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Consultant gives final report on Main Street study

A consultant who has been working for years on a plan to revamp Tremonton’s Main Street has given his final report to city officials, making a host of suggestions on how to improve the feel and look of the corridor while making it more pedestrian-friendly.

Soren Simonsen, a Salt Lake City-based architect and urban planner, visited the Tremonton City Council earlier this month and held a lengthy discussion about the report. The visit and report come several years after he first engaged with the city, holding open house events for the public and soliciting comments through an online survey.

“Based on the community response, we’ve capitalized on those efforts and input to put together what we think is a comprehensive plan for Main Street that meets a lot of the objectives that were specifically mapped out several years ago,” he said.

Simonsen said the report took so long because he took another full-time job shortly after first getting involved with Tremonton.

“I apologize for the time it’s taken to get to this point,” he told the council. “We decided to continue and wrap this up, but it’s been challenging in and around another full-time job.”

The large document he prepared for the city is divided into four sections, beginning with an introduction and background on urban design.

“Sometimes the term ‘urban design’ throws people off,” he said. “It’s simply describing the characteristics of a place. It could be a big city, or just a cluster of buildings.”

He continued, “urban design can be very important. It’s a way we think of what our community looks like, our buildings, landscapes, streets, parks and public places, and all of those together when they’re designed well, you can see a difference.”

Simonsen’s report focuses not only on the Main Street corridor from 300 East to 400 West, but also on the ‘gateway’ corridors around the freeway interchanges on the west side of the town and the Crossroads area on the eastern edge.

An online survey designed to solicit public input on the future of Main Street received more than 150 responses.

“For a community this size, that’s pretty remarkable,” Simonsen said. “You have a pretty engaged community.”

Several dozen more came out in person to two public open house events at the city civic center as well, he said.

Some of the most common feedback received from the public included alternative forms of transportation, such as more bike paths and walking trails for getting around town. The comments came a from a wide range of ages, professions and locations, he said.

One of the survey questions asked respondents what they like best about the city.

“It’s not a surprise that people like the small-town feel, the history and the heritage,” he said. “Your historic buildings and murals, a lot said they love the trees and flowers any if anything, they want to see more. This community has distinguished itself with the artistic expression of historic things.”

He said people would also like more parking in premium spots during peak times of the day. While there isn’t necessarily a shortage of parking in the neighborhood, Simonsen said there could be improved signage directing people where to park.

He suggested revitalizing the facades of many buildings facing Main Street, including signs facing perpendicular to the street and sidewalks that would be more visible and add character.

The survey also asked about community identity, and many of the same themes of small-town, family-friendly atmospheres came through strong, “things that reinforce what I think would be important – rural quaintness, western charm.”

While that charm can be hard to define, he said it comes through in many western towns with brick buildings and Victorian architecture.

“We see that in a lot of communities across the west,” he said. “Main streets across the Rocky Mountains have this heritage and character about them.”

One important and relatively inexpensive improvement could be in the crosswalks on the street.

“You have very simple crosswalks, kind of the minimum, and a lot of people feel they’re not safe,” he said. Textured paving and decorative painting could really help the crosswalks stand out and make motorists more aware of them, he said.

About 80 percent of survey respondents said they want better bicycle infrastructure, including dedicated travel lanes and racks for locking up bikes.

Improved lighting could also be a major boon for Main Street. Simonsen said more decorative light posts with places to hang plant baskets, signs and better light bulbs themselves would all be positive developments.

People also said they want more benches and public art installations, some of which could be temporary and go along with events like the county fair, he added.

He said improved walkability isn’t just for the main downtown portion of the street. More sidewalks and pathways at the east and west ends of town would be more accommodating to travelers.

“Bring downtown to those areas and you can begin to let people know ‘hey, this is a special place,’” he said.

Another suggestion he had was to lower the speed limit through the main portion of downtown to around 20 miles per hour, down from the current 30 miles per hour.

“Studies have found that 20 to 22 miles perhour is the best speed to capture people where they’re not missing signs and storefronts,” he said. “It’s very compatible with your retail goals, and also your bicycle and pedestrian goals. It says you want a pedestrian-friendly downtown.”

As far as landscaping, he recommended replacing some trees with new light poles, and adding more landscaping to the park strip areas. Adding a landscape island at a pedestrian level can sometimes do more than a tree does to bring color, texture and vibrancy to the street, he said.

Building on the city’s already strong art reputation due to the many murals around town, he suggested making interactive murals that give people spots to take selfies and post them on social media.

“This is a great way to promote your community without having to do any promotion,” he said.

Councilmember Connie Archibald said the barrel planters full of flowers that grace the sidewalks on Main Street are a great example of something that has worked well, but said she would like to see more done on Main Street during the holidays. Improved lighting would be a big step in that direction, she said.

Simonsen said an overhaul of Main Street would likely be an ongoing process for decades to come, and his study could serve as a blueprint.

“Hopefully this gives you a few different ideas of things you can do, maybe one little thing at a time, and over the years you’ll find that you’ve done a lot,” he said.

Year of the Woman

One hundred and fifty years after the first woman to vote in Utah cast her ballot, almost to the day, of women over the years.

To support Utah State University’s Year of the Woman, USU Brigham City involved local high school students in Box Elder County in a photo and essay contest. The goal was to creatively promote and celebrate the accomplishments of women in the community, both historically and current.

Last Thursday, the winners of that contest — five in all — received prizes and praise for their work. Essay winners read their winning entries, which covered everything from Harriet Tubman’s work helping slaves to Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking environmental writings.

The public was invited to view the contests submissions and vote for their favorites. Impromptu voting booths were set up for them to use, and to celebrate the women’s suffrage movement.

“We’re excited to highlight the great work coming from our local high school students,” said Dan Black, associate vice president of USU Brigham City. “This has been a great opportunity for USU Brigham City to participate in Year of the Woman in a way that celebrates the impact women have had on our communities.”

Entrants in the photo contest were asked to submit photos that highlight the life, dreams, and/or achievements of women in Box Elder County. Essay writers were asked to choose from two prompts in regard to voting rights and women’s suffrage in Utah.

The winner of the top prize in the photo contest, Mollie Topham, took home a professional Nikon camera. Also winning in the photo contest were Alison Bingham and Shan Robinson.

Prizes, including an Apple iPad Mini, were handed out to essay contest winners. In addition to taking third in the photo contest, Robinson took first for her essay on author Rachel Carson. The other essay winners were Carli Miller and Heidi Cunningham.

An Aggie Ice Cream sundae bar was free to all who attended.

Nikole Eyre, senior lecturer in English at USU Brigham City and chair of the committee that helped select the winners, said she wrote a grant to cover the prizes at last week’s event, which is just one of several Year of the Woman events planned for this year.

“We’re celebrating voting, so we wanted to make this a voting event,” Eyre said. “We formed a committee and brainstormed and put some events together.”

The next event is planned for March, with guest speaker Susan Madsen.

Eyre said the committee received more photo and essay entries than was expected.

“We were nervous that we weren’t going to get any, but we did okay,” she said. “We narrowed the submissions down to the top three, and it was pretty unanimous. We easily agreed on the top three, and just ranked them from there.”

Polygamist says he gave $30M from fraud to his Utah group

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah polygamist testifying against a California businessman who prosecutors say helped him carry-out a nearly $500 million biodiesel fraud scheme testified that he and his brother gave millions of dollars of what they made to the polygamous group to which they belong.

Jacob Kingston said he and his brother Isaiah Kingston gave nearly $30 million to the Utah-based polygamous group called the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group or The Order, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Jacob Kingston has previously said in the trial that the group aims to practice communal living with members sharing some of their earnings.

“When Isaiah and I would do our budgets for the year,” Kingston said. “We would decide what was extra, and that’s what was allocated to The Order.”

Jacob Kingston agreed to testify against gas station owner Lev Dermen after he pleaded guilty last year to money fraud and other charges stemming from the claiming of false tax credits through the Kingston’s biodiesel operation in Box Elder County, Washakie Renewable Energy near Plymouth. Dermen has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts including money laundering and mail fraud.

Dermen didn’t come up much during the first day of cross-examination by Dermen’s attorney, Mark Geragos, who instead focused on Kingston’s polygamous practices and other alleged frauds.

Jacob Kingston acknowledged on the stand in the Salt Lake City courtroom that he and his brother both married cousins.

Geragos said during opening statements last month that Kingston comes from an “incestuous” polygamous group that is always scheming to defraud the U.S. government in what the group calls “bleeding the beast.”

A spokesman for the group, Kent Johnson, has called the allegations “categorically false.”

Johnson didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the new allegation that Jacob Kingston gave millions to the Davis County Cooperative Society

Geragos contends that Kingston was the mastermind in the scheme and that Dermen is a reputable businessman who owns a chain of gas stations in California.

Prosecutors counter that Dermen pushed the Kingstons to expand the operation exponentially by using elaborate money transfers through Turkey and Luxembourg, and shipping fuels from countries such as Ireland and India through Panama.

Deadline nears for primary voting

Utah’s presidential primary election is just around the corner, and local election officials are reminding voters affiliated with all parties to look for their ballots in the mail.

Box Elder County Clerk Marla Young said ballots were mailed on Feb. 11 to registered Democrats and Republicans. Unaffiliated voters who responded to a letter that was sent out asking which ballot they wanted were also sent a ballot.

Those who did not respond to that letter will not receive a ballot unless they specifically request one. Anyone, of any party, may vote the Democratic ballot without affiliating with the Democratic Party. However, the Republican Party chooses to close its election, so it requires a voter to affiliate with the Republican Party to vote their ballot.

The last day to request a ballot is on Feb. 25, 2020. Those who haven’t requested a ballot by the Feb. 25 deadline may vote at the polls on Election Day, March 3, 2020, or at early voting.

Unaffiliated voters may affiliate with the Republican Party on Election Day or vote the Democratic ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by March 2, 2020 to be valid for this election.

Voters may utilize ballot drop boxes throughout the county through Election Day. Polling locations, as well as a listing of ballot drop boxes, is found on the County Clerk’s web site: www.boxeldercounty.org/elections

Early Voting will take place at the County Courthouse, 1 S. Main St., Brigham City, Feb. 25-28 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Voting Assistance Centers will be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day at the following locations: Utah State University, Brigham City Campus, 989 S. Main, Brigham City; and the Bear River Valley Senior Center, 510 W. 1000 N., Tremonton.