The decade of the 2000s ended on a somber note, as the community of Plymouth bid farewell to Fire Chief Craig Starr, who died while assisting with an emergency response on Christmas Eve 2009, but the dawning of a new decade soon brought better news and promises of a brighter future.
The ensuing 10 years have been full of challenges, triumphs, difficulties and celebrations in the Bear River Valley as the community has seen significant growth that has affected its agrarian roots, experienced some big losses and major wins, and moves on into a new decade full of hope and optimism.
Here are some of the biggest stories the Leader has reported on over the last 10 years.
This article is not meant to be a comprehensive recollection of all the important stories from the period, but merely a selection to represent a cross section of the decade. 2019 was covered in last week’s issue and will not be included in this article.
• When Box Elder County’s largest employer ATK continued to lay off workers in January due to a slow economy and lack of contracts, officials remained hopeful the company was just facing a challenging period in its long history here. But the demise of the Space Shuttle program and NASA’s news that the Constellation program didn’t fit in with presidential plans turned confidence into confusion as even more layoffs were announced. Today, the Promontory campus, now part of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, continues to do important work for the U.S. space program and still employs hundreds.
• Full honors were given to former Plymouth Fire Chief Craig Starr, who passed away on Christmas Eve of 2009 while responding to an emergency call.
January also brought the lost of another longtime public servant, Cole Westergard, a Tremonton Fire Department captain, who died Jan. 15, of colon cancer, a disease he had been fighting for three years.
• After 16 years of dedicated service, Max Weese retired as mayor of Tremonton City. New mayor Roger Fridal said he had to learn from Weese and thanked he and his wife Meredith for their service to the city. Fridal remains at the helm of the city after running unopposed for reelection in 2018.
• The relief felt by Bunderson School patrons on March 24, when the demand for closure was vetoed, was extinguished as the Box Elder School District Board re-opened the issue in April and voted 5-2 to close that school.
• Box Elder County announced that Utah State University Brigham City Regional Campus would be moving from its present location to the old Intermountain Intertribal School property. The move will enable the campus to expand as the school enrollment continues to increase.
• In March, Box Elder County officials were in an uproar when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued Executive Order No. 3310, designating ten areas in the county as wilderness. That designation would have eliminated motorized travel, grazing and mining in those areas.
Commissioners joined forces with the state to stop the controversial action from taking place, and even passed their own policies to override it. By June, Salazar had backed off on No. 3310, due in part to their efforts.
• After four years of discussion, construction and anticipation, Procter & Gamble officially opened in March and noted the event with a ribbon cutting led by Gov. Gary Herbert. The 26-acre plant in Bear River City was a $300 million investment for the company and a plus to the sagging employment of Box Elder County as 90 percent of it production line were local hires.
• The pools at Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville closed for a time in late July after a leak of hydrochloric acid sent 11 patients to the hospital. Investigators determined that an equipment malfunction sent large amounts of hydrochloric acid into the slide and lap pools. Fixes were made and the pools reopened, now thriving after a recent renovation to the property.
• Just in time for the beginning of the 2011 school year in August, a brand new Garland Elementary School opened. Along with additional upgraded classrooms, the new state-of-the-art building provides group areas, computer labs, art rooms, supply rooms and a larger playground. Construction of the school came in about $200,000 under the $9.3 million budget.
• A crowd of about 7,000 witnessed workers place the statue of Angel Moroni on the spire of the Brigham City Temple. The entire temple project was completed the following year.
• After three years of construction, the Bear River High School was completed in July. The third and final phase of construction took nine months and consisted of completing the boys and team locker rooms. The old cafeteria and band room were also remodeled into an art suite, complete with art, jewelry and ceramics classrooms.
• Creative, smart, funny and inventive, Robby Ostberg, 14, was poised to achieve so much. But a tragic accident early Monday morning, Jan. 23, in his Tremonton home took the teen’s life. Robby died when a small cannon discharged in his face. He died almost instantly from head injuries.
• Hillside Recycling in Deweyville burned to the ground Feb. 1. The business had operated for five years, taking in everything recyclable. A new contract had the owners, Brent and Blaine Rupp, expanding and welding being done on the new addition ignited pallets and plastic. The fire spread rapidly to the warehouse, which was filled with bales of recycled material. All of the 10 employees at the plant were able to get out of the building without injury. Estimated loss was over $1 million.
• Following urging from Tremonton Youth City Council, the Tremonton City Council officially made all Tremonton City parks tobacco-free. Those smoking or chewing tobacco in the city parks will now be cited.
• A request during a Tremonton City council meeting from Tremonton resident Justin Ellingford, put the wheels in motion for a splash pad at Library Park. The request also brought with in the need for restrooms there. Those were constructed during the year.
• The Leader ran a story in May about Century Elementary 4th grader, Andy Hales and his playground heroics, saving second grader Colby Torson from possible tragedy on the monkey bars. Colby’s grandmother, Linda Braegger, recognized the Honeyville boy in front of his peers.
• In February, Nature Food Products LLC hoped to process pork in the old La-Z-Boy plant. A group comprised of councilmembers and residents toured the company’s plant in Modesto, California.
In March, that group presented their favorable findings, but a packed council room had residents voicing their opinions on the hog plant. Concerns ranged from workers to the impact on Tremonton’s water and sewer infrastructure. The biggest concern, some said, was the smell. The council later reported that the processing company would not be opening its doors in Tremonton.
• Snowville Elementary students and staff got a fresh start in a new school as they said goodbye to their 100-year old school and entered their new one the first of 2013. An open house and dedication ceremony was held in February.
• County crews took down the old Fine Arts building and Small Animal barn at the Box Elder County fairgrounds in March in preparation for the newer, larger Events Center. A new beef barn attached to the north end of the auction barn was also part of the remodel. Beef stalls were turned into an open eating area to accommodate fairgoers.
• Dr. Reese B. Mason passed away on March 24. He was known throughout the valley for his dentistry and passion for service. He opened his dental practice in Tremonton and served on the Tremonton City Council. As mayor in 1977, he oversaw construction of a new sewer plant and helped bring La-Z-Boy and Nucor Steel to the community.
• Well-known Elwood resident and local businessman, Mack Hansen, passed away on June 6, As owner of area landmark, Mack’s Family Drive-In, and a farmer, he leaves behind a legacy of hard work, dedicated service and friendship.
• In June, Tremonton police officer Jeremy Rose, a 12-year veteran and Tremonton resident, was arrested by the Utah Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
• A lightning started fire, known as the State Fire, charred over 23,000 acres and took multiple fire units more than a week to contain. Portage and the Idaho towns of Malad and Samaria were all threatened at one time during the huge burn.
• Former Tremonton Mayor Max Weese passed away, leaving behind a legacy of caring and service. His years of devotion to his family, his friends, his city and his church will long be remembered.
• Box Elder County Commissioner LuAnn Adams was named Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food by Gov. Gary Herbert. She replaced retiring commissioner Leonard Blackham.
• In June, the Bailey Farms hay plant on the Iowa String Road caught fire, causing millions of dollars in lost buildings, equipment and hay. Fire crews from around the county arrived to help, but were kept at a distance as several explosions sent shrapnel into nearby fields. Because hay was the main source of fuel, the fire continued to burn for days after.
• Logan-based Malouf, a bed accessory manufacturer, announced the purchase of the vacant La-Z-Boy plant. The building, which has been empty for more than six years, was to be used as a warehouse and distribution center by the company.
• The Odd Fellows Lodge above the Bear River Valley Museum on Tremonton’s Main Street was turned into a community theatre. Main Street Playhouse was born, thanks to the efforts of Judean Parkinson.
• It was probably one of the shortest-lived ordinances on Tremonton’s books. The city council voted to begin licensing chickens, similar to a dog license. Following negative publicity and comments from annoyed citizens, however, the council reversed course.
• The community was saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of McKinley principal Steve Chadaz from an aorta tear and subsequent strokes. Many tributes were paid to him on social media and a memorial service was held at the school. Clay Chournos replaced him as principal.
• Tremonton’s own Brandon Maynard was officially sworn in as Utah’s second District Court judge, replacing Judge Ben Hadfield who retired. He was a prosecutor for Box Elder County prior to his appointment.
• After crunching the numbers from the annual Junior Livestock Auction during the Box Elder County Fair, it was announced that more than $1 million was doled out to the animal exhibitors on Saturday. Extension agent Lyle Holmgren said it was the first time such an auction in Utah had produced that kind of sales numbers.
• Box Elder County Sheriff Joseph “Lynn” Yeates passed away on Jan. 6, just one day after being sworn into his third term of office. Yeates was part of the department for more than 40 years. Chief Deputy Sheriff Kevin Potter was selected to finish out Yeates’ term, and one of Potter’s first acts as sheriff was to name Dale Ward as his chief deputy. Potter and Ward remain in those positions today. In February, Potter requested the county jail facility be renamed in Yeates’ honor, making it the J. Lynn Yeates Public Safety Building.
• A Snowville icon hung up her apron in April, one that she had been wearing for nearly 40 years. Mollie Hitt Steed, owner and operator of the famed Mollie’s Café, decided to retire and sold the business to a niece.
• The development of the Tremont Center in downtown Tremonton was a shot in the arm for the city as 39 acres began to be transformed into a shopping and entertainment center.
• Garland’s controversial mayor, Scott Coleman, rocked the community with the decision to release Police Chief Linda Bourne, who had held the position since 1992. By November, however, the mayor was gone, and Bourne was back as a city official after being elected to the city council. She remains on the council after winning reelection in 2019.
• Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away at the age of 90. He was born in Brigham City and loved Box Elder County, where he was instrumental in the construction of the Brigham City Temple and oversaw its dedication.
• The Tour of Utah bicycle race made Tremonton a starting point for one of its famous stages. About 130 racers jammed Main Street before making a loop through several other Box Elder communities.
• Box Elder County fairgoers rallied around the Smith family, whose nine-year-old son John had died in an ATV accident just before the fair. His steer was auctioned off for $9,600 at the fair’s junior livestock show.
• The Garland City Council approved construction of a new sewer plant near the Malad River. The project remains in limbo this day due to cost increases, and remains a point of contention among city leaders in Tremonton and Garland.
• Grouse Creek finally received some much need cell phone service.
• The valley lost two of its biggest supporters, Deloris Stokes and Farell Jay Williams. City councils from around the valley swore in for new councilmembers.
• The community honored nine-year old John Smith’s family with a posthumous Spirit of the Eagle award. Smith passed away in July 2015.
• A Garland man drove into Garland Elementary School after fleeing police.
• Tremonton and Garland City started discussing options for Garland’s new wastewater treatment plant.
• Zane Jeppesen from Garland faced 11 counts of securities fraud in Salt Lake City’s Third District Court.
• Alice C. Harris Intermediate School mourned the loss of a popular teacher. William Hornberger died after slipping and falling off a mountain in Logan Canyon.
• Bear River High School had their 100th graduating class, celebrating the Class of 2016 at Utah State University.
• Utah Honor Flight sent four local U.S. veterans, Glen Crump, LeRoy Firth, Boyd Munns and Koji Nagoa to Washington D.C. to tour the nation’s sites.
• A fisherman found the body of a woman later identified as Nicole Barlow floating in the Bear River near Corinne. A single vehicle rollover claimed the lives of two brothers on I-84 near Snowville.
• Fires were the top summer news starting with the Rocky Ridge Fire above Willard that burned over 20 acres. The Broad Mouth Canyon fire near Plymouth took two weeks to put out, burned over 20,000 acres, tore down farm structures and equipment and brought fire fighters from across the west to fight the angry blaze.
• Tremonton City announced more murals will come to town.
• A fire claimed the life of a BRC man. Gene Earl Bunderson was the sole occupant of the trailer.
• The Promontory landfill becomes the hot topic at Box Elder County Commission with crowds of angry protestors filling the commission chambers during a heated meeting.
• Utah Highway Patrol Officer Eric Ellsworth is struck by a car on Nov. 18 in Garland and later dies of his injuries. The public and law enforcement agencies from around the country mourned the loss of Ellsworth in a hero sized goodbye on Dec. 1.
• A bus carrying elementary aged special needs children tips on its side in Tremonton but luckily no injuries are reported.
• For the first time in many years, Box Elder School District cancelled school for two days after heavy snow and wind made conditions unsafe for students to attend school.
• Severe flooding started on Feb. 7, starting with rural roads in western Box Elder County and later subdivisions in west Tremonton.
Weather continued to wreak havoc on Box Elder County when on Feb. 18, a massive landslide hit a home in Bear Hollow Resort getting dangerously close to one home. Residents in Tremonton continued to deal with the affects of flooding with no end in sight as streets filled with water and basements slowly became flooded.
On Feb. 22, Garland became the next victim of Mother Nature’s flooding. Homes in northern and east Garland became islands and groundwater crept up into residents’ basements. Garland City Mayor Todd Miller declared Garland City a state of emergency later that day activating the city’s emergency operations. Residents gathered to host a dinner and food drive for those affected by the flooding and the Syracuse High football team came to Garland to help fill sandbags and assist residents in anyway possible.
Governor Gary Herbert officially declared Box Elder County a state of emergency on March 31 allowing cities and the county an opportunity to apply for federal money to help repair flood damage.
• A local fixture in the Bear River Valley for several decades, King’s Variety Store, announced they were closing all stores throughout the western United States, including their Tremonton store.
• Residents of Bothwell honored Doug Newman from Bothwell on April 28 after they renamed the baseball field in Bothwell to “The Doug Newman Field of Dreams.” Newman passed away a few months later after battling cancer.
• Good Samaritans saved the life of a one year old Bothwell boy after he fell into a canal on May 31. Those good Samaritans performed CPR on the boy and he recovered from the day’s events.
• The worst car accident of the year happened in the early morning hours of June 19 on Iowa String Road just south of Tremonton. A vehicle swerved, overcorrected and rolled, killing three people: Jose Gabriel Esquivel, 40, of Garland; Chris Martin, 40, of Willard; and Adalynn Head, 37, of Tremonton.
• On the afternoon of July 19, a pickup truck heading west on Hwy. 30 veered off the road just west of the Bear River and into a canal. As the truck was becoming submerged with the driver still inside the cab, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Justin Zilles arrived and with the help of some bystanders, Zilles pulled the man to safety.
• On Aug. 1, the Tremonton City Council approved a preliminary plan for a $13 million secondary water system to help ease the strain on the city’s culinary water system. It was the first major step toward what will be one of the largest infrastructure improvement projects in city history.
• The Tremonton Library held a viewing party for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. While the city was south of the path of totality, locals wearing special eclipse viewing glasses still flocked to Shuman Park to witness the rare event.
• Jarett Giles became the talk of the state 4A golf tournament in Southern Utah. As one of just two freshman to qualify for the tournament, not only did Giles compete, he finished just five strokes off the lead and took third place. He took second in 2019, losing by one stroke in a playoff, and will have his eyes on a state title in 2020.
• The former La-Z-Boy plant in Tremonton started making chairs again for the first time since 2008 when Comfort Research, a Michigan-based manufacturer of oversized bean-bag chairs, opened its operations with a workforce of about 30 people.
• Howell Town renamed its community center the Rocky D. Payne Memorial Center on Nov. 10 in honor of Sgt. Rocky Payne, a Howell native who died in the line of duty on March 16, 2005 at the age of 26 while escorting a mail convoy in Baghdad, Iraq. Local dignitaries, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and the entire town were in attendance for the dedication ceremony.
• The end of the 2017-18 Bear River High wrestling season concluded in February as senior Kaygen Canfield captured his third straight title. Joining him on the winner’s podium was junior Logan Pond at 220 pounds and freshman Scott Robertson took second in 4A, the first time a freshman at BRHS made it to the final round.
• The valley’s biggest headline of the year happened on April 16, 2018. Michael Keith Hogenson, 33, was found dead with another man arrested and put into custody that same day in an apparent homicide on the west side of Tremonton. The suspect, Brandon K. Thompson, 30, of Tremonton, was a resident of the home where the shooting occurred.
• Construction of a new elementary school on the west side of Tremonton was officially postponed after county education officials determined that the need for a new school in the area is not as urgent as was initially thought.
• On May 19, the Bear River softball team earned their ninth state title in Spanish Fork and were welcomed back to town with a fire truck escort. But sadly the celebration at BRHS didn’t last long. One week before Bear River High senior Judd Miller was set to walk across the stage and receive his diploma, tragedy suddenly struck. Miller passed away on May 25, 2018, while swimming at Hyrum Reservoir with friends, from an apparent drowning.
Later in the year, the Bear River and Mountain Crest football teams honored Miller before their game in Hyrum by kneeling together for a moment of silence on the field.
• On Friday, June 1, 2018, Tremonton Police Chief David Nance turned in his badge and keys and said goodbye to the force he’s called home for 14 years, and officially retired from law enforcement. Tremonton’s current police chief, Kurt Fertig, took over for Nance.
• The small town of Grouse Creek and nearby community of Etna, located in the northwestern part of Box Elder County, came under extreme danger as two wildfires in the area merged, burning more than 130,000 acres.
Those two fires, the China Jim Fire and the Goose Creek Fire, merged together on July 29. The China Jim Fire started 13 miles southwest of Grouse Creek on July 28, near the Utah/Nevada border. The Goose Creek Fire was believed to have been started by lightning on July 26, near Jackpot, Nevada.
The combined fires threatened homes, structures and property in the Grouse Creek area, but only a few abandoned buildings and some livestock were lost in the end.
• For the first time since 1946, the Miss Bear River Valley pageant was not a part of Wheat and Beet Days, as organizers cited a lack of participation. The pageant would make a successful return in 2019.
• Tragedy struck a family in Thatcher on Aug. 13, when the body of 16-month-old Jackson Weaver was found by his father in an irrigation pipe in Thatcher, less than an hour after the father called to report the boy missing.
• On Thursday, Sept. 20, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly known as Orbital ATK and before that, Thiokol, conducted its first ground test of a 63-inch diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63). The motor is being developed for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle, which represents the new generation of space travel in the wake of the shuttle program.
• The widow of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth filed a negligence lawsuit in First District Court against Rocky Mountain Power and a female minor nearly two years after the death of her husband. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
• After months of deliberation, Tremonton officials changed the rules to allow tattoo parlors to operate within the city once again. Tony and Krisha Blankenship were able to open their business, Ink Syndicate Tattoo Studio, at 137 W. Main St.
• Tremonton City officials commissioned local artist Jason Nessen to create the city’s next mural, continuing a tradition for which the city has gained recognition statewide and beyond. The new work is based on a 1928 photo of the “First Grand Entry” at the county fair and rodeo, with a long row of officials and dignitaries posing on horseback, including the sheriff’s mounted posse.