Blasting Concerns in Skyline Ridge

In the past few months residents of Kiowa Valley and Skyline Ridge have contacted me with concerns about the blasting activity in the Skyline Ridge development. Because this seems to be a growing concern amongst residents, I thought it would be helpful if I provided some information for all. For those unfamiliar with the Skyline Ridge development, it is the new housing development in Kiowa Valley off of Golden Eagle. There are two phases of this development with the first nearing full build out.

In order to excavate approved lots, it was necessary for the developer to utilize blasting to break up the rocky ground. It will also be necessary for the second phase to use blasting to complete excavation when that phase starts. With the first phase, some of that blasting has been in close proximity to homes and understandably, has raised residents’ concerns over safety, and potential damage to property. I understand the concerns from residents, and I would like to share with you both what I know, and what I have done as a result.

There have been a total of eight individual blasts, all of which are associated with the first phase of the development (again, the second phase has not yet started development). Two of the eight blasts were in 2016 and six were in 2017. The blasting is a closely controlled activity which is permitted through Unified Fire Authority. After receiving approval, the UFA bomb/explosives technitian inspects the plan for safety and monitors results and blasting activity. With each blasting event, the blasting company or a third party engineering firm will place seismic monitoring equipment around the site to measure and record the force of the blast event.

For all of the eight blasting events to this point, the seismic energy generated has been within industry accepted standards. As you might imagine, the recording of the seismic energy is of the utmost importance to the developer, to the blasting company and also to the City. Safety of both person and property are important to all parties. The recording of the seismic energy released allows for safety performance to be monitored and verified.

The blasting that has taken place so far has been, at times in close proximity to existing homes. This of course adds to the concern that residents have. When I learned of the close proximity, I too was concerned. Prompted by residents concerns and a few of my own, wanted to understand exactly how the process worked and what was going to occur. I called our UFA Bomb Tech who issues the permits and asked him many questions about the permitting process, the monitoring, the Thresholds, etc. I then spoke to our City Engineer about development plan and excavation permit before going out to the site and meeting with the developer, the UFA Bomb Tech, the blasting company, and the third party engineering firm conducting the seismic monitoring.

I was first made aware of concerns when preparation began for a blasting event which was particularly close to an existing home (within approximately 50ft of the home). Naturally, I was surprised that the blasting was so close. I was equally surprised that the home had been built before the blasting had occurred. I was informed that there had been blasting in the area, but that the excavation near the home in question led to the discovery of rock which could not be removed by standard excavation process. My inquiries into the process and safety measures occurred before this particular blasting event moved forward.

While I was not thrilled that blasting was being conducted in such close proximity to homes, my observations of the process and controls in place alleviated my concerns for safety of our residents and their property. Having said this, I did relay to the developer that my strong desire was to complete all blasting far enough in advance of building activity as to prevent such issues from arising in the future.

For this particular blasting event, I was on site for the blast about 200 yards from the blast site. The blast was so small and so quiet in this instance that I didn’t know it had occurred. I was standing outside expecting the blast. I heard the warning horn and was expecting the blast, but did not hear or feel anything. I didn’t know it had occurred. Not all blasts are like this, and many of them create a subterranean blast wave that can be felt, and an audible boom. To that point, each blast is different and is engineered very carefully for a specific purpose. In the case of the blast close to the home, it was intentionally small in order to avoid damage to nearby homes. Other blasts further from structures can be larger and safely break up rock without threatening damage to homes or other structures.

While I am by no means an explosives expert, I am a certified nerd and an inquisitive person. Beyond this, I think it is my responsibility to look out for the well being of residents. As a result, I have sought out accurate information about explosives use in excavating, and how such activities can be controlled in such a way as to mitigate most of the risk. If you don’t care about the technical aspect of controlled explosives, you may not care to continue. For the rest of you, here are some details.

Explosives today are far more complicated than what you might have seen in an old western movie where the railroad workers place a bundle of dynamite next to a rock face, then light the fuse and run for their lives. Today, there are many factors which go into the design of a blast. After assessing environment and the risks of the blasting event. Some of these factors are the presence and distance to structures, the type of rock being blasted, the presence of ground or surface water, the location of utilities, etc. The blast is then designed to control risk. The factors that determine the characteristics of the blast include the type of explosive used (chemistry of the explosive), the depth and diameter of bore hole (where the explosive is loaded), the spacing of the bore holes, and the sequencing of the blast, and the timing of the sequential blasts. The variables of the blast design are used to manage the behavior of the energy released, accomplishing the desired work of breaking the rock where intended without releasing damaging energy where it is not intended. You can learn much more about explosives at www.explosives.org if you are interested. There are some interesting videos on that site as well.

At the conclusion of the blasting event, I did visit with residents in the neighborhood closest to the blast. I found residents to be understanding of the need for the blasting, though a little annoyed at the inconvenience of it. I did speak to one resident who had concerns about the potential of the blasting to dislodge rock from the hillside above their home. I shared this residents concern and relayed to the developer that I would like to see some additional work completed to perform some additional earth work to remove rocks and to further shape the hillside for safety. I have since revisited the site and will do so again to verify that the work is completed to address specific concerns.

In conclusion (to a very long blog post) I have asked that any additional blasting be completed as soon as possible and if multiple blasting events are necessary, that they be done at the same time if possible. Since that time there have not been any additional blasting events. There may be one more blasting event with this first phase of development. It is unknown how many blasting events will be needed for the second phase, though the second phase should be completed much further away from existing structures. If any resident in the Kiowa Valley / Skyline Ridge development has different perspective or remaining concerns, I always welcome your perspective.

Proposed Code Changes

Tomorrow, our Planning Commission will be discussing potential code changes spanning several subjects. If you would like to review those proposed changes, you can review the planning commission packet here: http://www.eaglemountaincity.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=5819. Item B on the agenda reads:

“Ranches HOA Design Guidelines, Chapter 17 Code Amendments, Public Hearing, Discussion Item, and Action Item.”

One might be inclined to jump to conclusions about this agenda item and assume that the City intends to adopt the design guidelines of the Ranches HOA as City code. I would like to assure residents that this is not the case. Upon reading the proposed changes, you will see that the code changes are relatively benign for the vast majority of people.

Upon learning of the HOA’s intent to disband, staff and I discussed the impacts of this decision on the City. We quickly identified several areas where a discrepancy between City code and the Ranches HOA standard will have an impact. I did not weigh in on the proposed changes, but I did ask staff to bring changes forward for consideration. In this case, it was far more important that the areas of potential conflict had a proposed change brought forward so that we could discuss it and take action as opposed to leaving the conflict until a later day.

Given the timeline for the HOA disbanding, if we were to bring forward only a discussion item, no action could be taken, the HOA would disband, and the existing City code would stand in its place. Where existing code is incomplete in addressing some issues, action might be taken by residents or by developers before code could be amended. In this situation, we would simply have to live with it.

Transportation Improvements for City Center

Transportation has been an important issue in Eagle Mountain since the city was incorporated in 1996. I recently provided an update for residents regarding upcoming transportation infrastructure improvements. The City now can provide details of planned transportation improvements for City Center related to the imminent increase of traffic we are expecting with the new high school that will open for the 2019 school year.

Transportation infrastructure in City Center has remained much the same for many years. This is owing to the fact that City Center roads are used almost exclusively by City Center residents with the exception of event specific traffic during sporting or special events and traffic associated with people coming or going to City Hall. In contrast to The Ranches, the demands on City Center roads are significantly lower by traffic count. With the construction of the new high school, this will obviously change overnight. Event traffic for the high school must also be accounted for.

Alpine School District has conducted a traffic study in order to establish a baseline for looking at the traffic needs. While traffic studies are not the end-all, be-all in preparing for an increase in traffic, they are a critical component for intelligent spending decisions. Based on the expected increases in traffic, the following projects have been identified as necessary to ensure effective traffic management and traffic flow.

Pony Express Widening

Description: This project will widen Pony Express from three lanes to five lanes to include an additional left turn lane for Pony Express Pkwy and Hidden Valley Pkwy. The widening will be from Sandpiper Rd. to Red Pine Rd. A signal will likely be included at the Hidden Valley Parkway and Pony Express Parkway intersection and a four-way stop will likely be included at Lone Tree Parkway to allow residents safe passage to turn left onto Pony Express Parkway.

Timeline: Survey/Design August – 2017, Construction Bid – May 2018, Completion – August 2018

Estimated Cost: $ 2,800,000 -$3,050,000

Needs Addressed: This project removes conflicts from turn movements onto Hidden Valley Parkway for those heading to and from Hidden Hollow Elementary School. The project will allow free flow of traffic for two full lanes through this area before condensing back down to two lanes as Pony Express Pkwy continues past the Lone Tree and Oquirrh Mountain subdivisions.

Pony Express & Mid Valley Intersection Improvements

Description: This project will lengthen the right turn and left turn pockets from Pony Express to Mid Valley Road. The intersection will continue to be controlled by a three-way stop for all movements.

Timeline: Survey/Design August – 2017, Construction Bid – May 2018, Completion – August 2018

Estimated Cost: $ 150,000

Needs Addressed: The improvements provide additional stacking distance for vehicles turning onto Mid Valley Road, allowing north and south bound flow to continue without impairment.

Sage Park Continuation

Description: This project will build the road that the new high school will be built on. The road will continue from Pony Express Parkway west to connect to Eagle Mountain Blvd. The project will be built to accommodate high school traffic needs and will be planned for future expansion as a minor collector for future development in the area.

Timeline: Right-of-Way Acquisition – April 2019, Survey/Design April – 2019, Construction Bid – May 2019, Completion – August 2019

Estimated Cost: $ 1,000,000

Needs Addressed: This provides two points of ingress/egress from the high school, onto Pony Express Parkway and Eagle Mountain Blvd. This will serve as more direct access to Wride Hwy (SR-73) and will serve to alleviate traffic from areas of City Center south of the high school.

As the timeline for these projects grows nearer and/or if there are any changes we will continue to provide updates for residents.

 

Thorough Transportation Transmittal

Over the last two weeks or so we have had some significant weather induced traffic delays. While weather was a factor in the delays, the fact remains that growth within the Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs Communities has resulted in an increasing population (approximately 60,000 residents between us), and thus and increasing number of cars on the road. These delays are understandably frustrating to our residents. In light of your concerns, I thought now would be a great time to take a deep dive into our transportation infrastructure and to look at what work has already been done, what work will be done (and on what timeline), and what work needs to be done in the future.

The strain placed on our transportation infrastructure has by no means caught us by surprise. In fact, you will the transportation projects discussed below have been presented to various agencies, and funding requested as much as three years ago. These solutions have been planned and funded in partnership with Mountainland Association of Governments and UDOT, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain.

We understand that more cars without new roads (additional capacity) results in traffic congestion. Having said that, capacity on roads is only part of the solution. Choke points may develop as daily trips increase on the roads. Like a straight pipe flowing water, a straight street flows a tremendous amount of cars quite efficiently. When valves, sharp curves, and new connections are made to a pipe, flow may be restricted. The same holds true for transportation infrastructure when signals, curves, and connections are made to existing straight roads such as Redwood Rd. and other transportation facilities. For this reason there are two approaches to optimizing the infrastructure of our transportation corridors. Increasing capacity and optimizing flow through choke points.

Clearly there are multiple projects needed to solve for the increased traffic we are experiencing in the neighboring communities of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. I hope to share specific information on each of those for you in this blog. First, I want to look at the facts.

  1. Both Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs commuters interact with Redwood Rd. in the morning and evening. (Those who are heading south into Utah County may only cross Redwood Rd., while most others travel North/South on Redwood Rd. for some distance)
  2. With the exception of Harvest Hills Residents, most commuters from both communities converge on Redwood Rd. at Pony Express, Pioneer Crossing, or Crossroads Blvd. These points of convergence are all located within approximately 1.5 miles of each other.
  3. The vast majority of peak traffic of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs commuters is traveling north/south along Redwood Rd. at some point.
  4. Significant congestion on the north/south travel of Redwood Rd. is causing compound congestion on east/west corridors (Pony Express, Cory Wride Highway, Crossroads Blvd, and to a lesser degree, Pioneer Crossing).

In the simplest form, there are four solutions to the challenges identified above.

  1. Increase capacity for north/south travel.
  2. Reduce interruptions and delays to flow of north/south travel.
  3. Increase capacity for east/west travel.
  4. Reduce interruptions and delays to flow of east/west travel.

Below is detailed information about specific projects, their description, which need they will address, their timeline, and cost.

Mt. View Corridor

Description: Mountain View Corridor is a planned freeway, transit, and trail system in western Salt Lake and Northwestern Utah Counties. Initial construction in Utah County will include a two-lane road, with one lane in each direction, connecting S.R. 73 to 2100 north. A six-foot sidewalk on the east side of the future roadway alignment will be included with initial construction. Additionally, the intersection and traffic signal at Redwood Road and 2100 North will be reconfigured to accommodate the new connection.

Timeline: Construction will begin in 2017 and will likely be completed either late 2017 or early 2018.

Estimated Cost: $24,750,000

Needs Addressed: Reduce interruptions and delays to flow of north/south travel, Increase capacity for north/south travel.

Here is a link for the UDOT project site for additional information. http://www.udot.utah.gov/mountainview/

Pony Express Expansion

Description: Pony Express will be widened from Porters Crossing in Eagle Mountain to Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs. Due to the structure of state, local, and county funding, this project was previously considered as two projects. Application and approval was given in 2014 for a project to widen Pony Express to add a center turn lane and bike lanes on either side from Porters Crossing to 800 west in Saratoga Springs. Clearly, the project would not solve capacity issues, though funding was not available at the time for the additional $8-10 million to widen out to five lanes.

In 2016 Eagle Mountain worked with Saratoga Springs, UDOT, and MAG to plan for and request funding for the additional monies needed to complete a full widening. Mountainland Association of Governments brought the project through the Transportation Improvement Plan process where the project was scored in the top ten of all County projects. Right before the finalization of the project list, the scoring of the project fell drastically and became the first project not to be funded.

Since that time, developments with financial structures of other projects in the county have freed up funds to request funding again. We are currently working with all parties to get the project funded for the next Transportation Improvement Plan. We anticipate the approval of this project at which time we can work with MAG staff to move the funding up to 2018.

In the meantime we are working to identify ways to speed up the construction and decrease delays of the widening by utilizing the original project funding to move utilities, culverts, complete survey work, and other tasks in preparation for the 2018 widening. It should also be noted that the additional capacity of a widened Pony Express would not currently be supported by Redwood Road. In 2018 however, Mt. View Corridor will be operational and will have added capacity to north/south travel, and will have spread out the load on RR. The continuous Flow Intersection of Pioneer Crossing and Redwood Road will also have reduced the interface of drivers making left hand turn movements in the area and will increase the flow. You can review additional project information at the following link: http://mag-gis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=8dd48f00b7c4427db4edc1e54ccb7a2e. The project information for this project is not up to date as the projects are being combined.

Timeline: Begin prep work in 2017 (move utilities, culverts, complete survey work, etc.), Begin construction on roadway in 2018

Estimated Cost: $ 11,489,000

Needs Addressed: Increase capacity for east/west travel.

Redwood Road Expansion & Continuous Flow Intersection

Description: Redwood Road expansion is a large project to increase capacity primarily for Saratoga Springs residents south of Pony Express Parkway. The project will however help to keep traffic moving smoothly as it approaches Pony Express. The project will be completed in three phases with the first phase widening the northern most section of Redwood identified in the project. Work will also be completed on the very southern end of Saratoga Springs in 2017.

In 2018, the middle section of the project is estimated to be completed along with the construction of the continuous flow intersection at Pioneer Crossing and Redwood Road. It is this part of the project that will have the greatest impact on our regional traffic flow.

Here is a link for the UDOT project information: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bwz6VahrfJiBYzhwYkcyWHQzd1RYeHRPbmpRZFdtVnExaHFZ/view

Timeline: 2017-2018

Estimated Cost: $ 41,758,323

Needs Addressed: Reduce interruptions and delays to flow of north/south travel, Reduce interruptions and delays to flow of east/west travel.

Cory Wride Memorial Highway Right of Way Preservation

Description: In anticipation of the need to expand capacity for Cory Wride Memorial Highway to an eventual freeway facility we worked with several property owners, UDOT, and MAG to preemptively preserve the needed right of way.  This action was additionally taken due to increasing development pressure along the north eastern bench of the City. Additionally, the UDOT Transportation Commission designated the SR-73 corridor as a “high priority corridor”. This designation enacts specific requirements under State law that would effectively delay new development requests within the right of way.

Timeline: Completed

Cost: $ 6,894,000

Needs Addressed: Future cost reduction, proactive preservation of land needed to expand transportation facilities.

Cory Wride Memorial Highway Planning and Environmental Study

Description: This project includes the design work and an environmental study on the future freeway facility. S.R. 73 or Cory Wride Memorial Highway will one day become a freeway facility with frontage roads which will act as on-ramps and off-ramps for the facility. Here is a link for the UDOT project information: Note that the dates are no longer correct on the document, but the scope of project and other information is accurate. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bwz6VahrfJiBTUJ4R00td3FjSms/view

Timeline:2017

Estimated Cost: $ 2,400,000

Needs Addressed: Future capacity planning

Foothill Blvd./Mt. View Corridor Planning Study

Description: This study is intended to contemplate the appropriate facility to facilitate traffic flow going north/south along the west bench of Saratoga Springs. The project will contemplate weather or not Mt. View Corridor will be extended south past S.R. 73, or if an alternative facility makes more sense.

Timeline: 2017

Estimated Cost: $ 100,000

Needs Addressed: Future transportation planning of regionally significant infrastructure.

This information is intended to be a comprehensive look at our “regionally significant” transportation infrastructure and does not include other local transportation infrastructure concerns which residents have voiced surrounding the new High School. I will address those concerns and provide other information in a forthcoming blog post.

The projects identified above are funded projects which will be occurring in 2017 or 2018. A tremendous amount of teamwork and planning has gone on between Mountainland Association of Governments, UDOT Region 3, Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, and land owners. The resulting funded projects will add capacity and alleviate some, but not all of our congestion over the next two to three years. As we continue to work through these projects, City Council and I will continue collaborating with stakeholders and legislators to advocate for the needs of our area and our residents. I hope that this gives our commuting residents the confidence that work has been done and will continue to be done to improve our regional transportation infrastructure. As always, feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Many Reasons to be Thankful

As the year is winding down and the reality of single digit temperatures will soon be here to stay, I find myself reflecting on the year gone by. As I reflect, I am filled with gratitude for so many reasons. I am in a word, thankful. For those who know me best, it will go without saying that I am eternally grateful for the patience and understanding of my amazing wife and my precious daughters as this “job” of Mayor has demanded so much of my time over the last three years. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity you, the public have provided me to serve you. People often ask me how I like being mayor, and my response is always the same. I tell them “This is the most challenging position I have ever held. It is the most gratifying position I have ever held. It is a labor of love.” I don’t mind sharing with you that this position can at times exact a heavy toll from my personal life. At the exact same time, this position encourages and nourishes my soul in far too many ways to recount.

Eagle Mountain City has come so far since the year of our incorporation in 1996. I believe that today, we are the absolute best version of Eagle Mountain that has ever existed. Which leads me to one of the many reasons I am thankful this Thanksgiving Eve. My role of Mayor of Eagle Mountain has provided me with so many unique experiences and opportunities. I am one member of an organization of amazing people who love the work they do and who more often than not, go above and beyond in an effort to serve the public. The work is seldom easy, the recognition seldom forthcoming, though the pride of knowing we have done our absolute best to serve the public is reward enough.

We have worked very hard over the last three years to place ourselves in a position of financial strength. I am grateful that today we are able to enjoy the fruits of those labors. This year we have seen the completion of many long desired projects which would not have been possible only a few years ago. The best part is that we are just getting started and we now have the resources to see the work continued. Rather than rely on words, perhaps pictures can tell the story better.

In the top row you will see pictures of the new restrooms installed at Walden Park and Pioneer Park. Though not pictured, one additional restroom has been built at Smith Ranch. The top center picture is looking down the brand new extension of Bobby Wren Blvd. on the east side of Pony Express. This project also included completion of a trail along the entirety of Bobby Wren from Pioneer Addition to Eagle Park on the west side of Pony Express.

The bottom row pictures start with the brand new (and beautiful) infield dirt at the Cory Wride Memorial Park baseball complex. You will also see a picture of the trail along Pony Express. Every square foot of trail in City Center and The Ranches has now received seal coat as a preventative maintenance measure.

You will also see a shade structure which has been built at the bike park. An identical structure has been built at Nolen Park.

Of course there has also been plenty of road improvements this year as we continue working our way through our preventative maintenance plan.

Stone walls, pillars, and iron fencing are under the final stages of construction at the cemetery, and work is now starting on the center medians to convert all spray irrigation to drip along Pony Express. This project has been in the planning stages for quite some time and will see the first phase which will cover the majority of the center medians along Pony Express in The Ranches, completed in the late spring. This design will be a step in the right direction toward water conservation while maintaining a high aesthetic standard.

We are now working on identifying a contractor to build phase 1A of Cory Wride Memorial Park. This build will include ample parking, completion of the baseball complex with shade sails, grandstands, restrooms, snack shack, maintenance shed, announcers booth, playground, and landscaping.

Planning is well underway for phase 1B of Cory Wride Memorial Park which will include multiple play structures for children of all abilities. Here is the best part of it all. The entirety of these projects and many others already planned will be paid for in cash. That’s right, all cash, no debt!

Our current circumstances didn’t happen on accident. It has taken a tremendous amount of intentional effort. For all the staff, council, and community volunteers that have helped get us to this point, I am thankful.

God bless you and may you have a most thankful thanksgiving!

A Different Perspective on Today’s Events

It’s been a little while since I have written to you all. I have been wanting to write a blog post for a while, but I just haven’t had material that seemed important enough to ask for an investment of your time. That all changed today. As you are probably well aware, today there was a bomb threat at one of our Eagle Mountain elementary schools. (if you weren’t aware, it was at Eagle Valley Elementary). I don’t want to report to you on the specifics of the perpetrator, or his motivations. I’d rather not give him the bandwidth. I will tell you that the threat was credible and the concern was very real. He struck fear and concern into the hearts of hundreds if not thousands of adults all fearing for the well being of their children. This was one of those situations that escalated to a seldom seen level of intensity we would rather not see in our “little” home town.

If you are interested in the details, you can look to any of the major news outlets. They are all covering the situation, and rightly so. I simply don’t have a mind to give this individual any more coverage. He doesn’t deserve it.

If you are like me, you may be wondering what in the world went through this guys head that would make him do something like this. You may even ask yourself “what is this world coming to?”  To me it can become a little disheartening to see this garbage on the news every time you turn on the TV. While those are good questions, for me it isn’t so productive to dwell on them.

Instead I want to share a message with you that I hope you will find more uplifting. I have a sister that lives in Eagle Mountain and I think this incident shook her up a bit today. She doesn’t have children at Eagle Valley Elementary, though she does have school age children. As she shared her thoughts and feelings today about the incident, she posted a quote from Mr. Rodgers on her Facebook wall today and it is a quote I couldn’t agree more with.

“When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are Helping.'” – Fred Rodgers

How appropriate for the events of today! You know the bad of the situation today, but I want to share with you what I observed in Eagle Mountain. First, by the time I was briefed that we had an incident unfolding, all of the children had been evacuated and were far away from the school. Later conversations revealed to me that the principal, Paula Tucker and the staff of Eagle Valley Elementary had appropriately prepared the students to evacuate quickly and seamlessly  by performing a series of drills in the beginning of the school year. The result of those drills was that every grade knew where to go and how to get there. It happened quickly. More quickly that I would have believed possible in fact. Having chaperoned field trips, I couldn’t handle eight children let alone several hundred!

To Paula and all of the teachers, aides, and the support staff, I cant express to you enough how grateful I am that you are the ones we entrusted with our children. Today you showed us the true meaning of the word “helper”.

No incident ever goes exactly as planned, and today was no exception. With City hall being over run with school children, I witnessed City staff, parents, and teachers working calmly to attend to the needs of the children. I watched a resident open their home to teachers and children to get them out of the sun.

School administrators from surrounding schools showed up on cue to offer operational support to the teachers who found themselves managing a very stressful situation. Communication flowed as quickly as could be expected in such situations and I received a phone call From Rob Smith at Alpine School District who wanted to make sure I had been briefed on what was going on and how they were ensuring the safety of the children.

The facilities manager of the LDS Church was on scene at the local stake house to open the doors and make sure that the facility was available for children to be bussed to for parent pick up.

City Employees shuttled children to the Stake Center, delivered water and shade structures, entertained children, and disseminated information to all residents.

If you are a parent of children at Eagle Valley Elementary, you may have a different perspective of what happened today. From my observations, I saw nothing less than exceptional people doing exceptional work in the midst of a situation more stressful than most of us will ever encounter. Today, my concern was at an all time high until I witnessed first hand all of the helpers caring for the needs of our youngest residents.

With the children out of harms way, my attention turned to the very tense situation remaining at the now empty school. What I witnessed was many dedicated law enforcement officers and neighboring agencies that acted professionally and carefully. While the children were safe, homeowners across the street from the school were facing an unknown blast threat. Under this intense pressure to resolve the situation, our Law enforcement made the distinction between an imminent threat, and indeterminate threat. The professionalism of our deputies and supporting agencies resulted in the individual being taken in to custody without any loss of life or injury. In my mind, there are probably other outcomes that would have been defensible. In spite of this, a calm hand prevailed and the perpatrator will have his due process as is his right under the Constitution of the United States of America.

I simply can’t say enough about our Utah County Sheriff’s department and the level of dedication and professionalism that they bring to the table as they go about the business of protecting and serving the residents of Eagle Mountain. They are helpers like no other.

I also intended to share with you about the return of David Blair from the Rio Paralympics. David won the gold medal in discus at the games. We had a welcome home procession for him this morning. I had the honor of spending a little time with him and his family at an assembly at a local school where he shared an inspiring message. I wanted to share more about that in a blog post, but I’ll dedicate some time and space to that separately. We can’t pack all of today’s good into such a small space.

In any case, if you are feeling a little discouraged, remember to look for the helpers. I think you will find them all around if you look. That is part of what makes this community so amazing and it is one of the many reasons why this job is a blessing to me.

 

 

Tis the Season (For Road Work)

With the new budget approved in June, July 1 marks the beginning of a new fiscal year. With the budget year starting in the summer, the City gets moving as quickly as possible to complete projects before the weather turns colder. The most time-sensitive projects are transportation related. Typically, half of road projects are completed within a window of time between the start of the new budget in July, and the early fall when the weather turns cooler. Road projects then pause for late fall, winter, and early spring. The second half of planned road projects takes place in a window of time from late spring, when the weather warms, and the summer running up to the end of the fiscal year on June 30.  The City has made tremendous strides in knocking out a hefty amount of maintenance on our arterial roads, and we are now turning our focus to collector roads. Our aim is to keep pushing until we eventually get the entire City’s transportation infrastructure on a five-year rotating maintenance plan.

 

Here is a list of transportation projects for the new fiscal year, broken down between capital improvements and maintenance:

Capital Improvements:

-Traffic Signal at Porter’s Crossing & Pony Express Pkwy. ($250k)

-Bobby Wren Ext. ($550k) City code requires that all new subdivisions have two points of access, though some do not. This project will include a trail along the street and will provide a second access point for residents in sections of Pioneer Addition.

-Golden Eagle Rd. ($100k) This project will eliminate the remaining section of dirt road and connect Kiowa Valley with a second paved access to neighborhoods.

-Hummer Rd. ($30k) This section will connect existing streets and run past the new park.

-Salt Shed ($250k) Not only will this help our crews to work more efficiently during plowing operations, it will bring our salting operation into compliance with EPA standards.

-Sunset Drive Improvements ($447k)

-Side Path/Bike Plan Improvements ($185.5k) These are safety improvements to bike and pedestrian crossings at roundabouts and arterial roads.

Maintenance:

-High Density Mineral Bonding for subdivision streets ($190k) This treatment will be applied to various areas of the city in order to rejuvenate asphalt on select roads.

-Cedar Drive Overlay/Repair ($50k) This treatment will be the first step in rehabilitating roads in Cedar Pass Ranch.

-Crest Rd/Cedar Pass Rd Overlay/Repair ($50k). This is the same treatment as Cedar Drive.

-Ranches Pkwy NB Chip Seal ($76k) This treatment will be the same as the chip seal that was completed on the southbound roads a couple of years ago.

-Pony Express Pkwy S. Chip Seal ($92k) This will be for a section of Pony Express that heads out to the City Community Development building.

-EM Blvd W. Chip Seal ($253.5k) This is a large chip seal job which will renew the road surface from the roundabout out to Wride Hwy.

All maintenance processes begin with identifying areas where the road may be significantly damaged and removing failed sections, repairing the road base, and patching the surface before treatment.

These improvements are subject to change as timelines and circumstances dictate.

Investing in “The Big Picture”

On June 7th there will be a public open house meeting at Frontier Middle School to provide information about the current stage of planning for two significant projects in Eagle Mountain. One of those projects is the building of Cory B. Wride Memorial Park. The second is future plans for landscape improvements to Ranches Parkway and Pony Express Pkwy. There will be lots of information at this meeting so I encourage you to attend. The event will be from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

I’d also like to share with you what other projects are in the works. Wride Memorial Park will be an important park in Eagle Mountain due to its central location, its designation as a regional park, and the fact that the Pony Express Trail runs right through the center of the park. Of course it is not the only park in our city, nor is it the only park that has seen or will see investments made. Likewise, the landscape medians in The Ranches are in obvious need of improvements to correct long-standing irrigation issues and runoff problems. While these projects are the first of the larger projects to see investments through utility sale proceeds, there are many other projects planned. Additionally, there are many other projects which are included in the normal City budget.

Park improvements have been made to the following areas with utility sale proceeds at a cost of $278,000:

Pioneer Park, SilverLake Amphitheater, Walden Park Detention, Overland Trails Park, Bobby Wren Fitness Park, Eagle Point Trail, Half Mile Rd. Trail, Skate Park Panels, 150 Trees Placed, Hidden Canyon Park, and Rodeo Ground Fence.

The following park improvements have been identified for future completion (not including Wride Memorial Park), and are estimated to cost $3,135,000: Various Trail Connectivity/Completion projects, the Match Program – HOA/Neighborhood Park (Existing only), Nolen Splash Pad Upgrades for water efficiency, Pavilion at Nolen Park near Splash Pad (we are working on this project presently), $25k in Bike Park improvements from utility sale proceeds and an additional $25K from a grant we were awarded, Hidden Canyon Detention Pond improvements to finish the project, SilverLake Amphitheater Slides Park, Park Bathrooms (Smith Ranch, Walden Park, Pioneer Park, Pony Express Park), Paseo Improvements (the large vacant areas that run between neighborhoods in City Center), and a Cemetery wall.

Outside of park boundaries the following open space improvements have been identified at an estimated cost $2,050,000: Pony Express Road Medians – Landscaping in The Ranches, Pony Express Road Medians – Landscaping in City Center, City Center Streetscape Landscaping, Benches, Shade Structures, & Garbage Cans along Trails.

In all, there are $5,463,000 in proposed park and open space improvements planned throughout the City with utility sale proceeds.

Including Wride Memorial Park at a cost somewhere in the ballpark of $3,500,000, the total for park and open space improvements totals $8,963,000.

This does not account for the trail completion projects contemplated in the FY 2016-2017 budget.

Utility sale proceeds are currently contemplated to invest $1,400,000 on economic development, preparedness, and transportation, leaving approximately $2,283,000 un-allocated.   

NOTE: Several key transportation infrastructure improvements were moved from the utility sale proceeds project list to the budget including completion of Golden Eagle Rd. and the Bobby Wren extension, along with a signal at Porter’s Crossing and Pony Express Pkwy.

It is important to understand that there are far more projects than can be done in one or even two years. It will take several years to complete these projects most likely, though I fully expect that you will all notice the improvements being made very soon if you haven’t already.

Obviously, these investments will benefit the community and our quality of life, but the method by which these improvements will be made is the more significant story. There are few if any cities out there that are able to invest this much money over so many different targeted improvement projects simultaneously.  What is more amazing is the fact that all of these projects will be paid for in cash. Even more than that, the cash investment being made will not be negatively impacting our rainy day fund. We will remain at or near the maximum level of funds on hand allowed under State law.

While Cory B. Wride Memorial Park and the landscaped medians in The Ranches are perhaps more visible projects, I just wanted everyone to have a feel for where our money is being spent and why, and to ease any concerns of placing all of our eggs in one basket.

We are in a good place and getting better every day!

A Day of Community Service

This Saturday, April 30 is our Community Clean-Up event from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM. This is an opportunity for individuals, families, youth groups, Scouts, business and church groups to come together in the spirit of volunteerism to beautify and improve our city in a short span of time by working together.

We appreciate those of you who have already signed up and will be joining with us to help with this important endeavor. The value of community service and the impact that it has on all of our citizens cannot be stressed enough.

If you have made this important commitment to volunteer, we remind you of the value this will be to our entire community. For those who have registered, you should have received an email with your assignment. Everyone will meet at Frontier Middle School at 8:30 AM to check-in before going to the location of their assignment. If you did not receive the email or have questions, please contact Angela at avalenzuela@emcity.org or 801-789-6603.

If you have not yet volunteered to join this community effort, we hope you will seriously consider doing so. Registration is still open at the following link: Register Here. Come join the fun and keep the spirit of volunteerism alive! The free lunch, T-shirts and other giveaways are a small token of our thanks and appreciation to each individual and group that volunteers.

Thoughts About A Recreation Center

Recently, at my neighborhood caucus, I had the opportunity to answer questions from residents while we waited for the votes to be tallied. I wasn’t surprised when someone asked, “When are we going to get a rec center?” because I get this question frequently.

Cities can certainly offer recreation opportunities in various capacities, though I do have some concern with building a facility that would be in direct competition to private enterprise in some ways. Private enterprise creates resources, jobs, and property taxes. Government consumes those resources. We may argue that a government-run rec center would create jobs too, but the government can only get the money to continue running such a facility by taxing residents or charging usage fees. I have yet to find a rec center that is fully funded and self-sustaining through usage fees alone, though gyms and water parks are able to do so regularly. If anyone knows of a recreation center that fully funds its annual operational expense through usage fees and not taxes, please let me know because I would like to explore the subject more.

In spite of paying no property tax, and thus having a considerable advantage over private enterprise when setting pricing, they still operate at a net expense, where ideally they should be revenue neutral. I make this statement after direct observation and meeting with multiple entities that run recreation centers. Recreation centers almost always operate as “cost centers,” (meaning they don’t break even and they cost money to operate).  Where a political body such as a city council is responsible for setting the fees charged for facility use, there is a built-in incentive for council to keep the fees low. While this will benefit those who use the facility regularly, it will impact the taxes of all residents, regardless of use.

Recreation centers and aquatic centers offer great activities and programs for residents to participate in. I believe that most communities with rec centers enjoy them and are glad they are there. For a moment I would like to look past the benefit and consider the associated expense. Many municipalities have built recreation and aquatic centers over the years with costs ranging from $11 million to $39 million. After that, the cost of running the center must be considered. One rec center in a neighboring community has $800,000 in net operating expenses, after usage fees.

Rec centers and aquatic centers are typically financed by issuing a General Obligation bond (GO bond). General Obligation bonds are backed by the taxing ability of the bond issuer (the City). This results in an increase to property taxes for all residents to pay for the construction of the building, regardless of whether or not they use the facility. All other costs of operating the facility such as employee wages, equipment, supplies, and utility costs are paid for with the money the facility charges patrons for its use. If the money collected from usage fees does not cover the full cost of operation, then money from other revenue sources must subsidize the operation. There are very few municipal recreation centers or aquatic centers that break even on their own. In these cases, the government must use cash from its general fund to make up the difference. In essence, property tax and sales taxes are used to satisfy the unmet burden.

I understand that many residents would like to see Eagle Mountain get its own rec center or even aquatic center. I have my own guiding principles and values which make the traditional model of borrow, build, and bill for use a non-starter. Those same principles prevent me from sticking taxpayers with the financial burden of indefinite ongoing operations expense. Lastly, where other entities such as gyms, water parks and other similar private enterprise options are theoretically possible, I am not in favor of introducing market competition when operating expense is subsidized by taxes.

The City has been looking for ways to satisfy our residents’ desire to have a rec center, without using tax dollars to pay for the ongoing expense of running it. We have been looking for such an opportunity over the last two years. If we are to be successful, it will occur through partnerships where needs and benefits are aligned between different stakeholders. Speaking for myself only, I am not opposed to participating in the cost of building a facility with one-time cash funds (not borrowed money) to build a facility which would then be run by a private entity. We have spoken to private recreation businesses, other public entities with specific facility needs, and developers. Through some of those conversations, a deal looked promising but didn’t pan out. While we haven’t yet been successful in finding the right mix of stakeholders and needs, we continue to have those conversations to find a satisfactory solution if one exists.