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Lexi Nielson maintains a positive attitude as she battles cancer.

Salina teen has good attitude as she battles cancer


By Linda Petersen

Staff writer



SALINA—As school draws to a close this week, many local kids are looking forward to summer to sleep in, hang out with friends and just generally kick back.

            Lexi Nielson, an eighth grader at North Sevier Middle School, is looking forward to it for a different reason.

            At the end of June, she will complete a grueling 38-week chemotherapy regimen.

            Then, if she’s blessed to get a clean bill of health, she might be able to think about normal summer activities.

            Lexi, 14, was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare childhood soft tissue cancer, after finding what doctors initially thought was a cyst on her body.

            When the cyst did not respond to laser treatment, her Gunnison doctor referred her to Primary Children’s Hospital. After extensive testing, the doctors there came back with the bad news—it was cancer.

            Since that time Lexi has been in the fight of her life.

            “We’re just hoping for the best; we’re living day by day,” her mother, Kandice Nielson, said.

            Over the course of the last eight months, along with the chemotherapy, Lexi has endured three weeks of five-days-a-week radiation and a blood transfusion.

            While she was initially scared when she found out she had cancer, she said, “It’s a lot easier now that I know what’s going on.”

            She has good days and bad days, but she is doing remarkably well, her mom said.

            Lexi has mostly been unable to attend school over the months of treatment although she goes occasionally when she feels good. She has completed schoolwork at home as she has been able.

            Her class recently made a video of “Fight Song” to show their support for Lexi.

            Lexi generally stays home and travels to Salt Lake City weekly for her treatments. It’s a tough schedule for her and her mom—a single mom who has two other children, Ryan, 17, and Jake, 7.

            Along with caring for Lexi and her brothers, Kandice has been there for her own mother, Sandra Nielson, who was diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer herself within weeks of Lexi’s bad news. Sandra has also undergone chemotherapy and had 60 percent of her right lung removed. A recent scan showed she is now cancer free.

            Kandice, who works at her mother’s daycare center, said it has been a tough road, but she’s enjoyed a lot of support from family, friends and the community.

            In February, benefit was held that many local businesses and community members donated to, bringing in some money to help with expenses.

            Family and friends also considered launching a GoFundMe campaign but had to abandon that idea when they discovered that doing so might jeopardize Lexi’s Medicaid benefits.

            If things go well, Lexi should be able to return to school in the fall. Since she was a 4.0 GPA student before being diagnosed, school officials feel she won’t need to repeat eighth grade and can move on with her peers, Kandice said.

            For now, the teen is staying strong for the remaining weeks of chemotherapy. She has a pretty philosophical outlook on the experience.

            “I’ve discovered I’m tougher than I thought I was. I never thought I could deal with anything like this,” she said. “I feel like I’ve matured a lot from it. I’ve learned to deal with things being so scary.”

            Both Lexi and Kandice are hoping a PET scan at the end of treatment will give Lexi the “all clear” to resume her life. If so, she wants to spend time with family and friends, go camping and maybe even go shopping for makeup with her cousins.

            Looking into the future, she hopes to attend Southern Utah University and to someday be a model.

            A fund has been set up in Lexi’s name at Zions Bank in Salina. Contributions will not impact her Medicaid benefits.

North Sanpete rolls out new behavioral program


By Robert Stevens

Managing editor


MT. PLEASANT—A discussion about bullying in the North Sanpete School District (NSSD) may be a catalyst to help improve the district’s new behavioral program.

           At a board meeting Tuesday, May 15, Melody Brunson, a former teacher and vice president of Moroni Elementary’s Parent Teacher Association, shared her concerns about bullying. She has two autistic children.

“I am not trying to start problems,” Brunson said. “My son’s teachers and the district have done some amazing things—things that my children benefit from greatly.”

Despite her glowing recommendation of NSSD and its teachers, Brunson said one of her sons has dealt with bullying and harassment regularly, and because of his autism, she is deeply concerned that it will cause a ripple effect that leaves an impact all the way into his adult life.

“My children will tell me ‘someone hit me, but it’s OK,’” she said. “But it’s not OK. A culture of aggression is something that will warp his sense of ‘norms’. It teaches them to be both a victim and an aggressor.”

Brunson said she has read a number of studies, including one published in the Journal of Psychology, that say bullying affects children much worse than society previously thought. If that is the case, she believes bullying will affect autistic children even worse. She is worried it might mean they won’t live normal lives as they grow older.

“My children should know they can go through school knowing their bodies are safe,” Brunson said.

Brunson told the Messenger that a culture of bullying and allowing bullies to get away without consequences is something she believes many students deal with in the NSSD. She said that once she had a conversation with another mother whose child was in a local school. The mother told Brunson that her child would have told her if he had ever been bullied—that she would know.

Upon returning home, Brunson said the mother asked her child outright if he had experienced bullying and the child told his mother “of course I have” and that he had been punched, kicked and harassed multiple times. Brunson says the mother was shocked and upset.

NSSD Superintendent Dr. Sam Ray told Brunson at the meeting that the entire district is in the process of fully implementing a new behavioral program, and perhaps she could give some input during the process that would contribute to the program’s effectiveness in preventing problems with bullying.

The new behavioral program, dubbed Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), isn’t really new—just new to the district—and this is its first year at NSSD. Before its rollout, each school had its own way of handling behavioral issues, said Chalyece Shelley, NSSD special education director and the person tasked with handling the PBIS implementation.

“It’s a system-wide framework meant to get every school in the district operating on the same rules,” Shelley said. “All kids will get it, along with consistent rules and rewards.”

PBIS gradually rolled out this year with the first tier. A consultant from the University of Utah is helping the district to institute the three stages of PBIS, said Shelley, and the district has been told that rushing its implementation process could be detrimental towards its success.

Tier one is a district-wide set of rules and a system to support them, as well as a behavior tracking component that Shelley said will be able to help identify areas and individuals that need more support.

Tiers two and three, which Shelley said will be rolled out gradually over the next year, will include a system to provide more individual attention to students who might be struggling. The second tier is meant to support those students who have difficulty staying within the system-wide rules instituted during the rollout of tier one.

The final tier is only meant for application in special circumstances, said Shelley. It is tailored to support students who may struggle with special needs, aggressive behavior or have experienced trauma. She doubts that no more than two or three percent of the student population might ever need the support from tier three.

Shelley said PBIS is about getting the whole district on the same page. The program is endorsed by the state and has years of statistics backing up the validity of its effectiveness. This is why the district made a move to bring it in, not because of addressing any out-of-the-ordinary behavioral problems.

“You’re always going to get some form of bullying in any school,” she said, “but I don’t think anywhere in our district has a culture of violence. It’s not in the culture; it’s not in the mindset. It is not accepted or rewarded.”

Shelley points to another factor that she thinks is a good indicator about the NSSD culture—one of long-term, continuous academic improvement. She said NSSD test scores in all the schools have been on the rise for a while, and there is no sign of stopping.

“I don’t think cultures of violence and academic improvement can really co-exist,” she said.

The Brunson’s children and the rest of the students in the NSSD should be able to benefit from this program, Shelley said. The district could have benefitted from putting it in place sooner.

“We are very open to any suggestions you might have,” Ray told Brunson in the meeting.

Ray added that he would have Shelley make a meeting with Brunson to get her input on PBIS.

Brunson told the Messenger she believes PBIS is a step in the right direction, but “until the administration enacts the program consistently, holding children accountable, supporting teachers in their efforts, and communicating with parents, it will not be effective. “

Shelley says within about another year, the behavioral tracking component of PBIS will have enough data backing it to give the district an idea of its local effectiveness. Only time will tell.


A half-bubble off plumb

The pride of being Scandinavian and

aren’t we all a little bit Scandinavian?


By Randal B. Thatcher

Guest writer


I just happen to have Scandinavian roots, complete with a trove of wonderful old black and white photos of somber-faced Danes, and handwritten accounts of that arduous transatlantic crossing, followed by an even more arduous overland crossing from American Eastern Seaboard to the western frontier.

And you probably do too, since a popular ancestry website claims that most Americans have at least some Scandinavian DNA in their overall makeup.

My wife shares my Danish heritage, as do many of my local friends and neighbors, which is not surprising given the fact that Utah is second only to California in percentage of citizens with direct Danish ancestry, and that most cities in Utah seem to have a particular section of town that was once known as Little Denmark.

And even if you might happen to be that rare exception in these parts with no Scandinavian blood whatsoever in your veins, you are likely still influenced by the rich Scandinavian heritage that makes up this lovely valley they helped settle, and that we now call home.  And hopefully you can feel some adopted pride in sharing in that part of this local legacy.

Scandinavians were specifically chosen to settle this sometimes harsh Sanpete environment because of their robust and hardy natures, along with their resourceful skills and expert craftsmanship.  But I, even with my strong Danish roots, am five generations removed from those hardy and skillful ancestors of the 19th Century and have a hard time repairing even a sprinkler-head in my perfectly placid backyard.

So I’m not going to talk about skirmishes with local Native Americans, or about eking a meager subsistence out of an often hostile and forbidding landscape, or about building a house, then a barn, then a granary with just my own hands and a few crude tools.  I know I could never do any of those things; and if my own Danish progenitors, or those skilled Scandinavians who built the pioneer home I now live in, are ever cosmically mindful of me at all, they know it, too.

Instead, I wish to highlight the fun times they occasionally enjoyed, those early Scandinavian settlers of this high mountain valley.

There were the Easter celebrations, when the children would roll different colored Easter eggs down Temple Hill in Manti; and the May Day celebrations every spring, with the colorful Maypole Dance, and accompanying music; and everyone heading up into the surrounding canyons and hills, come springtime, to camp-out under the canopy of newly leafing trees; and feasting on red mush made from rhubarb, which was the first ready fruit of the summer season.

There were brass bands and theater troupes and choirs, all performing plays and music brought over from the Old Country; and dances—lots of dances—which served the dual purpose of both lifting their spirits, and also effectively planning the rough-plank floors of whichever building they might happen to have gathered in for that evening’s hoedown. Don’t forget about the parades and picnics and carnivals and rodeos!

Those things I could have handled, and still could, which makes me glad they are still enjoyed in abundance in our Sanpete Valley.  The season for such commemorative merrymaking is upon us, as we celebrate our Scandinavian heritage in any number of annual festivals around the valley.

Back then, those hardy Scandinavians would likely have walked to get from one place to another, while I will definitely drive my car to get to these various festivals (being far less hardy, as we’ve already established).  But I will still revel in this rich Scandinavian heritage we all enjoy with traditional music and food and dancing and stories.

I will feel glad for those robust and omni-capable forbearers who did all the difficult things that I could not so that I can spend my time in less laborious pursuits—such as reading about them, and reveling in them and the rich legacy they left and celebrating them every summer by consuming lots of ebelskivers, funnel-cakes and grilled Sanpete turkey!



Lightning ignites fire in Saul’s Canyon


By Robert Stevens

Managing editor


EPHRAIM—Fire crews are controlling a lightning-caused fire on Sanpitch Mountain, located about 20 miles northwest of Ephraim in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The fire burned for several days before being discovered.

            The fire was ignited by lighting on Monday, May 14. Crews only began actively managing the fire on Wednesday, May 16, and by Thursday, May 17, it had grown to 110 acres while under active monitoring by fire crews.

            The fire will be allowed to burn to reduce heavy fuels in the area. Crews will allow the fire to consume 140 acres as part of a controlled burn, the Forest Service stated.


Illustration depicts the location of the Saul’s Canyon fire.

Most of the fire is currently burning white fir and dead trees in Saul’s Canyon on the Sanpitch Mountain.

Due to the high elevation of the fire, the Forest Service expects that smoke will be visible from I-15, Juab, Sanpete, and Sevier counties and will be seen for over a week. The fire is expected to last a few days.

            Spring vegetation has emerged and fire managers have decided that conditions are excellent for maintaining and controlling the fire. The managed fire can reduce the risk of wildfire by reducing hazardous fuels and aiding aspen regeneration. Beneficial fires restore and maintain healthy forests and rangeland, and improve wildlife habitat.

The Saul’s Canyon fire managers will review the fire’s progress and weather forecasts to determine if the fire will stay in pre-designated boundaries and if resource objectives are being met. Fire crews will be monitoring its movement to assure the protection of life and property.

If necessary, the fire will be actively suppressed, the Forest Service reported.

Inside our Schools

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Eric Peterson (left) pays tribute to his father, Alan Peterson (right), former Gunnison Valley Middle School principal, who was honored with the school’s annual Yule Program Pillar Award, while current principal Jeff Bartholomew looks on.


Former Gunnison principal with 36 years in education honored with Pillar Award


By Robert Stevens

Managing Editor

Dec. 21, 2017


GUNNISON—A firm pillar of a man with a mind set on making others’ lives brighter was honored in Gunnison last week.

During the annual Yule Program of Gunnison Valley Middle School held on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Gunnison Valley  High School auditorium in Gunnison, the recipient of the program’s Pillar Award was the very man who ran the school since 1999, former principal Alan Peterson.

Peterson passed the reins at Gunnison Valley Middle School over to the current principal, Jeff Bartholomew, this year after sustaining a serious injury.

Peterson said he didn’t plan on the career shift, but he took it in stride.

Bartholomew, who said during the Yule Program he wants to continue on the trail Peterson already paved, was quick to praise Peterson for taking his career shift in stride and for his decades of educational excellence.

“Tonight we honor an outstanding individual who has demonstrated throughout his life the true spirit of community and service to those around him,” Bartholomew said when they presented the award to Peterson.

Bartholomew added, “It is from his countless hours of service we have come to know the individual we choose to honor tonight. He is like a pillar, a column of strength.”

He continued, “For 36 years, he has sustained the weight of public education in our community. Like the buildings of antiquity which still stand today, our community, like those ancient structures, is strong due to this individual, along with the others we have honored before him.”

Next, the honoree’s own son, Eric Peterson, came to the podium to speak in tribute of his father after Bartholomew had announced the award.

Eric told the audience a story of his childhood, when, through the simple act of making socks, his father had helped instill discipline in Eric and his siblings.

“Dad’s been doing this for us kids, the grandkids and so many students over 36 years,” Eric said. “He has taught us all how to be pillars—to have a strong foundation.”

Eric added, “Nobody knows his history or heritage quite like Dad, and he’s taught all of us about that. To support others, like a pillar, he always tries to strengthen and support those on the roadside of life.”

Eric said his father also taught him to always be thinking about tomorrow, and, just a few days before the program, his father had told him he was planning his next career.

“I thought ‘Oh boy!’” Eric said. “He never stops thinking about tomorrow. He has been a pillar for all of us.”

Eric ended on a reminder, offering praise to someone he says helped make his father such a great man.

“We all know in our hearts, but often forget to say,” Eric said, “that behind any great man is an even greater woman. My dad would be the first to say that whatever good he has done he owes to his angel wife, Evelyn Peterson, who was a pillar as well to anything she joined. So to you Dad, and to Mom, from all of us in the family and all of us throughout the community, thank you and merry Christmas.”

After his son had finished heaping praise on him, Alan stepped to the podium, where he casually joked about gas prices before giving his real message: “I’d like to say it’s been my privilege and my honor to work with your kids and all of you—the teachers, the faculty, great people like the new principal we have—for all those years.

He continued, “This is a great place to raise kids. We have good schools, and we have dedicated people, and I’ll tell you we are just lucky to be here. We are so lucky. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you.”

During the Yule Program, the middle school’s eighth-grade band and seventh-grade choir performed a number of holiday favorites.

Bartholomew also conveyed a holiday message of service: “Through service of others we magnify ourselves. Our deeds and kindness will linger with others we’ve served long after the lights have dimmed and the pages have turned.”

The ten contestants who will compete for the Miss Sanpete crown on Friday are (L-R): Ashytn Childs, Michayla Jackson, Lydia Madsen, Jasmine Alcala, Jillane Olsen, MIss Sanpete 2016 Kaytie Nielson, Senora Childs, Amelia Nell, Bellamy Sorensen, Makenna Cherry and Jordan Henson.

Ten to compete for Miss Sanpete crown on Friday


Robert Stevens

Managing editor



MANTI —This year’s queen bee for the whole county will be chosen Friday at Manti High School when a new Miss Sanpete is crowned.

The new queen and her attendants will reign over the upcoming Sanpete County Fair.

“I am so excited this year to have worked with some new young ladies and those with devotion and drive to come back and compete again,” said pageant director Emily L. Cox of Manti.

“We see contestants come and compete for many reasons, including a desire to serve within their community, experience personal growth and build upon the competitive spirit that can carry them to the Miss Utah Stage next June—and, most importantly, the scholarship.

Cox says the new Miss Sanpete County will receive a $2,000 scholarship to the school of her choice to help further her education. Attendants receive amounts ranging from $200 to $500 to be applied towards college.

The soon-to-be crowned Miss Sanpete also receives a $1,000 wardrobe allowance to help her compete at the state pageant, says Cox.

“As the only franchised Miss America local pageant in our county, we believe in the four points of the crown—service, scholarship, success and style—and want to encourage those to compete, learn public relationship skills and ways to be a contributing member of their community.”

Watching contestants step out of their comfort zones and learn important life skills is, Cox said, “a joy to watch.”

There are 10 contestants in this year’s pageant; their profiles are below.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. at MHS and adult tickets are $6, with tickets for children 4-11 years of age costing $4 and kids under four are free. Each adult ticket will receive a program with additional programs costing $1.

Exiting the stage on Friday as the current Miss Sanpete will be Kaytie Nielson.

“We have been very lucky to have our outgoing Queen Kaytie Nielson of Fairview as our representative this year,” said Cox. “She has done a lot of service, helped us to grow our program and brought a kind light to all that she has done this year as our Miss Sanpete 2016.”

For more information about the pageant, please email misssanpetecounty@gmail.com, or contact Emily Cox at 435-851-0316 or Anne Fonville 801-362-1038.


Amelia Nell

Amelia Nell is the daughter of Alan and Kathy Nell of Ephraim. Amelia will perform a jazz dance to “Black Dog” and her platform is “Be Bright, Eat Right.”

Cox said, “Her service platform is to bring awareness to nutrition with healthy snacking choices and habits and how foods should be consumed and chosen in relation to its affect on our bodies, energy and overall health.”


Jasmine Alcala

Jasmine Alcala, daughter of Martin and ClairAnn Alcala of Manti, is competing with a talent of lyrical dance to “I Was Here.” Jasmine’s platform is “Every Girl is a Princess”

Cox says Jasmine’s platform is based upon growing young girls’ education, and finding ways to build self-esteem, and positive ways to cope that don’t lead to self damaging habits.


Makenna Cherry

Makenna Cherry is the daughter of Justin and Sharon Cherry of Ephraim. Makenna will perform a jazz dance to “Brand New” and compete on the platform “Have Courage and Be Kind.”

“Her service platform is based upon being a hero in everyday life,” said Cox, “through small kind acts that build upon one another, sharing and inspiring others to do the same and have courage in their daily choices to choose kindness.”


Michayla Jackson

Michayla Jackson, daughter of Mitchell and Kerrie of Milburn, will perform gymnastics and tumbling routine as her talent. Her platform is “H.E.R.O: Honoring, Education, Respect Others.”

“Michayla will focus on ways to honor who you are and the talents you have, “Cox said.


Lydia Madsen

Lydia Madsen, daughter of Jeremy and Jessica Madsen of Fairview, will perform vocals to “Don’t Forget Me.”

Lydia’s platform, “Lend a Hand,” is all about encouraging service and leading by example, says Cox.


Jillane Olsen

Jillane Olsen, daughter of Scott and Melissa Olsen of Manti, will perform a piano solo to “Waterfall” by Jon Schmidt.

Her platform is “Read to Succeed, “which will be an effort to raise support for reading across various age groups,” Cox said.


Jordan Henson

Jordan Henson, daughter of Abby and Jeremy Ivory, and Jeremy Henson of Fountain Green, plans to do an American Sign Language interpretive dance solo to “Let Them See You.”

Jordan is partnering with Autism Speaks  to  compete with the platform “4 Points of the Puzzle: Autism Speaks,” where she will try to advocate for the autistic and reduce social stigma, Cox says.


Ashytn Childs

Ashytn Childs, daughter of Gary and Anne Childs of Gunnison, will perform a jazz dance as her talent, and is competing on the platform “Be uniquely You.”

Ashytn says she wants to encourage others to be themselves, no matter if they have a disease or disability.


Bellamy Sorensen

Bellamy Sorensen, daughter of Thomas and Candice Sorensen of Centerfield, is performing a self-arranged piano solo to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by The Piano Guys and “Etude” by Kabalevsky.

Her platform is “Unplug,” an effort to inspire others to back away from their devices and find some balance and moderation in their use.


Senora Childs

Senora Childs, daughter of Kennith and Wendilyn Childs of Centerfield, will perform a dance solo to a mix of the music of Michael Jackson. Her platform is “Heroes 4 Heroes.”

“Senora hopes to implement a platform that focuses upon having a club to celebrate and honor unsung every day heroes,” Cox said.

Caitlyn Howard

Taiwan Taichung Mission



Caitlyn (Caity) Howard, daughter of Dr. Charles and Celena Howard of Fairview, has been called to serve in the Taiwan Taichung LDS Mission.

She will speak at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 23 in the Fairview 3rd Ward, Rock Church 131 E. 100 N.  She will enter the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday July 26.

Grandparents are Courtney and Vee Guymon of Huntington,  and the late Elmo and Wanda Howard.

Both Pageant-goers and cast members mill around the blanketed seating area shortly before the beginning of the final night of the Mormon Miracle Pageant, which has increased cumulative attendance over last year—to the tune of more than 4,000 extra attendees.

Shorter, revised Mormon Miracle Pageant still draws good crowds


Robert Stevens

Managing editor



MANTI—Despite some challenges and changes to a 50-year tradition, under the guiding hands of a new president and director, attendance rose at the Mormon Miracle Pageant from last year, and thousands of people got to see it again, “for the first time.”

Official attendance numbers for the eight-night production was 74,805—up more than 4,000 people from the 2016 tally of 70,600.

New Pageant President Milton Olsen says his first year had a happy ending, with loads of positive feedback from the attendees and cast members.

I think it went well,” Olsen said. “It’s a little hard to know for sure, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it went really well.”

In regards to the pageant attendees, Olsen said, “There were many people who commented that they were very touched, and said it was like seeing the pageant again for the first time.”

Pageant-goers were not the only ones who were happy with the outcome, said Olsen. Time and time again, he said, the feedback from the cast of more than 900 was very positive—especially after overcoming some initial challenges.

“The opinion changed as time went by,” he said. “It started out a little difficult because all of a sudden things were different from the way they’d been. The unknown, and ‘how do we deal with this, and that?’ came up, but as time went by they came together and all those concerns and issues got answered.”

The new pageant director for 2017, Denise Hagemeister, says her first year as director also had its share of challenges and rewards, and in the end, it was very positive.

Hagemeister said that the differences in her directing created some apprehension with the cast, and breaking some habits created from a 50-year Pageant tradition wasn’t always easy, but once the cast learned to accept her new direction and methods—and work with her vision—things went smoothly.

“The biggest highlight was when I had to stop working so hard to get people to accept my new style,” Hagemeister said. “I had some expectations that different directors didn’t, and it always takes people a while to get used to a new director’s style. When they stopped fighting and started helping and working together, things went really great.”

Hagemeister says she had changes in mind for the pageant from the outset of her appointment as director. Having not grown up in Sanpete County gave her a different perspective on the pageant, and a desire to make some adjustments. Those adjustments didn’t happen overnight, she says, but when they did, it was rewarding.

“There were some really beautiful moments during the pageant when what was in my head translated to the stage very nicely,” Hagemeister said. “That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you go, ‘that was way better in my head.’”

Hagemeister doesn’t solely credit herself for the successful implementation of changes to the pageant, however.

“The cast was what made those beautiful moments happen,” she said. “They might be under my direction, but it was their work that created them.”

Olsen says that he, and the cast and crew, learned some good lessons in his first year behind the wheel.

“So much of what happens you just learn by going through the experience,” Olsen said.

Sanpete planning commission begins re-organizing county buffer zones


James Tilson

Staff writer



MANTI — The Sanpete Planning Commission moved forward with plans to re-organize the county ordinances regarding “buffer zones” around the Sanpete municipalities at their regular monthly meeting on June 14.

Zoning Administrator Scott Olson and Commission Chair Loren Thompson had been working on a new definition of “buffer zones” for several months, and presented their handiwork to the commission for approval.

The new definition states: “Compromising of the RA-1, RA-2, BC, and Industrial zones located within 1 mile of the Municipality where a proposed development and/or change of use, is required to give notice to the Municipality, allowing the Municipality the ability to review and recommend utility services (power, water and sewer) and road development standards relative to the Municipalities Development Plan, Annexation Plan and/or Expansion Area.”

Commissioner Gene Jacobson asked whether a city could deny a zone change in a buffer zone if it fulfilled county ordinances. Thompson assured him that the new definition only allowed the city to make recommendations after being given notice – the city would not have the authority to deny a zone change.

Thompson went on the say that the definition was not final, either. It still had to go through a public hearing process, and receive final approve (after possible amendments from the Planning Commission) from the County Commission.

After discussion, the new definition was approved by the Commission.

Also presented to the Commission was a new form developed by Olson and Thompson, entitled “Sanpete County City Buffer Zone Application Notice.” Olson had taken that form previously used and made the form more definite on having the city comment on whether a proposed development would be in its annexation plans, and whether the roads or utility services would be adequate.

Jacobson again questioned Olson and Thompson. He wondered if the cities would be given notice of this new form. Olson answered that the form would be used in every application within a buffer zone, and would have to be presented to the city. If any city had a question, it could call Olson as the Zoning Administrator.

Jacobson wondered what would happen if the city refused to sign the form. Olson said that would not prevent the application from going forward – the form merely gave the city notice of the application within the buffer zone, and the opportunity to comment on it. A city would not have the authority to deny an application, either through its comment or through inaction.

The new buffer zone application was also approved.

After the definition and form were approved, Olson said “This does not end our buffer zone discussion.”  Thompson seconded that sentiment. He pointed out that in the future, some coordination between city ordinances and county ordinances would have to take place, to account of the situation where an applicant in a buffer zone requested county approval where the city had requested changes that the applicant did not want to make.

Thompson said that cities should have some say over how the development around their borders takes place, and this was especially true in the case of smaller, 1 and 2-lot subdevelopments. Commissioner Leon Day pointed out that continued approval of small subdivisions around cities would continue to frustrate annexation plans and stymy the cities’ growth.

Katie Brotherson, Sophia Sayles, Easton Brotherson, Preston Aagard (front), Brandon Harlee Aagard (back), enjoyed Memorial Day by decorating their second cousin’s (Kymberlee and Kylee Christensen) grave. Many of the decorations shown here were stolen a few days after the picture was taken.

‘Seriously, what kind of person steals off graves?’

Painful, bewildering, all too common

Suzanne Dean



“Seriously, what kind of person steals off graves?”

The question, written in a Facebook post by Tammy Coates of Spring City, captures the pain and bewilderment victims feel regarding a phenomenon that appears to happen year after year, in all parts of Sanpete County, and beyond the county.

Coates has ample cause to grieve. On May 31, her daughter, Kammy Edmunds, who was 34, died from what police described as “blunt force trauma” to her head. She left two children behind, a 12-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl.

The death appears to be a classic domestic violence homicide. Edmunds’ boyfriend, Anthony Christensen, was arrested and later charged with homicide and desecration of a body.

Referring to theft of grave decorations, Coates wrote, “I know it happens. You see heartbroken posts and letters to the editor of the papers about this, and it sickens me.”

Then she told her own story. “I had hanging planters on Kammy Mae’s grave (in the Spring City Cemetery),” she wrote. “We had talked to the…caretakers, and they were okay with them. They were watered and well cared for because I want her resting place to be beautiful.

“Well, yup, somebody stole them. I’ve spoken with the caretakers, and it wasn’t them.” Coates wrote that she went back to the site later to leave a shaming note and two solar angels were also gone from the grave.

Within a day or two, 40 people replied to Coates’ post. The majority expressed sympathy. Many wrote that the same thing had happened to them.

Bonnie Keisel of Ephraim wrote simply: “So soorrrryyyy.”

Charlotte White of Mt. Pleasant wrote, “I’m so sorry people are so rude and disrespectful. We had things stolen off my dad’s grave, also.”

Angela Bailey Johnson of Spanish Fork, formerly of Mt. Pleasant, wrote, “People are so disrespectful and care about no one but themselves. This makes me so sad. Karma will get whoever did this.”

A week or two earlier and a few towns away, Karen Christensen of Manti had a similar experience and also told her story on Facebook, triggering a similar response.

She is the mother of twins girls born with a genetic disorder that caused them to be severely disabled. Early in the girls’ lives, doctors told her they would not live beyond their late teens or early 20s.

Christensen devoted more than 20 years to caring for her twins. In 2007, Kylee Marie died at 19. Four years later, Kymberlee Lyn died at 24.

They were buried in the Manti City Cemetery. The grave has a double headstone containing two hearts. Each daughter’s name, birth date and death date are engraved inside a heart.

One way Christensen connects with the girls is by decorating their graves. She decorates each year on their birthdays, one the day each girl died and every Memorial Day.

On Friday, May 28, a couple of days before Memorial Day, Christensen went to the cemetery with several bouquets, a wreath and other decorations, including two miniature fairy cottages with solar lights inside, two flower sticks containing solar lights and two butterfly sticks that had glitter on the butterflies. The decorations cost about $70.

Cemetery rules permit decorations posted over Memorial Day weekend to stay in the cemetery until one week after Memorial Day. A sign is always posted saying when decorations must be removed “and I’ve always followed that,” Christensen said.

After decorating the graves on Friday, she returned to the cemetery on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Everything was still there. But when she went back Wednesday, the lighted fairy cottages and butterfly stakes were gone.

“I was hurt,” she says. “I put things on there that mean something to me, associated with the memory of those girls. No one has a right to take those things. We put them out for the public to enjoy, but not to take.”

At 8:38 that night, Christensen posted a message on Facebook addressed to whoever took the decorations. “You should be ashamed of yourself, and I’m mad,” she wrote, “If you thought they would look good in your flower garden, you ought to think twice because I will be watching.”

Within a few days, 53 people responded.

Polly Wolfe of Manti, a widow, wrote that in a number of different years, items she had placed on her husband’s grave in the Manti Cemetery had been taken. “I’ve thought about putting out a trail camera, but they’d probably steal that, too,” she wrote.

LuDon Augustus of Manti wrote that “for the last two years, everything was taken from my parents’ graves” in the Sterling Town Cemetery.

Kalleen Braithwaite, who lost both her husband and a daughter at premature ages, wrote that in 2016, vandals ripped a marble vase that was built into one of her headstones off the stone and broke the vase. Flowers from both her husband’s and her daughter’s graves were also taken.

A few years ago, another woman in Manti, who asked not to be named in this article, caught the people who took decorations off her parents’ graves.

The woman said she and other family members usually decorate the graves in the Manti City Cemetery on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day.

Three or four years ago, after one of the holidays, the family left a plant hanger with two large potted plants at the gravesite, which is permissible under cemetery rules. The woman’s brother went to the cemetery every day to water the plants.

Then, just like in the Christensen case, the woman went to the cemetery the Wednesday after Memorial Day. The hanger and pots, along with other flowers, were gone.

The woman let friends and family know about the theft. Before long, a neighbor called and said she had seen a significant cache of what looked like grave decorations in a yard in Manti.

The woman went to the house in question, and sure enough, there was her plant hanger (she’d had the foresight to carve her initials into it), and two pots of flowers that belonged to her. After getting permission, she took back her belongings. Then she contacted authorities.

The resident of the house where her decorations (and by all appearances, decorations taken from other graves) were found, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a fine and was required to write a public apology letter, which was published in the Sanpete Messenger.

            Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel said there is no state statute specifically addressing theft of grave decorations. Such thefts are covered under general theft statutes, and the level of charges depends on the monetary value of items taken.

Spring City seeks to balance budget while adding new positions in police, fire and utilities departments


Terrel Davs

For the Messenger



SPRING CITY—Would the cost of hiring a fulltime city treasurer more than pay for itself and other Spring City budgetary needs if that treasurer was successful in finding other sources of income for the city?

That question is one that some members of the Spring City Council wrestled with but ultimately set aside for further consideration.

With the end of one fiscal year and the start of another soon approaching (on July 1), the city council mulled over how to create a balanced budget, particularly given the recently created position of fulltime police and fire chief the city must now pay for.

The city is also seeking to hire an apprentice lineman, further increasing employee costs for the city.

As it is, the current year’s budget required a nearly $180,000 infusion from the city’s electric, water and sewer funds. Prior to the city council meeting, the council held a public hearing on making those transfers (about $58,000 from each of the three accounts) which were later approved.

How then to balance, then—especially in light of Spring City’s minimal business-tax base—an enlarged budget?

It was in this context that Spring City Treasurer Lurlynn Potter, who now works part-time, made a proposal that might at first seem counterintuitive: Hire her fulltime.

Potter made a case for allowing her to research potential funding sources for the city, such as writing grant proposals and promoting tourism. However, to do this over her existing workload would make her a fulltime employee, which would add an even further $19,000 to the city’s budget.

Council members bantered the question among themselves, asking, “Would the cost of a fulltime treasurer be worth the expense?”

But Potter’s proposal had implications for the both sides of the budget fence, income as well as expenses.

She reviewed the income received by grants by other communities in the area, from a low of $300,000 in Moroni to over $1 million in both Fairview and Mt. Pleasant. She also noted her own track record of finding funds when she spent two years as Snow College’s alumni and donor-relations manager.

Council members discussed the possibility of making Potter’s position fulltime on a one-year trial basis, but ultimately wanted the full council’s input. The idea was set aside until the council’s next meeting when all members could be present.

Another budget item is the need for IT/computer services and equipment at the new Old School Community Center.

Councilwoman Kimberly Stewart said she brought representatives from each of these companies into the building and asked for their recommendations  regarding what it would take and how much it would cost to provide high-speed internet and Wi-Fi throughout the building with continuing support and maintenance.

Three bids were opened, ranging from $8,200-$21,000.

However, this item was also tabled until more of the council could be present.

Courtesy, candor and carefulness keys to resolving odor problem in Moroni




Anyone who has lived in Sanpete County for any length of time is probably accustomed (or should be) to the smells of rural living.

Admittedly, those smells are more pasture than pastoral; the bucolic beauty of our locale comes with certain olfactory costs.

But the stench emanating from a three-month old wastewater lagoon at Norbest in Moroni is more than citizens should have to endure for more than the briefest period of time.

Moroni citizens are rightly upset at Norbest for what, under any public-policy definition as well as regular colloquy, would be called a nuisance.

A more-or-less legal definition of nuisance is “the substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of land and property.”

The lagoon fits that definition. Just ask any longtime aging Moroni couple not sitting in their porch chairs in the cool of the evening because they cannot bear the odor.

At the outset, we should say that we recognize the turkey plant as a vital, integral part of the local economy. If not the heart, it is at least representative of the heart of the area’s agriculture lifestyle as well as livelihood.

It has attempted, which has not always been easy, to be a good and responsible neighbor. As CEO Matt Cook wrote in a prepared statement, “We breath the same air as our neighbors.”

And use the same water, which is why a few years ago the plant partnered with the city to build a new sewer system when, largely due to the stress placed on the existing sewer at that time, the system failed certain environmental-protection tests. Things were so bad that the continued operation of the Moroni sewer system was in jeopardy.

Norbest has always maintained an open-air wastewater basin. But in 2015, with the continued growth of production at the plant (for which we are grateful), the basin proved insufficient and overflowed.

The state required remediation, which included a newer and bigger lagoon.

Odor, as explained by the company and experts, is to be expected from any brand new open-aired waste lagoon while it is still settling and stabilizing.

The company recently iterated three planned measures to remediate the odor. They include a “malodor counteractant,” chemicals that will reduce the odor; the addition of microbes that will breakdown the waste components (they were not initially added on the advice from waste-treatment engineers, the company said); and certain yet-to-be-decided “pre-treatment” options to separate out some of the waste material prior to dumping into the lagoon.

And the smell will naturally decrease as the lagoon settles and an “upper layer” is formed.

That’s about as far as we can go in terms of exoneration; it is not only the stink that stinks:

• In a letter to Moroni’s residents dated May 30, the company admits “it was anticipated that initially the smell would be stronger due to the time needed for the lagoon to build and properly set up.”

Why in the name of sulfur and brimstone, if the company expected the smell, did it not proactively implement as many of the counter measures as it could?

In legal cases, much rides on the phrase “knew or should have known.” The company knew. To not have planned in advance was either careless or thoughtless.

• Since things have blown up, Norbest has become more forthcoming with information. The company wrote a letter that, according to Mayor Luke Freeman, was delivered to all Moroni residents.

The letter does a lot to help explain things, maybe even to the point of assuaging some real rancor. (However, the letter was dated May 30; there was still quite a bit of discontent at a city meeting fully two weeks later).

Why didn’t the company, or the city for that matter, warn residents what to expect?

• In CEO Cook’s written statement, he said, “We will work hard to keep the lines of communication open,” but only after closing to all but a trickle those lines to the Messenger, declining an interview.

Going forward, we hope Cook and other company officials do, indeed, make candor and open communication a priority.

• And while we have said little about potential hazards, we feel we need to. Norbest needs to be exceptionally vigilant in maintaining and monitoring health and environmental protections at the lagoon, particularly any potential contamination of the main city well 1,000 yards away.
Summing up, officials from Norbest, Moroni City and the state, anyone who has a part in resolving this mess؅, would do well to keep three “Cs” firmly in mind: Courtesy, candor and carefulness.

Freshman Harley Hansen struggles to find room for offense in the SWAC Championship Game in Salt Lake City. The Lady Badgers fell to Salt Lake, 67-40, ending their season. - Kyler Daybell / Messenger photo

Freshman Harley Hansen struggles to find room for offense in the SWAC Championship Game in Salt Lake City. The Lady Badgers fell to Salt Lake, 67-40, ending their season. – Kyler Daybell / Messenger photo


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Hannah Holbrook points out the day’s weather in Spanish to her classmates including center, Mackenzie Thomson and Isaac Anderson.

Hannah Holbrook points out the day’s weather in Spanish to her classmates including center, Mackenzie Thomson and Isaac Anderson.


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