Wednesday, September 23, 2009

HOW DO WE TELL ELECTION TIME IS UPON US?

A very easy question and answer, because things are starting to happen. Elected leaders would have you believe they have been working on a particular issue for some time, but such statements are very disingenuous. The statements are not truthful and are not supported by facts. Evidence of the lack of support by the facts for their statements, can be found in the minutes of meetings, memos and public pronouncements that have been recorded and preserved.

Looking at the issues, there seems to be some serious misspeak, misdirection, and even some backroom dealing. Twisting the facts is nothing new for some leaders, who find it very easy to cross back and forth between fact and fiction.

1. WESTERN BY-PASS OR TRUCK ROUTE:
Within the last few days, leaders in Heber City have started to tout the fact, there is agreement with the County on the issue of the By-Pass and the intersection on 100 South. But the truth is, nothing has changed in the last year on the route, so what has changed their mind now? Can you say, the upcoming election?
The statements on this issue that have started to come out, related to the support of Heber City for the Truck Route, are so disingenuous. One wonders how in good conscience, the word “support” can even be used with a straight face.
Heber City government has constantly over the last year and half, used every method possible to discourage anyone from discussing or focusing on this issue. The City Manager, the current Mayor and the two members of the City Council running for reelection, have been in the forefront of putting up roadblocks and saying one thing in public and saying something entirely different in private, when they though no one was listening.
If Citizens are interested in the facts, they need to take the time for a trip to City Hall, read all the minutes where the By-Pass is mentioned. And to receive additional information, read the minutes of the Wasatch County Council, where they discuss the By-Pass issue. Using these sources, citizens will see exactly where the blockage came from and who.
The presentation of the By-Pass over one year ago shows today nothing has changed and now Heber City has an epiphany and decided to support the same route and intersection design that was proposed earlier. If certain elected leaders have not done a thing on this issue, in the last 1460 days, no one should embarrass themselves by thinking, these recent decisions are for real. Remember another fours years is a long time, and there is no guarantee that if the current people are retained, anything is going to change anytime soon except talk.

WAL-MART:
There is so much misinformation regarding this issue, it is hard to separate what is believable and who said what. Heber City is repeating what Boyer tells them and the public is left to fend for themselves.
Will a Wal-Mart store come to Heber Valley. Maybe, but until the public actually sees a building with a Wal-Mart logo, no one should take their belief or hope to the bank.

The Boyer web site talks about a project in what is now referred to as Valley Station. It shows 120,000 feet in the project for a Wal-Mart Store, theaters, retail stores and housing. The latest addition is now a stand-alone bank. Couple that with what Boyer and Heber City are saying about a new special greener store, you can see why everyone is so confused. Sadly, Wal-Mart management has not seen the new “greener store”. According to Wal-Mart folks, their only concern is the Park City Store, which will be a super center. So if Park City gets the super center, what will Heber get? And where are the 350 jobs promised by Boyer and Heber City officials?
Now sources are confirming, that discussions have been held with Boyer, among others, telling them, if they do not start something on their project, the new people if elected, will change things and they might have to start over.
So now we may get to see something, even if it is a mirage.
Again, elected leaders are moving on something, so perhaps we need to give them some credit, they want to go out with a bang.

THE AIRPORT:
So the heat is on. The speculation at the Airport, using taxpayer funds, is now the subject of a number of questions from the public. So in order to shield those in the middle of this mess, it is now necessary to use the Airport Board and get them to buy off on a deal with the fix based operator. This deal will allow the City to have a scapegoat. The finger can be pointed to the FBO if things do not work out.
The City claims to have a list of people to lease the hangars. So why have they not used this list to fill the hangars instead of making a deal with the FBO and giving them the list?. Could this list be the same list, that was used to entice the City Council into making a two million dollar mistake?
The other question that needs to be asked; if the Airport operates at a loss, why is the City now restructuring the agreement with the FBO, based basically on the same terms?
And why now? Gosh, they had four years to resolve the Airport problems and now today the Airport is a big issue. The City speculated with tax funds, the Airport operates at a deficit, and now the City has found religion and wants to make amends for all the past misdeeds.
Is this just another move to impress the voters at election time? It does not take a a rocket scientist to see past this smoke screen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A CITIZENS RESPONSE ON THE INTERSECTION OF 40 AND 189

Every once in a while, a citizen responds on an issue of great important to this valley. And they do so to "set the record straight".
The following article was received by the IMPACT Program as a response to statements made by the Mayor of Heber City in a recent newspaper article.





In response to the Mayor’s suggestion that UDOT is responsible for the current HUB and surrounding intersections traffic plan.
This a short version of the events that took place regarding the intersection.

Design of HUB and surrounding intersections: Boyer/Valley Station Development Traffic Study prepared by Mack Christiansen of Horrocks Engineers, 21 JAN 08. (Horrocks is also the contract engineering firm for Heber City).
17 MAR 08, “Special” Heber City Council Meeting (Monday evening) held to listen to a presentation by Mack Christiansen of Horrocks and Wade Williams of Boyer Co. in regard to the traffic plan for the Valley Station Development. They presented what we later learned was Alternative One of the traffic study. There was NO presentation or discussion of Alternative Two and Three. City Engineer (employee not contract) Bart Mumford attempted to convey to the Council that a new Daniels Road Connector should be part of the plan. No discussion ensued.
13 May 08- UDOT letter (Region 3) addressed to Heber City. In summary, they state their position that if this plan is adopted they will close Daniels Road due to the use of medians and “that a new connection between Daniels Road and US-189 can move forward quickly.”
13 May 08- Inter-local Meeting of Governments- County offers to participate financially to secure the right of way for the new Southern Truck Route, specifically the first phase know as the new Daniels Road Connector. City rejects their offer stating that they don’t have the funds.
15 May 08- Heber City Council Meeting. Boyer/Valley Station Development Final Plat Approval-Purpose is the dedication of roads, offsite improvements and infrastructure. The site plan with location of buildings and landscaping will be approved at a later date.
City Manager Mark Anderson responds to inquiries from Council Members Horner and Straddeck regarding Boyers participation in the traffic plan and specifically to intersection closures and the Daniels Road closure. He states the new Daniels Rd Connector will not be part of the plan. He goes on to state that he HAS DIRECTED SHAWN SEAGER OF RPO/MOUNTAINLAND ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENTS TO WORK ON THE LEGAL DESCRIPTION FOR THE NEW CONNECTOR IN ORDER THAT A PURCHASE AGREEMENT CAN BE ENTERED INTO WITH THE LANDOWNERS BY 30 JUNE 08 AND FUNDS ALLOCATED. We know that no such description was created and that no agreement was ever entered into. In addition, even though he contradicts himself from two days earlier in which the City’s position was we do not have the funds for a new connector, any funds available were used for the hangar project that received approval later that Spring.
The Mayor states in his article, “improvements benefited and resolved problems beyond what was impacted by the project.” This is not accurate. The plan designed by the developer and approved by the City uses medians to deny access to several accesses and intersections. This is known as Alternative One and it fails to meet Heber City’s minimum standard for intersection operation at Main St/1000 South. Furthermore, the day the Boyer Project opens it will produce over 13,000 additional traffic trips on a typical weekday. (Perspective, approx. 27,000+ trips on Main St. currently). According to the traffic study, 6 intersections will fail because of the additional traffic study. In other words, the reason these so called improvements were implemented (closing intersections) were to accommodate the massive traffic increase caused by the development, NOT outside sources of traffic as the Mayor suggests. Bottom line, the other two alternatives in the study (Two, includes the Southern Truck Route), (Three, the first phase of the Southern Route, New Daniels Connector) maintain access to Southern Heber City and improve the operation of the HUB intersection.
If you want one line to summarize this issue, memorize the following: Page 12 of the traffic study it states, “Heber City standard for LOS will not accept anything below a LOS C.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

WHO DID WHAT, WHEN AND HOW?- The Wal-Mart Project

With so many unanswered questions regarding the Boyer Development or as it now being called, the “Valley Station” project, will we ever know all the answers.

Heber City Government has told the citizens, that even with delays, there is still progress. The local paper, is saying there is progress. It is obvious that someone needs to define “progress”.

Citizens look at the vacant field, and wonder what and where is the progress? They now wonder, what was the hurry to force people out of their homes? And why the hurry to make changes to roads and the worst change of all, the intersection at Highway 40 and 189?

Some questions that need to be asked are; Does Heber City Government, believe and have confidence now, in the information that Boyer is providing? Likewise, is there confidence in what the Heber City Administration is now saying to citizens?
It seems obvious, that Boyer is not really presenting all the facts on what the true plans are for now and in the future and the current City administration is allowing them to get away with this misspeak. And of course, Heber City seems to be painting the picture of what they would like to see along with what they were promised even though they can not prove either.
It seems everyone involved is now trying to cover this disaster with information that is palatable for public consumption regardless of the out come.

Supportable facts, without filtering, should be presented to the public. Not surprising, the public is usually smarter than some will acknowledge. So, would it not be better to give all the facts and allow citizens to draw their own conclusions?

It is very interesting, that on a Wal-Mart Company web site, a map of Heber City is shown and an address is given for a Heber Store. Of course this has not changed for the last three years. And the address they give is 435 Airport Road. There is no mention as to the type of store that is offered. Mention of the Heber City Store has been removed from other Wal-Mart active web sites.
In this area, information is easily found on the Park City Wal-Mart and what they are doing and when it is expected to be finished, even though the whole project, due to some political wrangling by Summit County, is on hold.

A few weeks ago, the Mayor of Heber City, Dave Phillips, tried to make the case, the same one, made months earlier by the City Manager, that Wal-Mart was going to a different type of store, therefore, they (Wal-Mart) in conjunction with Boyer, were rethinking what they planned to do. And then the hint was made, that with the rethink, the citizens would see a very different, greener store and of course it would not be as large as promised.
Was this information given by Boyer or by Wal-Mart, to Heber City Officials?
Perhaps, there are changes coming, because Wal-Mart is a very careful company. They did not get to be the worlds largest retailer, by making mistakes or deals that do not offer a return. And they have no problem pulling out of any deal, that does not provide them with the right market share. And unlike some, they are never stampeded in making decisions.
Some where, between Wal-Mart, Boyer and Heber City, the conduit for factual information is plugged, either on purpose, or due to no one really wanting to know. Sometimes, the truth is very painful.

In conversation and investigation of Wal-Mart, the plans they present, are for only four types of store.

1. Wal-Mart Discount Stores: In this store, they carry most things, but not food. Their lawn and garden shops are usually small. They employ about 225 people. This type of store is about 107,000 square feet.
This is not the type of store, the people of Heber were promised either in word or deed.

2. Wal-Mart Super Centers: This was the store that was promised. This is the store, that was shown in the pretty pictures, prior to the voters going to the polls.
The Super Center Store carries a complete food department along with a very large garden center. Involved with this store is eye, hair, banking, tax service departments and so forth.
It is this type of store, the Park City Store is supposed to be when completed and what was promised to the people of Heber a few years ago.
Super Centers average 187,000 square feet and employ about 350 people and more during Holiday Seasons.

3. Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets: This plan is called a convenient store. Small, averaging about 42,000 square feet. Think of these stores as like a Day’s Market or a Smiths, cut in half, both in products and building size. They carry a number of items, but not anything near what is carried and inventoried by Discount Stores and Super Centers. Neighborhood Markets employ about 95 people and at the present time, there is only about 153 of these stores in the Country. They are what the name suggests, small neighborhood markets, short on product lines and in-depth inventories. And in most cases, their price points are somewhat higher.

4. Marketside: These stores are the smallest of the Wal-Mart product. They carry prepared foods, similar to a Boston Market. They also carry organic food products with a large deli type operation. These store are about 15 to 25000 square feet. They require and work well with large population centers. They employ less than 30 people. The first one opened in 2008. Information on how they do, their weaknesses and strengths is not totally complete.

So what type of Wal-Mart store will the citizens of Heber City see?
Will Wal-Mart even be coming to the area?
As for citizens of Heber City, these questions and even a few more should be answered in full. Perhaps, seeing what Boyer is showing the world on their web site, is more telling that anything said so far.

Valley Station is the name of the Boyer project in Heber City. In company information, this development is listed, but the listing has not changed for some time. According to Boyer, Valley Station is listed as a mixed-use development. In developer and planning speak, mixed-use means; “a project which we are trying to jam as much building on a particular piece of land as possible”.
The size of the Valley Station project is listed as 120.000 square feet. In this size, they claim they will have a Wal-Mart, retail shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and multi-family homes. To the average person, this development sounds like it is going to be really tight. And at 120,000, if Wal-Mart comes at all, it will be something they are not building currently, so what type of Wal-Mart will this be?

Further investigation into the Boyer and Wal-Mart issue, show that in the very beginning, due diligence was never done on the issues, such as the costs and the revenues if any. The whole project seems to have been one, in which, if questions were asked, either there were not answers or the answers that were given, did not support what Boyer and Heber City were conspiring to do.
Heber City moved fast and furious. They promoted and did things, that in a normal process, would have never been allowed. Information and the required process was dismissed, and shaky information, unsupported facts and conclusions were rammed through, hoping no one would ask, operating on the premise, that citizens can be told anything. Boyer on the other hand, promoted and spent money to paint a rosy picture of large tax returns, revenues beyond comprehension, huge employment opportunities. In fact Boyer even used or paid for the use of, names of officials of Heber City in order to move the whole process, with speed and not much deliberation. It is obvious that regardless of the out comes, citizens will be required to pick up the pieces and pay for this lack of due diligence on the part of Heber City and requiring Boyer to do the same, for years to come.

Based on information we now know, it is quite possible the Boyer project may not be anything more than a strip mall with some shops and lots of cheap unneeded housing. And once more, citizens will have to pay for these acts of omission and commission as if they were of their own making.
This project, and what was promised in the very beginning, is like a hoar frost. When real intense light is focused on it, it disappears.
We may never know the extent of collusion on the part of some. We may never know, what quid-pro-quo took place in the negotiations. We many never know what the citizens could have had, if those in charge had followed the law, rather than manipulating it.

Is the Boyer Company guilty of misleading the public in the beginning of this project. And later on, misleading Heber City Administration?

Is the Heber City Administration guilty of dereliction of some duty for failing to check all the facts and observing commonly accepted protocols?

Are citizens guilty, due to apathy for failing to ask the important questions and then demanding complete disclosure of all the projected costs and revenues?

Regardless what is built on the Boyer site, when the project is completed, there will always be whispered conversations of who did What, When and How. Can you blame them?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A MUST READ

As we approach the election, some of the candidates seem to pulling out all the stops. We are starting to see a campaign of misdirection and misinformation. Some of the statements can not be supported by recorded facts. They seemed to be window covering, perhaps for more sinister things that have not seen the light of day. By employing the printed word and saying some things among friends, perhaps, some of the candidates are hopeful, voters will accept everything at face value. A careful review of some of the statements, can not go unchallenged.

1. STATEMENT: “Heber City has seen a substantial decline in tax and other revenues.”
FACT: Yes, there has been a decline, (supported by actual count and figures in the latest budget) but the current administration and their unsupported decisions, are guilty for part of the decline. Based on promises by developers, Heber City built a revenue source into their budget, and although the economic math was not checked for accuracy, the City began spending some monies, based on the premise, that revenues would catch up with spending, and everything would be ok. But the figures that supported the revenues, the City was so eager to spend, never really materialized. They were pie in the sky to start with, and no one took a peak to see if they were even close to reality. The statement has some truth, but a careful investigation shows there are reasons other than the economy.

2. STATEMENT: “Balancing the budget without tax increases or layoffs“.
FACT: The budget is a minimum information document. It is what is required by the State of Utah. It also allows for some pretty creative accounting as well. Experts who have looked at this balancing act, have drawn two conclusions;
1. If Heber City separates their wants from their needs, there is money not only to balance the budget, but to allow some departments a little growth.
2. The City is hinting that a tax hike will come as soon as next year. (See June 20, 2009 interview with City Manager in Deseret News) But according to those who have looked at the budget, such threats of tax, fee and service hikes are premature at best, and with out foundation for at least the next two years and perhaps longer. Layoffs according to sources within the City, were never a serious contemplation for anyone working in the office building. But there was some discussion in an effort to scare folks, which would make a tax hike pretty supportable. There was the dutiful mention of other departments, like police, public works, etc. and of course, in some cases, those that retired (not many) were not replaced, since the money was needed to hire some new faces for some new posts in support of the kingdom. And even the mention of lay offs was really a public relations stunt.

3. STATEMENT: “the Mayor and Council have been committed to sound fiscal responsibility“.
FACT: A careful reading of the minutes over the last four years, will show, that fiscal responsibility was never taken too seriously. Evidenced by five very important decisions;
A. The holding of 500,000 dollars for architectural services for a new City Hall.
B. The use of the general fund to build Airport Hangars, during a down turn in the economy on speculation.
C. The hiring of a new City inspector, during an obvious downturn and slow down in projects.
D. The hiring of the airport manager, for his construction expertise, rather than for his Airport Management skills, and why, since the airport, according to the current budget, operates at a deficit.
E. The spending of some monies, that had not materialized, due to unfulfilled promises by the Boyer Company which the City took at face value and knew they would not be collecting.

4. STATEMENT: “We have tightened budgets in every department“.
FACT: A careful reading of the recently passed budget, shows that in some departments, the amount of money wanted in the new fiscal year was trimmed. Trimming a budget desire or a want, can not be compared to tightening an existing budget. In fact, to suggest budgets were tightened, is a serious play on words when each department is compared, with the actual figures in the current budget report.

5. STATEMENT: “delayed some capitol projects“.
FACT: The only capitol project, the public has been informed about is the building of a new City Hall. If there are others on a wish list, the public has not been informed, nor has the Planning Commission held public meetings on the issue. Could it be possible, there are some capitol projects, that have been discussed privately and have made the list of wants, but now have been delayed?

6. STATEMENT: “delayed hiring new employees.”
FACT: In this down turn, Heber City has hired additional employees. A new Airport manager was hired in the last eight months. The City has also hired a new inspector. In order to pay him, they have created a new list of fees which have been increased to support the new inspector, since there is no new construction.
There is some talk, of not replacing a few who retired. But no one should confuse, replacement with delaying some hiring. Misdirection at its best.

7. STATEMENT: “Next four years…expanding…commercial base.”.
FACT: For 1460 days, there has been a need to expand the commercial base, but the current administration has spent most of the time, working with residential development, under the false idea, that somehow, residential development will pay for itself. Planners know, that such ideas are folly. There was a need four years ago to work and plan for new commercial development. No real plan was ever put into place. If expansion was not done in the last four years, can anyone believe it will happen in the next four years with the current crew?

8. STATEMENT: “provide jobs and increase tax revenues“.
FACT: The current administration has done only one thing, to provide jobs and increase tax revenues. They worked a deal with the Boyer Company. A one sided deal at best, where every demand was responded to, and now today, after all the pretty pictures, the public meetings and the misinformation, plus members of the council and others allowing the Boyer Company to use them in advertising to promote an election on a new zone change, nothing has happened, with the exception of removing 80 families from their homes.

9. STATEMENT: “improve parks and recreation“.
FACT: Other than some talk, and spending a little money on the Valley Hills Park, and correcting problems, from the lack of oversight on one or two others , there are no new parks. There is no new recreation, that so far has been created by the city. Some opportunities have been created by Wasatch County, and in one case, Heber City allowed changes to take place to support the County’s’ wishes, even though it was against current City laws to do so.

10. STATEMENT: “Improving and planning for future transportation“.
FACT: Traffic throughout the City is worse today, than at any other time in the history of the City. Heber City had, at one time, a transportation plan, but have not followed it for some time. They believe that nothing needs to be done, according to current members of the City Administration, until 2030. Therefore, they have not spent due diligence on any plan. Nor has the council supported planning in an effort to make improvements. The current plan, proposed a few months ago, ( which not really a plan but a ploy to show how independent Heber City is of other entities) is to send traffic through residential zones to calm traffic on Main street. The current administration has declined to support Wasatch County plans to rectify traffic problems. In public meetings, they seem to support proposals, but privately, they have no intention of supporting anything, except their own plan, and since they do not have a plan, nothing has happened in the last four years. Citizens should not expect any changes, if incumbents are returned to office.

11. STATEMENT: “support pressurized irrigation for the old sections of Heber.”
FACT: There was a study made with some unique conclusions. At the present time, there are only about 15 copies of the study available, so citizens are not and were not part of the process. The study concluded, that for about 51/2 million dollars, the system could be installed and up and running. But in the last 4 years, Heber City has squandered enough funds, in deals, speculation and forgiving payments to nearly pay for all of the system. When one hears of support for the system, and then sees the facts, it is easy to understand, such statements are really just sound bites. Very similar to a dog barking in the still of the night.

Election statements, always need credentials and support based on facts. Citizens in doubt, should find out before voting.