $13,500 in matching funds will have to come from the town. Willden said he hoped to fund the town’s match from the ECWAG application.

Willden told the town board he expected to submit the application by for the ECWAG to USDA Rural Development by Nov. 30. Because the ECWAG funding is for emergencies, he expected Jones & Demille, acting as the agent for the town, to hear back within one to two weeks.

The funding from ECWAG would be a 100 percent grant, which of course would be very desirable, Willden said. There are other funding sources available if the ECWAG grant does not come through, but he said none of them will have as favorable terms as the ECWAG grant.

Once the town has final confirmation of the grant award, Jones & DeMille will begin the spring redevelopment study. Mayfield has four springs, all in or in the vicinity of Twelve-Mile Canyon east of town.

Twelve-Mile Springs and Upper Twelve-Mile Springs are not being used right now. “We feel that there’s water in there,” Willden said. He said roots can be seen coming into the collection manhole and into the collection line. “I’m pretty sure we can do some good up there.”

Olsen Canyon Spring is down to a “little trickle of water,” he said. Water has been observed coming out of the hillside 130-150 feet above the spring. Willden feels the spring can be developed to take advantage of the “wandering” water.

Willden said Order Canyon Spring has two collection areas that come into one manhole. He said he can’t tell what each individual spring is doing. He hopes to dig an individual collection manhole for each spring to be able to look at them individually.

Willden told the town board that based on Jones & DeMille’s experience redeveloping springs for other cities, he thought the eventual cost would be $700,000 to $720,000.  He also noted that the fact the springs are not very high on the mountain meant work could be started soon, maybe even during the winter months.

But he warned the council the ECWAG application would have to be submitted as soon as possible before others apply for the same money.

“The only thing that worries me is with what happened in Florida and the fires in California,” he said. “It’s important we get this in as soon as possible.”

NSSD commits to improving reading literacy


By Lauren Evans

Staff writer



MT. PLEASANT – The North Sanpete School District, under direction of the Utah State Office of Education, has put together a plan for the 2018-19 school year to improve reading performance among North Sanpete elementary students.

            Although the district has been working on improving literacy in the elementary grades for years, this is the first year it has been required to write up a detailed plan in a required format, which had to be approved by the state, says Randy Shelley, assistant superintendent.

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Shelley put together a team of educators with expertise in teaching reading at the elementary level to write the plan.

The team included Allynne Mower, principal of Fairview Elementary; Chalyece Shelley, district special education coordinator; and Brook Henrie, one of the four “instructional coaches” who work out of the district office, but consult with teachers on their teaching methods and how to help students who aren’t making progress.

Meanwhile, the state sent a list of a list of goals it wanted included in the plan. The state expectations relied heavily on the DIBELS test (the acronym stands for Dynamic Indicators or Basic Early Literacy Skills), which is a test to measure a student’s proficiency and fluency in recognizing sounds and words and reading passages.

The test is taken three times each year and increases in difficulty by grade. Most schools in Utah administer the test in the first through third grades, but North Sanpete continues to test through the sixth grade.

The goals set by the state and the district are progress based. The idea is to focus not just on what percentage of children reach “proficiency” levels, but on how much progress students make over the course of the year.

Progress-based goals are easier for teachers to work with and more achievable, Shelley says.

Right now, 60-65 percent of North Sanpete elementary students in the K-3 grades read at grade level or above.

The first major goal expressed in the literacy plan is to increase the percentage of students who test proficient at the end of first grade by 11 percent, compared to the 8 percent average increase over the previous three years.

The second goal is to decrease the percentage of students who are behind by the end of first grade by 15 percent. The average over the past three years has been a decrease of 11 percent.

Cutting the percentage of children who do not test proficient by 15 percent “is a big ask,” Shelley says. “We’ll see if we can do it.”

The plan also focuses on providing individual help for students who are below “proficient.”  These help sessions are called interventions and can range from having children read with the better readers in class to reading one-on-one with paraprofessionals.

“We’re trying to customize the intervention based on the child,” she says.

Student progress in these interventions is monitored and documented by teachers, principals and district-level instructional coaches. If a student is just struggling a little bit, the child’s progress may be monitored once per month. If the child is a long way behind, progress may be monitored weekly.

By completing and gaining state approval for the new literacy plan, the district has received $101,000 in state money, which can go for teacher training and other expenses connected with plan implementation.

Although not an official goal in this year’s literacy plan, the state literacy director says 95 percent of students in the school system should read at grade level, according to Shelley. That’s all students except for the inevitable 4-5 percent of the population who have severe disabilities and will never learn to read at normal levels.

“We have a long way to go to get to what the state expects,” Shelley says.






Investigation finds Hilltop Fire caused by children with matches


By Robert Stevens

Managing editor



A helicopter races to dump water on the Hilltop Fire in August. The Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands found the fire was caused by children playing with matches.

INDIANOLA—An investigation by the Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands (FFSL) has found that young children playing with matches caused the Hilltop Fire, which burned 1,400 acres in the Indianola area in early August.

The children’s and their mother’s escape from their property about one mile south of Indianola  after the fire took off is itself a harrowing tale.

In a “Fire Cause and Determination Report,” Jason Curry, lead FFSL investigator for the Hilltop Fire, said when he arrived in the area on Aug. 8, the day after the fire started, he found a number of clues pointing to the cause of the fire.

Curry studied the direction of the fire spread and found disturbances in the soil where someone had tried to stomp out a fire, along with a shovel and buckets strewn on the ground.

“I continued to trace fire direction indicators, which led me to an area about 12 feet wide and 6 feet long where the fire originated,” Curry wrote in his report. “I began searching this area carefully and found a partially burned wooden match in a clump of burned grass.”

After a full search of the area, Curry found 24 partially burned matched and a “makeshift fort of branches”—the size, Curry noted, that would accommodate a child.

Curry found multiple spots where fires had ignited grass and juniper needles, then been stomped out, but he said the very first match he found was the match the led to child’s play getting out of hand.

Curry made contact with the nearby homeowner, and found out his children and wife had been home while he was at work the day the fire started.

Curry arranged to meet with the homeowner’s wife and children at the residence of a friend they stayed with after homes in the area were evacuated.

According to Curry’s report, the family had two children, ages 7 and 8. The mother had been in the house when the youngsters came in to the house upset about the fire they had ignited.

The mother and children tried to use buckets and shovels to douse the fire, but to no avail. The mother called 911 and got the children and herself in the family vehicle with the children. She told Curry she was so afraid of the approaching smoke and flames that she didn’t stop to open the gate—she ran right through it.

When Curry spoke to the children, after they warmed up to him, they told him about their game of lighting small fires with a box of wooden matches and then stamping them out, the report stated. The problem was that they lit one fire they were unable to put out.

In Curry’s report, he said one of the children, a girl, told him “they only ever wanted to start small fires they could put out.”

After a long interview with the children and their mother, Curry let them know he was not considering any referrals to juvenile court.

“I told them there would be a discussion with the state’s attorney general to determine what type of cost-recovery efforts the state would pursue,” Curry said. “There is often a claim made on insurance to cover some of the costs of putting out fires.”

The cost-recovery decision probably will not be made for a long time, he said.



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Investigation nets biggest Sanpete meth bust in a decade


By Robert Stevens

Managing editor



Matthew Thompson

AXTELL—A strategic and expertly executed effort by the Sanpete-Juab Major Crimes Task Force has resulted in the arrests of four suspects in what may be the biggest meth distribution case in a decade in Sanpete County.

The coordinated effort, including high-tech surveillance that extended across state lines, culminated on Sunday, Nov. 4, with detectives from the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office intercepting suspects who were on their way back from Arizona with a pound of crystal methamphetamine intended for sale in Sanpete.

The leader of the drug ring and the focus of the investigation was Matthew James Thompson, 39, of Manti, who has a long and violent criminal history and who officers believe was a major drug dealer.

“There is so much credit due to Det. Tyler Johnson, Det. Derick Taysom and the other members of the task force,” Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels says. “Matt Thompson was a scourge on Sanpete County. He’s been on our radar for a long time, and Sanpete will be a better place with him gone. Our aim is to send him to prison for a long time, end of story.”

The arrests occurred on U.S. 89 just north of Salina. Besides Thompson, the individuals arrested were Geoff  Vos Wade, 38, Moroni; Ashlyn Ehler, 18, Mt. Pleasant; and

Geoff Wade

Michele Vincent Gatti, 45, South Jordan.

Thompson is being charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony and one count of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor.

Gatti is being charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony; one count of possession of a controlled substance within a correctional facility, a second-degree felony; and one count of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor.

Ehler is being charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a second-degree felony; one count of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor; one count of obstruction of justice by harboring a wanted person, a third-degree felony; and one count of knowingly being present when a controlled substance is used, a Class A misdemeanor.

Ashlyn Ehler

Wade is being charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony and one count of use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor.

The county attorney says that not long before the recent arrest, Thompson was arrested for beating two people with a baseball bat so badly they were sent to the hospital. When he bailed out, Thompson reportedly began threatening the witnesses. That led to a charge of witness tampering and issuance of a no-bail warrant for his arrest.

Daniels said local law enforcement could have apprehended him after he bailed out of jail, but they knew he was also responsible for bringing large amounts of meth into the county. So they began organizing an effort to arrest him when he had a large volume of drugs on him.

In a probable cause statement, Det. Tyler Johnson described the high-tech operation officers launched to track and apprehend Thompson and his associates.

The task force obtained warrants for surveillance of Thompson’s electronic communications, a warrant to monitor a Hyundai Santa Fe rental car Thompson was traveling in via GPS, and a warrant to track Thompson’s cell phone by detecting its proximity to specific cell towers.

“Our officers keep getting more training and better equipment, and the guys on the task force are experts in the use of the technology,” Daniels says. “Of course they have to get warrants to use it, but it is allowing us to take down bigger and more dangerous criminals. This is a byproduct of a lot of hard work by a lot of good people.”

During the investigation, detectives discovered that Thompson and Wade were speaking to a drug dealer in Arizona.

“The messages Thompson and Wade were exchanging are indicative of negotiating a deal to purchase and obtain controlled substances,“ Johnson says in the PC statement. “I also found messages from Wade and other persons on his Facebook Messenger talking about investing in ‘kilos’ in Arizona, and how much money could be made.”

The detectives set up a plan to apprehend Thompson and his associates as they came into Sanpete County on the way back from Arizona.

Michele Gatti

On Friday, Nov. 2, while the task force was monitoring the location of Thompson’s rental car and his cell phone location, they observed movement south towards the Arizona-Utah border.

It appeared Thompson had met up with the other three suspects in Sanpete County, and now the whole group was headed to Arizona to meet their meth source. The task force continued to monitor the group as they returned across the Utah border and made their way back toward Sanpete.

Along the way, the group stopped briefly at a house in Salina to drop off a portion of their score. Through collaboration with Sevier County investigators, a search warrant was obtained, the house was  searched, and drugs were retrieved.

When the group passed north over the border into Sanpete County, investigators were lying in wait, with numerous Sheriff’s Office vehicles staggered along U.S. 89 leading towards Axtell and Centerfield.

The traffic stop on U.S. 89 in Axtell went off without a hitch. A warrant to search the vehicle had been obtained in advance. The occupants were ordered to exit. The officers’ ability to detain them was not in question, since a records check showed each of them had outstanding warrants.

While searching the vehicle, officers found more than 430 grams of crystal meth, as well as meth pipes, dozens of pills, syringes, plastic baggies and a digital scale.

Not including Thompson’s outstanding cases for assault and witness tampering, the four suspects are facing a slew of charges. And, according to County Attorney Daniels, all of the charges will be enhanced due to the amount of drugs and the collaboration between multiple people to get them. Each will be facing at least one first-degree felony, he says.

“They did such a phenomenal job,” Daniels says of the investigation effort. “It could have gone much worse. Someone could have got shot. To get someone off the streets who is violent and a major drug dealer is a major victory.

“This guy [Thompson] was a straight up wolf, and these officers are sheepdogs,” he added. “The reality is, his goal was to distribute that meth in Sanpete; and your end user is a victim as well because he is preying on their addiction to make money.

“The bottom-line is, if you look at Matt’s history, it’s riddled with violence. Not only is he a drug dealer, he is a violent drug dealer. He’s a bad guy who needed to be off the streets.”

Several of the suspects appeared in court on Wednesday, Nov. 14. By that time, Wade had been released on $7,500 bail. The other three remain in custody.

Thompson has a court hearing scheduled for Nov. 21 and Gatti’s and Ehler’s court hearings are scheduled for Nov. 28. Wade is due back in court Dec. 12 to address whether he needs a court-appointed attorney.



Nedra Allred, vice chairwomen, and Courtney Syme, chairman, of the Spring City Veteran’s Memorial Committee stand before the recently completed Spring City Veteran’s Memorial and granite monument. Residents formed a committee collected donations for the past year to erect the beautiful new monument.


Sanpete veterans events includes monument dedication


By Robert Green

Staff writer



Many cities and towns in Sanpete County will be honoring our veterans in the next several days in appreciation for their sacrifice and service to this country.

The official Veterans Day holiday is observed Monday, Nov. 12, but some towns are also holding ceremonies on Saturday, Nov. 10.

This Veterans Day will be especially memorable for Spring City, which has just erected a Veteran’s Memorial and granite monument to honor 600 local veterans who have passed away and whose names are now forever engraved in stone. This memorial is being dedicated at a special service on Saturday.

In addition, the award winning TV series, Discovery Road, produced by the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area has just released an episode focusing on veterans who grew up in Sanpete County. The program highlights the efforts of Spring City residents, who have spent the better part of a year funding and building their memorial.

Spring City

The recently finished Spring City Veteran’s Memorial and granite monument will be dedicated on Saturday at 11 a.m. at 150 E. Center Street. The guest speaker will be Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard.

The Spring City Veteran’s Memorial Committee, a non-profit enterprise led by Courtney Syme and Nedra Allred, spent the past year raising donations of money, labor and materials to construct the memorial. The project was totally funded by these donations along with a grant from the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area.

The memorial will be dedicated “in honor of the brave men and courageous women of Spring City who served in the Armed Forces of the Territory of Utah and The United States of America,” Syme said.

The finishing touches are just now being added to the site, Syme said. The monument was set into concrete last week. Flagpoles financed and benches donated by a local Veterans of Foreign Wars and an American Legion chapter were put into place. The electrical work is completed and the landscaping is almost done.

There are nearly 600 names engraved into the granite. The names are divided into eras starting with the Mormon Battalion and ending with the war on terror. There is also a tribute to those who died as peacekeepers in the cold war, he said.

“We raised over $40,000,” Syme said. “It’s a miraculous achievement.”

A children’s choir directed by Carolyn Oveson will provide music. The color guard will be comprised of members of VFW Post 9276 and American Legion Post 4.  Local clergy will offer the invocation, benediction and the dedicatory prayers. Refreshments will be served following the program.

On Monday, Nov. 12, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9267 will hold a flag raising ceremony at the Spring City cemetery at 11:30 a.m. All are welcome.


            The American Legion is hosting its annual Veteran’s Day potluck dinner Saturday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. the Centerfield Old Rock Church, next to city hall.


The Lions Clubs will be put up 55 flags at the cemetery that will fly for about a week in honor of veterans. In addition, the club will honor Ephraim’s living veterans with a yard sign at each of their homes that “thanks them for our freedoms.” The veterans are also invited to attend a program at the elementary school.



On Monday, Nov. 12, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9267 will hold a flag raising ceremony at the Fairview cemetery at 10:30 a.m. All are welcome.

Fountain Green

            The Lions Club is putting together a program and dinner for the all the veterans in Moroni, Ft. Green, Wells and Chester on Nov. 12. A program will be held at 6 p.m. at the Fountain Green Dance Hall and following that, a turkey dinner will be served to the veterans and their spouses or guests.


            A free breakfast will held at Moroni City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 8:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. A  color guard will post the flag starting at 8 a.m. The breakfast is to honor veterans and their families. All are welcome. Any questions, call Moroni City Hall at 435-8359 or Scott Czappa at 715-316-3483.

Mt. Pleasant

On Monday, Nov. 12, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9267 will hold a flag raising ceremony at the Mt. Pleasant cemetery at 11 a.m. All are welcome.