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Kyle Beagley, Sanpete District ranger for Manti-LaSal National Forest, gestures toward a close-call fire in Ephraim Canyon. Fire fighters were able to catch the fire in time. The Forest Service is about to kick off a 15-year project to clear dead, downed and some standing trees from 36,000 acres in an effort to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve forest health.

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Gunnison plans housing resource fair to encourage local housing growth


By Robert Stevens




GUNNISON—City leaders are hosting a housing resource fair on Wednesday, March 20 at 6 p.m. at Gunnison City Hall to give people information on home-purchase and home-finance options.

The event is part of an effort to create more housing in the city, to prepare for future growth and to encourage people who work in Gunnison to live there as well.

“The city is sponsoring this event in order to connect our local people to the resources that are available for home owners and future homeowners, such as rehab and weatherization projects, first-time mortgages, reverse mortgages and various federal programs for low and moderate-income housing opportunities,” says Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay.

A number of experts will be on hand to offer advice and information. “These experts can answer questions about debt-to-income ratios and how to prepare to buy a house, along with details of state and federal programs that may be available for your benefit,” Nay says.

They can answer questions such as, “How much can I afford to pay for a home?”, “What kind of loan can I qualify for?” and “What would be my payment per month?,” the mayor said.

“For instance,” she said, “a family making $50,000 who has no debt, can potentially qualify for an $180,000, 33-year loan with a payment of $750 a month.”

Among other experts, Sharlene Wilde and Eric Jorgensen from Neighborworks Community Development Foundation of Salt Lake City will share information on how first-time buyers can participate in USDA Rural Development programs.

The evening won’t be just about getting into a home; it will also offer resources for people looking for home improvement options.

Representatives from the Six County Housing and Community Action team will share information about various federal programs for weatherization and rehabilitation, including grants for insulation, air sealing, heat efficiency, and health-and-safety items such as carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.

There are several crisis grant programs available for qualified homeowners to repair or replace broken furnaces and water heaters. There will also be information available on the Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), a loan program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development where the interest is determined by income and can be as low as 1 percent.

“There will be a formal question-and-answer time and an informal time where people can meet directly with these experts,” Nay says. “The city hopes many people will come and learn about these resources and benefit from this housing resource fair.”

After the resource fair, at 7 p.m., the city council will review the results from a local housing study.

As part of Gunnison City’s General Plan update and because of the council’s desire to focus further on housing issues, a study was conducted on housing inventories and housing needs.

James Wood from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business and Marci Milligan of Lotus Community Development will go over the results.

“After reviewing these results and receiving input from the public, the city will draft a 2-year action plan to better meet our housing needs,” Nay says.

“Better housing opportunities for Gunnison City is economic development for Gunnison City,” she says.

According to Nay, currently only 51 percent of the people who work in Gunnison live in the Gunnison Valley. Statistics gathered during formulation of the general plan found the city is growing 1 to 2 percent annually, which is below the growth rate of surrounding cities in Sanpete and Sevier counties.

“The city is committed to improving housing opportunities and a healthy growth of its population and asks for the public’s input and support in these efforts,” Nay says.

Gunnison leaders express hope community can move on from explosive sex abuse case


By Robert Stevens




GUNNISON—People who had an official role in or were close observers of the explosive juvenile sex abuse case that was settled late February agreed on three things when interviewed last week.

They said the case had been exceptionally hard for the whole community and for them personally, they were relieved that the justice system had dealt with the problems, and they hoped everyone could move on.

One of the first steps toward healing divisions and making sure nothing like the recent case happens again may be a town meeting next Monday, March 18 at 8 p.m. at Gunnison Valley High School.

The meeting is sponsored by “Stand Up, Speak Out,” a program initiated by student body officers at the high school.

The recent case in which sexual and physical assaults of young people apparently went on for years without being reported to police reflects a cultural issue, says Melissa Judy, advisor to student body officers and a former Gunnison city councilwoman.

“The purpose of the program (the town hall) is to bring us back together again, not just the school, but the whole community,” she said. “We hope to create a cultural change, not only in the school, but in the community.”

The abuse case cut deeper community divisions than almost any controversy in Sanpete County in years.

Judge Brody Keisel of the 6th District Juvenile Court noted as much in admonitions to both sides at the beginning of the sentencing hearing for a 16-year-old defendant on Feb. 26.

“This is a smaller community,” he said. “It’s a wonderful community in so many different ways….But when matters happen sometimes in a small community, it gets to be very difficult. Neighbor becomes disagreeing with neighbor, friend with friend, sometimes even in families, there’s disagreements.

“Tone it down,” he told people who were in the courtroom to make personal statements prior to sentencing. “This goes to both sides.”

A law enforcement official who asked not to be named said the behavior of the 16-year-old, who ended up with serious charges, had been a “systemic problem for a number of years” and it took police intervention to stop the behavior.

The Gunnison Valley Police Department (GVPD), he said, originally recommended 25 criminal counts. The county attorney ended up charging 11 counts, and in a plea agreement, the youth admitted to eight counts.

“It’s been a tough case for Carl,” the official said, referring to Carl Wimmer, the school resource officer at Gunnison Valley High School and a member of the GVPD, who ended up as lead investigator in the case.

“Officers have had to stand up to a lot of criticism while maintaining a neutral position,” the official said. “All we are is fact finders. We don’t make decisions” on prosecutions.

Following sentencing, the GVPD posted a statement on its Facebook page commending youth and parents who came forward and reported assaults, and then made statements in court.

“The Gunnison Valley Police Department wants to publicly honor and recognize the courage of the many victims and families in the recent sexual abuse case,” the post read.

“For more than an hour at court this week, victim after courageous victim stood, faced their attacker and spoke truth…We could not be more proud of how the victim families have conducted themselves.”

Blake Donaldson, a city councilman, said he had been friends with the grandfather of the youth who was charged for decades. He agreed with the Messenger’s observation that the youth’s family had given tremendous service to the community.

But he said, “If all those things (described in court) happened, how can you take sides? It’s pretty cut and dried.”

Of the upcoming town hall, he said, “I think that’s the best thing. People need to support coming together.”

He said Gunnison City is beginning to look into a national program called “Communities That Care,” which is credited with cutting teen smoking, drug use and delinquency as much as a third in towns where it has been implemented.

“The basic thing is we need some time to heal,” said Kent Larsen, superintendent of the South Sanpete School District, who lives in Gunnison.

“The justice system will do its part. Its purpose is to heal (the youth) and take care of their problems.”

Two youth victims said in court that they knew of the behavior of the 16-year-old being reported to adults years before it was reported to police, but nothing had been done. The youths didn’t specify who the reports were made to.

Larsen said it would have been nearly impossible for a complaint that reached the school administration, or even a teacher, to not be investigated and for action to not be taken.

He said every complaint of a student behavioral problem is documented in writing, and administrators and teachers are trained to get back to the person who made the complaint and report the action taken.”

“We have checks and balances in place,” he said. “We hardly ever let (a complaint) rest with one person. It’s pretty hard to let something go with that many faces on it. To say nothing gets done is pretty hard to prove or even assume.”

Kim Pickett, who represents the Gunnison Valley on the South Sanpete School Board, said the schools board was “attacked from every side” during investigation and adjudication of the case. “Every group has attacked us for siding with the other group,” he said.
“Let’s move on,” he said. “I hope that people can work together in a positive sense.”

Judy said students at Gunnison Valley High School have already put the abuse controversy behind them.

Student officers and administrators have “made great strides” in implementing the Stand Up, Speak Out program the officers outlined at a packed school board meeting at the height of the controversy.

One element of the program is teachers delivering lessons on character and communication during advisory periods. Teachers give one lesson every other week.

Some of the topics are “What it means to be trustworthy,” “Resiliency” and “Celebrating you.”

Students have discussions with their advisory teachers and write in journals about the topics.

The goal is to help students “know their teachers on a personal level” so they feel comfortable talking to them about any problem they are having at school or at home, Judy said.

Sanpete ‘womenpower’ on display at regional Sterling Scholar competition


By Suzanne Dean




Lucy Kay Quinn (left), Bethany Brynne Lamb and Carli Johansen of North Sanpete High School celebrate their selection as regional Sterling Scholars

RICHFIELD—On Dictionary.com, the words women and power are run together to create the word “womenpower,” which is defined as “potential or actual power from the endeavors of women.”

Womenpower in Sanpete County was on display last Tuesday, March 5 at Richfield High School as four young women from local high schools were named regional Sterling Scholars.

Anna Allred from Manti High School, daughter of Julie and Phil Allred of Ephraim, won the top honor in world languages.

There were three winners from North Sanpete High School. Lucy Kay Quinn, daughter of Jason and Kay Quinn of Fairview, was the winner in visual arts. Carli Johansen, daughter of Darin and Lori Johansen of Spring City, was selected in business and marketing education, while Bethany Brynne Lamb, daughter of Ron and Nicole Lamb of Fountain Green was chosen in speech, theater and forensics.

Biographies read by Kevin Kitchen, a communications manager for the Utah Department of Transportation in Richfield and master of ceremonies, showed what the young women had accomplishments across the spectrum, often in fields other than the ones in which they were honored.

For instance, Anna Allred, the honoree in world languages, has played volleyball and basketball all four years of high school. Lucy Kay Quinn, the winner in visual arts, has taken piano for 10 years and plays lead saxophone in her school band. Carli Johansen, who won in business and marketing, helped build a school in Ghana, Africa. And Bethany Lamb, winner in speech, theater and forensics, has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school.

KariLynn Cox, an adult volunteer who has helped Manti High School nominees prepare portfolios and rehearse for interviews for the past 10 years, says contenders are judged on general scholarship, scholarship or talent in their fields, leadership, community service and a final interview before judges.

“You like to see them really well rounded,” she says. “You like to see a lot of motivation in serving the community in their category.”

Anna Allred of Manti High School was named Sterling Scholar in world languages.

Twelve students from Manti and North Sanpete were named runners up. Runners up from Manti were Mason Thompson, son of Wesley and Susan Thompson of Ephraim, business and marketing; Jessica Corelsen, daughter of Stephen and Brittany Cornelsen of Ephraim, social science; Andrew Olsen, son of Darrel and Corinne Olsen of Ephraim, science; Josh Peterson, son of Matthew and Jennifer Peterson of Manti, speech, theater and forensics; Anna Johnson, daughter of Clifford Johnson and Madeline Johnson of Ephraim, music; and Jaden Sterner, son of Greg and Lindsey Sterner of Manti, general scholarship.

North Sanpete runners up were Kaleb Cox, son of Spencer and Abby Cox of Fairview, social science; Abigail Clawson, daughter of Jayson and Tonya Clawson of Mt. Pleasant, English and literature; Marley Booher, daughter of Jim and Nora Booher of Fairview, music; Coldir Cox, son of Preston and Robyn Cox of Fountain Green, computer and information technology; Lucy Anderson, daughter of Lynn and Pam Anderson of Spring City, world languages; and Hayes Bailey, son of Earl and Aleesha Bailey of Chester, trade and technical education.

Gunnison Valley, which entered students in just six of 15 categories, did not have any winners or runners up this year.

Craig Mathie, vice president of student success at Snow College, was at the awards program to announce a new Snow initiative.

“I feel your energy and I’m inspired by your amazing accomplishments,” Mathie said, adding that Snow would offer a part-tuition scholarship to every student nominated for Sterling Scholar by a high school, “regardless of placement in regional competition.”

The Deseret News has sponsored the Sterling Scholar program for 56 years. This year, the state was divided in to seven regions or areas. Students from more than 130 high schools participated.

Adult volunteers play a key role in the program. For 25 years, Mavanee Loftus, a former reporter for the Richfield Reaper and a secretary for the Sevier County School District, was one of the coordinators of the Central Region awards, including getting press releases about Sterling Scholars to small newspapers in the region. She died last year and was memorialized at the ceremony.

The current volunteer co-chairs for the Central Region are Paul and Molly Foster. Paul Foster is director of parks and recreation for Richfield City.

Spring City mulls creating master plan


By James Tilson




SPRING CITY—Looking toward future growth, the Spring City Council entertained the idea of creating a “master plan” for infrastructure improvements and discussed the possibility of hiring a fire engine boss.

Mayor Neil Sorensen told the council the city’s plans to upgrade their water, sewer and power infrastructure would benefit from being combined into an overall “master plan.” Not only would it help to coordinate the city’s planning, it will also assist in finding funding for the various projects, he said.

“We definitely need a master plan so that we can pursue funding,” said Sorensen. “A master plan will identify needs, but will not specify exact details. It will address Spring City for 20 years of growth.”

In order to identify those future needs, Sorensen along with Jim Bennett, Craig Poulson and George Kinsey created a map showing all the sewer lines, water lines and roads in Spring City limits, along with areas that needed sewer and water line extensions and road improvements.

Based on the map, Sorensen told the council he “roughly” estimated that Spring City would need another 33,500 linear feet of sewer line, at an approximate cost of $1 million. It would also need another 20,000 linear feet of water line, at an approximate cost of $800,000. And it would need another 15,000 linear feet of roadway, with an approximate cost of $150,000 to bring the roads up to gravel, or $300,000 to pave the roads.

The total cost of infrastructure improvements, without adding in possible power improvements, would be $2.2 million. Sorensen noted most of the new lines would be north, south and east ends of the city.

Sorensen also noted the town would eventually need to address the corroding “pen-stock,” or hydro-line pipes that run from the city’s water sources to its hydro-electric generators. Sorensen said the lines had lost almost 30 percent of their capacity due to corrosion. The cost of replacing those lines would bring the total cost of infrastructure improvements to $3.2 million.

Councilman Cody Harmar brought a proposal to the council asking the city to hire a fire engine boss. He explained that after last year’s funding struggles, the fire department looked for new ways to raise funding. They met with great success, largely on the back of wildfire fighting efforts.

Harmar said the fire department earned $130,000 fighting wild fires last year, of which half went straight to members. Approximately $30,000 of those funds went toward repairs, improvements and training, leaving about $36,000 profits over expenses.

By hiring a fire engine boss, Harmar explained, the fire department could earn even more this coming summer. A fire engine boss would be able to take a truck and crew to wider number of areas (out of state, for example) to a larger number of fires.

Sorensen expressed his concern that he did not completely know how this proposal would fit in Spring City’s next budget. The council in general agreed, saying they were in favor of the proposal, but couldn’t act on it without more information. The proposal was deferred to next month, on the condition Harmar continued to prepare the paperwork and advertising.

Courtney Syme, representative from Spring City’s Veterans Memorial Association, spoke to the council about the association’s plans to continue to improve the newly erected veterans’ memorial. Syme told the council the original plan had been to create a “garden corner” on the city’s property, and further improvements were planned. The next projects would be to improve the sidewalks around the memorial, and to re-configure the sprinkler system to protect the memorial.

Syme said the association still had funds available to make the improvements, but may request assistance from the city on certain parts of the projects. Sorensen agreed the city would be helping the association, and had anticipated the projects from previous discussions.