Monday, June 20, 2011

Richfield's Health Fair

by Richard Swann
licensed by ImageProviders
all rights reserved

Richfield, UT -

Virtually every year, Richfield and Sevier County qualify as a study area because of the collective adult median "body mass index," or BMI. Generally accepted in the medical community as a "red flag" indicator of a host of other health and wellness challenges, the community's BMI numbers are said to be in serious need of improvement.

On a recent Saturday, several vendors and other healthy lifestyle advocates assembled at Impact Fitness on Main Street to offer goods, services, opinions and presentations as well as testimonials which might eventually lead the way to greater longevity and lessen morbidity caused by diabetes, high blood pressure and related problems.

FLASH VIDEO: Healthy Richfield RoughCut 5:00 no narr vo
copyright 2011

Next Post: The Green Smoothie Lady AND Healthy Chocolate

Monday, June 13, 2011

Governor's Flood Briefing

Photo and video ©2011 ImageProviders - All Rights Reserved

by Michael Orton
for ImageProviders
updated June 14, 2011

Sevier County, Utah -

Governor Herbert was in Sevier County last week to survey flooding preparedness and damage during what may prove to be one of the worst floods since 1983. Sheriff Nate Curtis began the briefing in the county administration building on Main Street after the governor had enjoyed lunch at the Ideal Dairy. Commissioners Topham and Mason were on hand as were other public officials and at least one canal company operator.

After receiving a photo presentation, the governor went to view, first-hand, the areas including Seegmiller Lane, 3900 West and Sevier River Road. The Sevier River drainage has been compromising riverbanks and canals for the past few weeks, and there's still snowpack left in the higher elevations. Mount Ogden's Snow Basin is extending their ski season at the upper elevations of Weber County where more overflows and damage are yet to come down below.

Utah Governor Herbert in Sevier County
Footage copyright 2011 ImageProviders - Used by permission

Before Governor Herbert finished his survey of flooding along the Sevier River Road, he was asked if he thought having a ten-year water plan would be a good idea. His response was that reclamation funding is hard to come by, given that the "federal government is getting out of the dam building business." Further implications for the Narrows Project of the Sanpete Water Conservancy District were left to speculation. More information.


June 14, 2011

From the NWS hydrologist, Brian McInerney who said that now we're in a race. "Will we have hot, summer temps first, or will we run out of snow?"

Heaven knows.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Branding

by Michael Orton
@2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved

Richfield, UT -

Jackie Lalor is a very nice lady who works for both Qwest and CenturyLink. That's because the telephone company and broadband service provider was acquired during the second quarter of this year and they're rolling out the communications strategies to make sure the public isn't too confused. Billing will soon bear the combined logostyles, and later will become the "CenturyLink" brand. Okay, but since the 1984 breakup of ATT and the subsequent creation of the "Baby Bells" by Judge Green, the gravitational pull of corporate profit, market share and broadband competition is reversing the trend to be small. Will that be better, or will it eventually lead to more anti-trust regulation?

Jackie Lalor for Qwest – CenturyLink
Footage and edit by

ATT spinoff companies began to be reconsitituted under other names like Southwestern Bell, Pacific Telesis, Ameritech, SBC, and other consolidations going on and on, including the one on your bill more than ten years ago which may have said "US West," remember? That one became Qwest in 2000. All of this is likely at least a little confusing to Mr. and Mrs. MiddleClassAmerica. Nonetheless, these little telco operating companies are becoming bigger again, by means of ongoing mergers and acquisitions, also known as "arbitrage." Gordon Gekko did that (via popular culture, in the Fox motion pictures called "Wall Street").
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
photo © NewsCorp – CBSFox

So preceding another speaker at June's Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Jackie Lalor told a room full of central Utah's business people about regional marketing for the Qwest-to-CenturyLink rebranding, corporate identity changes and corporate culture restructuring. (see accompanying video) She came to rural Utah to make sure that the public was aware of the changes to follow. She didn't happen to say anything about new jobs for Sevier County, or if billing would be cheaper, or if customer service would be intelligible and handled somewhere in America by someone with a pulse, or if the gateway town of Hanksville, Utah could finally get broadband and cellular service.

A few years ago, an emerging markets representative for Qwest stated that broadband and cellular service in rural areas was tough, because they (Qwest) couldn't be "chasing pennies with our dollars."

All this prompts some to wonder if the rebranding will be ¢enturyLink? Someone will likely have to update Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Snow College President Does Some Splainin'

by Michael Orton ©2011 ImageProviders
All Rights Reserved

first posted June 8, 2011
latest rev.: June 9, 2011 for vid resolution

Richfield, Utah –

In an age of American austerity, Snow College has been under some serious budgetary and organizational revisions, and Scott Wyatt, attorney and president of the college, was addressing the community about his job. Several in the audience at the Greater Richfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon had recently lost their own jobs at the college, and many of those sat at the rear of the room and wondered what would happen next.

Where funding and programs have been undergoing revision for a number of years even prior to the crash of 2008, and with the relationship with local high schools changing by statute, Wyatt had much to say. In attendance with Wyatt was Marvin Dodge, CFO of Snow College, a two year institution which operates two, pristine and publicly-funded campuses in Ephraim, Sanpete County, and Richfield, Sevier County. Many consider the lower division coursework at the two-year school as a low-cost gateway to upper level degrees at Brigham Young University, a private institution owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Provo. Students also further their studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and Southern Utah University in nearby Cedar City.

Scott Wyatt, president of the Snow Colleges in central Utah
Hi-resolution version available from

The Snow College Richfield campus has existed largely as a technical training institution, with facilities and classes for blue-collar trades. Starting in late 2010, Wyatt began restructuring and many instructors, along with their programs, came under the "reduction-in-force" axe.

Citing an example of the personal nature of his job as an agent of change, Wyatt described the emotional toll this way: "The first year of budget cuts that we took, I'm serving as a counselor in my local bishopric and at the same time, end up laying off seven people in my ward." (Utah's pervasive Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a lay ministry, of which Wyatt is a participant). "It's not unique to the college, it's happening all over the country, and in public and private sectors," he continued.

Wyatt described an "unfunded mandate" handed to the trustees of Snow College, when the Utah legislature combined and reduced the budgets of the two Snow campuses. As state legislators compete to allocate scant resources to their largely republican districts, the pain is both personal and serious when there is no appetite to increase taxes. "I had one [Utah] legislator specifically tell me... my job is to take money away from Snow College, and send it down to the school I care about," said Wyatt. (see video at 05:00 mark)

Yesterday in San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo Colleges announced that they would be originating programs and curricula wholly underwritten and partnered with local industry. When asked about this same model for Snow College, Wyatt responded positively. He equated governmental organization to academic organization, saying "...we [educators] are government, and anytime private industry can do something instead, that relieves a tax burden." From those who provide instruction, as well as from those who consume it, his analogy may meet some critics. Representatives from the Utah Education Association could not be reached for comment before this story was filed.

And... as usual, Pat Bagley hits it on the head:

©2011 Salt Lake Tribune

Post-secondary instruction in the nation is indeed changing, just like the other industries which surround it. Some wonder if educators and their institutions should regard themselves more as an industry, providing a valued service rather than as an arm of government. As a partnership with industry and commerce, the new post-secondary educational model remains to be experienced, as do the implications for learners and their employment prospects.

Hi resolution video available from

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

County Administrator Seeks to Protect His Job

by Michael Orton via MicroBureau West
all rights reserved

Richfield --

Sevier County's chief administrator and economic development director fears for his job.

At the commissioners' meeting on this date, Malcolm Nash requested that the commissioners approve an "employment agreement" that would provide unprecedented employment guarantees and a potential "golden parachute" of nine months salary (approximately $53,000) if he's ever terminated by the county. In addition, the proposal submitted by Nash includes a financial commitment for "all accrued and unused vacation leave not to exceed 240 hours and 1 day per month for each full month of employment performed prior to termination, beginning the date of the original appointment, as accrued severance benefit not to exceed a total of 40 days..."

In the event of any termination, that would add another $5800, giving him close to a year's salary for the privilege of finding another job. (source: Utah's Right to Know <-click here)

Demonstrating a defensive, beligerent demeanor to the county residents assembled for the last meeting of the year and refusing to respond to any questions, Nash defended his guaranteed employment request by angrily addressing the public. He stated that, "when an election cycle turns personal, and my name is mentioned specifically as a target for an election process, that raises the level of awareness in my mind that no other employee in this county is subject to... nobody. In this last election cycle, I was the only one that was mentioned as a target."

The heat of the kitchen.

Or, as some observed, the white-heat of the public policy combustion chamber championed by Nash who has little else to show for his efforts during the past decade. While leaving retail economic development to be headed by the Greater Richfield Chamber of Commerce, a large commercial center in Salina still awaits a major tenant and business to be anchored there. The transportation sector is in focus by Washington, D.C. lobbyists hired by the state's Six County Association of Governments, of which Sevier County is a major part and contributor. In years past, Nash has declined to participate in efforts by the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a major business recruiter active in the state. He has also denounced the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development which has the ability to direct businesses who could locate in Sevier County. All of this makes Nash vulnerable to mounting criticism and concerns about his future performance.

Conducting today's meeting was Commissioner Gary Mason, who responded to Nash and his angry contract statement. "When we made that appointment, I don't know that we clarified that [your status] changed. As far as I know, it didn't change... Dale [Eyre, the county's attorney] has advised us that there are two appointed positions in this county: The chief deputy, under the sheriff, and yours, so yes, we need to look at... Dale?"

Interruption for clarification on Nash's present status was then offered by the Sevier County attorney, "Well, you [commissioners] could make his position an appointed position, at this point there's only one that I'm aware of and that's the chief deputy in the sheriff's department." The future of Nash's contract proposal then became uncertain, leaving many to wonder if this would become a "backroom deal" negotiated without the transparency or public input which was a specific election issue the previous month. An "economic development plan" was promised during the election season, but at this point it still hasn't been delivered to the community.

Commissioner Mason indicated that there would be no need to debate Nash's self-serving agenda item further, since the commissioners weren't ready to "move forward," with it, at which point the matter was tabled. The next opportunity for the county to consider Nash's proposed contract guarantees will be January 3rd, when G. "Tooter" Ogden is sworn-in, taking the commissioner's seat lost by Ivan Cowley in the Republican primary. Mason was also re-elected and will then commence another four-year term.

Community Offended

Observers immediately denounced Nash's public tirade as further proof that Nash is still eager to mistreat the people who struggle to pay for his lifestyle. "He's a 'target' because of the poor job he's done with the county's economic development," said Dick Cumiskey, a county resident and community organizer. "Malcolm Nash and I are far apart, ideologically," offered Richfield resident and physician Dr. Richard Crimin. The doctor described a confrontation instigated by Nash earlier in the year about a tense hypothetical situation offered by Nash who demanded a response.

Sevier County and its "Executive Administrator" have been under attack for the amount of time and money devoted over ten years to advocate the failed coal-fired power plant proposal and there's no indication that the pressure will abate soon. Developers of the power plant recently succeeded in their application with the county but only after scaling back their design and changing it to less-polluting natural gas as a combustion source. The reality and other approvals of that project now rest with the state's Department of Environmental Quality permitting process, the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency and the developer's ability to get an industrial-sized natural gas line connected to their proposed generating site in Sigurd, Utah. Funding sources have yet to be identified as well, making the entire power plant project a non-starter so far.


Sources have come forward indicating that Commissioner Topham spent the hour before today's public meeting defending Nash and his request, offering the view that Nash "does so much for the county." Those Topham was addressing are still not convinced, noting that while Nash may run many errands for the commissioners themselves, the county's economic development has still has gone lacking. In addition, many wonder if Commissioner Topham thinks he'll have an easier time defending Malcolm Nash in the coming years, given that Nash has offended many who understand how public policy should be pursued, i.e.: with a broad base of public support rather than only the privileged few of Sevier County's elite.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post Election Primer

Richfield, Sevier County, Utah --

Perhaps the real story to be told on this page is how a democrat running for county commissioner in central, rural, red state Utah was able to garner 43% of the vote and nearly defeat the Republican nominee in the midst of tea party prominence. This is a post-election night tale of intrigue and suspense, with some of the cast of characters still unidentified and retreating into the post-election shadows.

Monte Turner, a democrat who secured 2498 votes of the total 5805 cast in the "B" seat commissioner race, is a self-described, soil conservationist working for the federal government in Sevier County. Turner (not to be confused with the Constitution candidate, Scott Turner, who ran for the same office) had disavowed any affiliation with mainstream democratic party leaders, and had sent mixed signals during his campaign that confused some people and incensed others in this central Utah county of just over 20,000 people. During the campaign, when asked why he hadn't registered as an independent candidate, he cited his last-minute filing on a Friday afternoon, and election requirements that would have had him furnish 150 signatures to do so as an independent candidate. He also seemed to dismiss the primary process by attempting to confuse party delegate approval with the primary election, stating "I didn't want 200 people determining if I could run or not."

That didn't confuse republican party organizers involved in the Sevier County election.

Speculation within some circles seemed to point to some irrational fear by the county's de facto ruling class that their lifestyles would be upended if the actual republican candidate were to prevail. Garth "Tooter" Ogden, a lifelong resident, dairyman and entrepreneur was able to hurdle past a Republican primary challenger who was a major player in Richfield City's economic development effort. At that point, the race really began.

Mid-campaign the dynamics were interesting and convoluted. The "A" seat commissioner race mainly involved fourth-term republican candidate Gary Mason, who had championed a coal-fired power plant as the county's chief economic development plan earlier in his political career. Mason's challenger was a woman who had organized a successful grassroots effort in opposition to the power plant proposal, Sevier County's "Proposition 1" which went on the November 2008 ballot after one of the swiftest decisions in the history of the Utah Supreme Court. That ruling struck down statute that would have disallowed the referendum, and on the wake of that referendum victory, Elaine Bonavita took her place on the ballot as a Constitution Party nominee, thus averting a primary challenge. Her greatest contribution would be to get some of the campaign controversies out into the daylight for the first time.

The final part of the campaign trail would prove to be a web of intrigue.

On Sunday, August 22nd, the Salt Lake Tribune published a story referring to an objection raised by Bonavita when she was officially denied the ability to campaign and distribute literature at the Sevier County Fair. Mason (her opponent and incumbant commissioner at that time) was there, giving away free hamburgers (allegedly paid for with county funds), to the public. Sheryl Allen was also present, campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Peter Coroon and was unchallenged in her efforts.

A mailing, from republican Mason and his influential, "insider" supporters, went out in the last weeks of the campaign which endorsed the democrat, Monte Turner. At that time, the bare-knuckle, retail politicking was in full swing. In the end, it proved to be too little, too late for the democrat Turner who was never able to overcome a sizeable lead by Ogden, manifest early when the returns began coming in. Poll watchers were left wondering about those involved with the pseudo-democrat's last-minute campaign, and speculation still exists that many whose livelihoods are built on political patronage were the first to jump in against the republican Ogden and for the career bureaucrat, Monte Turner.

Ogden secured 51% of the final vote with the Constitution candidate as an also-ran with only 5% (the last fact prompted Ogden's supporters to note that even if Scott Turner's votes had gone to the democrat Monte Turner, it still wouldn't have been enough, thereby negating any "spoiler" claims).

With warnings from Ogden's senior campaign volunteers that he would be told what would be expected of him as the "junior commissioner," Ogden attended meetings with Mason on the Wednesday following the election. Ogden confirmed the informal and private effort was underway to have him understand how the county commission really worked and what would be expected of him as the newest member of the three seat commission. (Ogden will replace stockman, school board member and former water commissioner Ivan Cowley who was denied a re-election bid during the republican primary nomination, like Utah's senior Senator Bob Bennett).

In a county where median household income hovers at the poverty level, public works projects look to preliminary Community Impact Block Grant funding efforts, recently finalized under Mason's signature on October 27. Others wonder about the last-ditch participation of those players surrounding the offices of the Six County Association of Governments, whose director (Russ Cowley) is a major power player in central Utah but is not elected and accountable to very few.

Political observers assembled in Salt Lake City who were dissecting the win in Utah's second congressional district (by Jim Matheson, a blue-dog democrat in a strenuous re-election effort) recognized that party affiliation is not the end-all, be-all in Utah, red-state politics. At the studios of the University of Utah's KUER, it was observed that the candidate's personality and experience, that of the candidate's opponent, effective campaign messaging and the political climate at the time of the election are the most potent factors in a Utah election. Matheson was re-elected as the renegade democrat in red-state Utah, but unlike Sevier County's Monte Turner, has always been and has worked with fellow democrats since his first election to congress in 2000. Even with opponent republican Morgan Philpot's signage showing up in ultra-red Richfield, (which is not in Matheson's second district, but rather in Jason Chaffetz' third district) the political chicanery was left to those in Sevier County who understand how public policy really works, (or doesn't, in the case of the doomed power plant issue).

Thus it was in this little rural valley surrounded by mountains, which may yet be destined to become a major transportation hub at the intersection of Interstate 15 and Interstate 70.

Depending on the politics, of course.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sevier County Election Update

Richfield --
licensed via Creative Commons

At the October luncheon of the Greater Richfield Chamber of Commerce, an opportunity to share platform information by the registered candidates for county commissioner turned into a major fact-checking event. Gary Mason, who is seeking a third term as a county commissioner from the northern part of the county, emphatically stated that the town of Sigurd was not planning to annex property owned by a holding company for Sevier Power Company. Sigurd Mayor Chad Houchin and town councilman Mike Roberts indicate that the town is indeed looking into possibilities for annexation of the property, and that the Sigurd town attorney has been directed to present options for consideration. Mason also told those assembled that he has "always been for the power plant," when in a previous interview with ABC4's Terry Wood and Matthew Lee, he said that he was "undecided." Mason made an exuberant announcement that the county would be the location for the power plant earlier in the decade. In ensuing months, citizen's opposition has brought more facts to light, and the residents approved a 2008 referendum requiring any coal-fired power plant construction be approved at the polls.

Monte Turner, registered and running as a democrat for one of the two contested commissioner seats, told the audience that he "didn't vote for Clinton or Obama" in prior elections. Since none of his current campaign signs or posters indicate any party affiliation, many in the county believe that Turner is being less than truthful with either the democratic party or the republican voters he's wooing. "I'm an environmentalist," he declared at Wednesday's lunch, before warning that his experience with public lands as a federal soil conservation official has allowed him to understand that environmentalists are "formidable foes."

The efforts of Sevier Power Company (formerly NEVCO) to build a coal-fired power plant in this high mountain valley has been met with opposition and grassroots organization that has polarized the community and ultimately changed the plans of the original permit application. While original plans have been remanded to the state's Department of Environmental Quality, Sevier Power Co. announced in March that they will redesign the plant to burn natural gas. Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water, the organized opposition to the development, has requested that any natural gas approval by the county's planning and zoning commission disallow any future plans that would use coal. The negative response by incumbent commissioner Mason has fueled speculation that the industry may still pursue the ability to burn coal at a future Sigurd plant.

The election is scheduled to conclude on November 2.