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Tremonton
Diners, Drive-ins and Pies

For nearly a century, The Pie Dump has been an institution in the Bear River Valley, drawing hungry customers from all around who come to sample the restaurant’s made-from-scratch hot rolls and gravy, along with a host of other delectable dishes.

Much of the family-owned operation’s business comes by word of mouth, so it’s fitting that’s how the restaurant got the chance to be featured on one of the most popular food-related TV shows out there today.

The Pie Dump will be featured later this week on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” hosted by Guy Fieri, the celebrity chef known for his spiky, bleach-blond hair and goatee, classic cars, and love of down-home cooking.

The Pie Dump is one of the restaurants profiled in the upcoming episode “Down-Home Flavor,” which will premier at 7 p.m. Friday, March 20 on the cable channel Food Network. The episode will rerun at 10 p.m. Saturday, March 21; 8 p.m. Friday, March 28; and 11 p.m. Sunday, March 29.

Pie Dump Manager Maggie Fitzgerald said representatives from Food Network called the restaurant a while back and asked if it would be interested in being on the show. Of course, the answer was yes.

After a three-hour interview with a producer from the network in which the restaurant showed off some of its signature dishes, the show was on.

“They only wanted the stuff made from scratch — the bread, the sauces and things like that,” Fitzgerald said.

She said Fieri, the charismatic host, heard about The Pie Dump from a friend who was heading to Cache Valley to go elk hunting and stopped by for a bite.

“He said he normally doesn’t go to small towns anymore. He goes to bigger towns because he can go to different restaurants in the same area,” Fitzgerald said. “But he made an exception for us.”

Based on information from the interview with producers, Fieri chose the French dip sandwich and the maple bar to be featured in the segment.

When Fieri arrived in a shiny red convertible for filming, Fitzgerald said he also chose to sample the restaurant’s signature hot rolls and gravy.

Fitzgerald and Mac Munns, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Cherie, had the rare opportunity to cook alongside one of the biggest names in the celebrity chef world.

“He was just talking and watching,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s pretty awesome, just like he is on TV. He’s funny and nice.”

Fieri was there for just one day, and the restaurant shut down to essentially become a TV production set. The film crew stuck around for three days.

The Pie Dump was planning to host a viewing party for the episode on Friday night, but decided against it due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The whole experience was kind of surreal, but exhilarating, Fitzgerald said.

“It’s definitely life changing. Just to have a famous chef at your restaurant is crazy,” she said. “Then beyond the show, to have the world see you, especially for a small town like Garland, it’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Pie Dump will be celebrating its 100th anniversary two years from now, a milestone that Fitzgerald credits to its loyal customers, who she wished to thank.

“Without them, we’d never be on a show,” she said.


Tremonton
Lawmakers wrap up after polygamy, redistricting law changes

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Legislature has wrapped up its work for the year, capping off a session that saw major changes to the state’s polygamy statute, a revision of a voter-approved redistricting law and a compromise on education funding.

The 45-day meeting ended late Thursday in the shadow of the new coronavirus, which caused widespread cancellations but didn’t cause major disruptions in legislative business. Lawmakers dedicated an extra $24 million to help senior residents weather the virus.

The polygamy revisions now in front of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert would mean that consenting adults in multiple marriages would not face the threat of jail time. The practice, which has persisted for more than a century, is now a felony. While lawmakers eased restrictions on polygamy, they voted to put new ones on pornography by requiring warning labels on obscene materials that come into the state.

They also approved new requirements for abortion clinics and other medical providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, sending the measure to the governor. Herbert has not said whether he plans to sign the requirements into law.

Meanwhile, a voter-approved measure aimed at curbing gerrymandering, a process of manipulating voting districts unfairly to gain an advantage, will get some changes.

The revisions would drop requirements that the GOP-dominated Legislature take an up-or-down vote on redistricting maps developed by an independent commission and provide a formal explanation if it chooses not to adopt them.

While some worry those changes create less transparency, supporters of the original law have said the compromise keeps important steps intact.

Another compromise on education funding is making its way quickly through the Legislature. It would change a provision of the Utah Constitution that requires income tax revenue be used for education. Lawmakers say the change is needed to bolster a faltering sales tax base, and the deal would also create more stability for education funding.

Still, critics worry that allowing income taxes to be used for children’s health care and the disabled could ultimately undermine education spending in a state where it’s a chronic concern.

Since there’s a constitutional change involved, the proposal will have to go before the voters in November before it goes fully into effect.


Tremonton
top story
Leader office temporarily closed due to coronavirus

Dear readers,

We at The Leader value your health and the health of our employees. As public health officials have advised, we are taking steps to minimize person-to-person contact and do our part in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, we are closing our doors to public customer traffic for the time being.

We are still here to serve you, however. Please contact the following departments:

CIRCULATION: (435) 257-5182

CLASSIFIED: (435) 752-2121 ext. 1002

ADVERTISING: (208) 221-4510

NEWS: (435) 257-5182

Thank you for understanding. We will continue our news coverage of this pandemic situation as long as it continues. For updates in between print editions, please visit www.tremontonleader.com

Travis Quast, President and Publisher


Tremonton
Tremonton exploring fire department options

Tremonton officials are looking at the possibility of spending $1 million or more to beef up staffing in the city’s fire department, which is being stretched thin as it experiences a rapid increase in the number of emergency calls it must respond to.

A new analysis by a Cache Valley-based consultant recommends spending $1.3 million to add new staff positions to the department and restructure it to rely less on volunteers.

To pay for it, officials say the city would have to raise its property tax rate, something it has not done in more than three decades.

To pay for the $1.3 million price tag, property taxes would have to be raised by approximately 84 percent for Tremonton residents and businesses, City Manager Shawn Warnke said. That would equate to an average increase of $279 annually per home, and $507 on average for businesses, he said.

“I anticipate if something like this was going to be implemented, it would take a property tax increase,” Warnke said.

He said there would likely be some cost savings in some areas that could bring the price tag down some, but a property tax hike would still be needed.

“I think we could get down around 1.1 million, but it still comes down to a 60 to 80 percent property tax increase,” he said.

Any increase in property taxes would have to go through a truth-in-taxation public hearing process.

Brian Potts, an accountant with Potts & Associates in Hyde Park, said he has been researching options for the department for the past six to eight months. Part of that research was conducting a survey of the department’s volunteer members, 80 percent of whom said they are maxed out on the time they have for the job with all the other obligations in their lives.

“There have been some challenges with recruiting in the fire department, with what’s happening in volunteer world,” said Potts, who is also a longtime volunteer EMT with the Smithfield Fire Department. “Then you have turnover and retirements, there’s an age issue going on. We’re looking at what’s best for citizens, public safety and the departments here.”

A CRITICAL SHORTAGE

The Tremonton Fire Department is being stretched thin – not by more fires, but more emergency calls that need to be answered.

Tremonton City’s population has swelled from 7,500 in 2010 to about 9,000 today. Couple that with an aging population of baby boomers, and it has resulted in a rapid rise in emergency responses in recent years.

Tremonton Fire Chief Steve Batis has been with the department for nearly 40 years, and has seen drastic changes in the number of calls it has to cover.

“We used to make 300 calls a year, and now we’re at 1,500,” Batis said. “Call volume is going to go up 20 percent a year.”

That has put a major strain on both staff and volunteers who have family obligations and plans, which they often end up missing because of the rise in demand for emergency services, he said.

“When my kids were growing up, I could always go to their dance revues or whatever,” he said. “Now the chances of not getting paged out are slim to none. Everybody would like to do more, but there’s just people who can’t do anymore.”

Warnke said emergency responses make up about 87 percent of the calls the fire department responded to last year, with fires accounting for only 12 percent.

The proposed funding would pay for a full-time chief, three full-time captains and six part-time firefighters, as well as another full-time officer for the police department. Volunteers would still be an important piece of the staffing puzzle, but could be relegated to more night and weekend shifts that they may not be available for, Potts said.

The police department is feeling the pressures associated with the city’s growth as well. Police Chief Kurt Fertig said the recent merging of the Tremonton and Garland departments has been very helpful, but the numbers show his department is still being stretched thin.

“We serve more population per officer than any other department in the county,” he said.

In Utah, he said that ratio is one officer for every 571 residents statewide. That’s below the national average of 588, but in Box Elder County, the number is 640, “and we’re more than 100 above that,” Fertig said. “In calls by officer, we take by far the most in the county.”

A MATTER OF FAIRNESS?

While there is a consensus in city leadership that something needs to be done to address the shortage, some city leaders are reluctant to raise property taxes, especially since the Tremonton Fire Department provides services to surrounding communities who under current state law do not have to share the cost burden. The county and towns like Elwood pay the county a per-household fee every year under a contract, but that wouldn’t be factored into a Tremonton property tax hike.

While the majority of emergency responses are within city limits, 28 percent of them last year were to communities outside Tremonton, or in unincorporated areas of the county.

Tremonton holds the license for ambulance services in the northern Box Elder area, so it’s obligated to respond to calls throughout the area, even though those outside of Tremonton don’t contribute to the departments’ coffers and wouldn’t feel the sting of a large tax increase.

“The people we have these contracts with are not carrying the expense,” Tremonton City Councilmember Bret Rohde said. “The citizens of Tremonton are carrying this expense.”

Now is not the time for a tax increase, especially since the county increased taxes last year, Councilmember Lyle Vance said.

“My taxes went up 60 percent last year because of what the county did,” Vance said. “If we do this to our constituents now, it’s bad timing.”

The Utah Legislature was considering a bill in the recently ended session that would have classified fire and EMS as “essential services,” meaning they would have to provide those services for themselves if Tremonton decided it didn’t want to anymore. But that legislation was tabled after lawmakers determined more discussion and research was needed on the subject, Potts said.

Councilmember Connie Archibald said the safety needs to be the city’s No. 1 priority, even if it means residents have to pay more. She also said it’s important for the firefighters themselves to be on board with any changes.

“I need buy-in from the individuals who are providing that service in our community,” she said. “Our community values their opinions. We all want to be safe, so we have to spend money to make it a safe community.”

Warnke said property tax is a good funding mechanism for public safety because personal property and public safety are tied together.

“As it relates to public policy, having a connection between the tax and the service and the rationale behind it, I think goes a long way to help get it to be more palatable or acceptable,” he said. “There is a correlation between public safety and property tax, whether it’s crimes against property or the fire department protecting property. Property tax is an ongoing revenue source, so it’s a good match for the ongoing expense of increasing personnel costs.”

The city’s fire fund has about $800,000 currently, but that fund is earmarked for capital expenses like fire station improvements, he said.

“That’s one-time money, so we don’t want to fund ongoing operations with it.”

WHERE DO VOLUNTEERS FIT IN?

The fire department has always relied on volunteers, and many of them have been with the city for decades. Shifting away from volunteers may be necessary to some extent, but some are worried about the loss of institutional knowledge from all of the experience they bring to the table as more of them shift away from the work due to busy schedules.

“My concern is we have some really well-trained people that we don’t want to put out to pasture,” Mayor Roger Fridal said. “Somehow we have to keep the volunteer fire department we have, and allow them to work as much as they want. They’ve worked years and years to become qualified.”

Potts said there are many options available to help keep volunteers on board, “and we can work through those different models.

“It’s going to cause change,” he said. “It’s the desire for them to still be in the game and help as much as they can and work as much as they can.”

MOVING FORWARD

There are some other ways to increase efficiency and potentially ease the burden, such as implementing a rapid response team on the police force that would receive medical training for emergency responses in exchange for a raise.

Rather than fund the department expansion all once, some favor looking at taking incremental steps so the tax burden isn’t dumped on city residents all at once.

“How about we come up with a plan giving us some choices, something to think about, a lesser plan, and come in a little gradually,” Fridal said.