Running for Mayor

I am excited to announce that I will be running for mayor this year. I have loved serving the residents of Cedar Hills in my capacity as a council member and hope to earn your vote to serve as mayor. I will post more information here over the next couple of months as campaign season starts, but feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions or feedback.

Jenney Rees
801-358-8730
jenneyrees@gmail.com

Watering Season Is Almost Here

Spring is right around the corner, which means our pressurized irrigation system will soon be energized. We’ve had a great winter with regards to water, but conservation of water should still be on our minds. There are a few things you can do that can help with conservation:

  1. Contact USU for a free water check. A Water Check analyzes the efficiency of your automated sprinkler irrigation system. Trained evaluators will perform the Water Check at your home, business, or institution and will provide you with a customized irrigation schedule.  Soil type, grass root depth, sprinkler distribution uniformity and water pressure will be evaluated. The entire process will take approximately one hour. Contact information can be found online at http://slowtheflow.org/index.php/forms/free-water-check
  2. Install a smart controller. These controllers use weather and landscape conditions, along with information regarding your yard, to customize a watering schedule based upon the needs of your lawn. Many of these controllers allow you to control your system from your smartphone, which allows you to have complete control of your watering schedule wherever you are. Currently the Central Utah Water Conservancy District is offering rebates up to $150 for the purchase of a smart controller. Applying for the rebate can be done online at http://rebates.cuwcd.com/. Skydrop, which is located in Utah, presented their controller to our Council last year and sell them for approximately $200. You can find more information about their product at https://www.skydrop.com/.

Cities all around Utah are considering metering PI water as a way to reduce water consumption. My hope is that we can improve our water consumption without requiring meters. Having the free water check and installing smart controllers can help each of us reduce our water intake while still maintaining the lawns and gardens we love.

Domestic Violence Meeting

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In the past few months there were two cases of domestic violence related homicides that occurred in American Fork. These tragedies were horrific and leave many wondering what can be done to better protect victims of domestic violence. We view our area as safe and family-friendly, but the statistics show that domestic violence is more prevalent in Utah than we may realize. The Utah Department of Health has published the following data on their website:

  • From 2000-2011, there were 226 domestic violence-related homicides in Utah, averaging 19 deaths per year,
  • In 2012, more than 3,114 men, women, and children entered shelters to escape domestic violence.
  • In 2008, 14.2% of Utah women (ages 18 and older) reported that an intimate partner had ever hit, slapped, pushed, kicked, or hurt them in any way.
  • In Utah, women experienced 169,156 intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes each year.
  • Nationally, each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes.
  • The percentage of women in Utah who reported ever experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) increased with age, with the exception of women who were 65 years or older.
  • 39% of Utah women reporting IPV said the perpetrator was their husband or male live-in partner. 27% said the perpetrator was a former husband or former male live-in partner and 25.7% said the abuser was a former boyfriend.
  • In Utah, divorce or separated women report the highest percentage of IPV (42.1%).
  • Nationally, the estimated costs of IPV exceed $5.8 billion each year. This includes costs of medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity.
  • There is approximately one intimate partner-related homicide every 33 days in Utah.
  • 44% of intimate partner-related homicide victims were killed by a spouse.
  • 147 Utah children were directly exposed to an intimate partner-related homicide from 2003-2008 and 78% of these children were under six years of age.
  • There is approximately one domestic violence-related homicide each month in Utah.
  • One-third of domestic violence perpetrators committed suicide after committing the homicide.
  • There are approximately 3 domestic violence-related suicides every month in Utah.
  • Almost 12% of adult suicides are domestic violent related.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribute, Jenn Oxborrow of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition said domestic violence-related homicides in Utah have accounted for 42 percent of homicides statewide over the last 16 years.

There does appear to be some movement on finding ways to better help those who are victims of domestic violence. Two bills are being presented this legislative session that deal with domestic violence. The Utah County Commissioners recently held a townhall asking for input from the public on domestic violence resources in Utah County. These are a step in the right direction, but there is a lot more that needs to be done.

American Fork Police Department is committed to raising awareness to domestic violence issues in our communities. On March 8th at 7pm in the Vista Room, victim advocate Dawna Whiting and Sergeant Josh Christensen will discuss domestic violence and what resources are available to residents of Cedar Hills. I encourage residents to attend this important meeting to become more aware of this issue and to offer suggestions and thoughts on what communities, counties, and states can do to end the cycle of violence.

Upcoming Meetings

There are two upcoming meetings that residents are invited to attend that could have a significant impact on the budget and future of the city. I will provide a summary on this blog after each meeting and welcome any feedback you have.

The first is a meeting being held by the Lone Peak Public Safety District on Tuesday, January 31st at 6pm at the Highland Fire Station. LPPSD recently had a metric study performed on services provided and will be presenting the results of that study. One thing that has been a concern for representatives of Cedar Hills, Highland, and Alpine is the continued rise of public safety costs and how to budget for them. The results of this study and decisions made by the board could have a big impact on our public safety budget.

The second is a Board of Adjustment hearing on February 8th at 6pm in the Cedar Hills Vista Room. This is an appeal being requested by Rosegate, the developer who wants to build a residential facility in the commercial zone located south of WalMart. The Council previously approved the application with several conditions to make it comply with zoning regulations and with the ruling that congregate care could be considered substantially the same as assisted living. The developers are appealing the decision of the Council and both sides will argue before the Board of Adjustment. This is the first level of the appeal as it will also be heard by the State Property Rights Ombudsman and could also end up in court. The public is welcome to attend the hearing.

Canyon Road

A discussion regarding the future of Canyon Road has been ongoing for several years. Here is a brief recap:

  • The County wanted to make improvements to North County Blvd, which was owned by Pleasant Grove, American Fork, and Highland, and wanted federal dollars to make the improvements. In order to get federal dollars, the ownership of the road had to be transferred to the State. Through an agreement made between UDOT and Utah County, a trade was made after North County Blvd was completed. UDOT, which owned Canyon Road, agreed to take ownership of North County Blvd and the County agreed to take ownership of Canyon Road. Canyon Road maintained its classification as a “Minor Arterial and Major Collector” road.
  • UDOT gave to the County the funds they had set aside to do an overlay on Canyon Road, which was $3.3 million.
  • Cedar Hills and Pleasant Grove approached Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) and requested additional funding to make significant improvements to Canyon Road, including fixing drainage issues and installing curb and gutter. This was approved for $4.5 million. The County agreed to allocate an additional $1.5 million to the project. I’m not clear as to where those funds came from as I’ve heard they are federal funds the County received as part of the transfer agreement of North County Blvd. With all the funding available, there was a total of $9.3 million to improve Canyon Road.
  • The County approached both cities and stated they are willing to use all of those funds to make improvements but only if the cities agree to take ownership of the road in 30 years and immediately take responsibility for pothole repair and maintenance, snow removal, law enforcement, storm drainage, signage, debris removal, and some road striping. Our city manager estimated the cost for us would be $15,000-$20,000 per year from year one. The ongoing maintenance after the transfer of ownership would be much higher as we will then be responsible for all major road repairs, resulting in millions of dollars to be expended.
  • The County originally indicated that if we refused to take ownership, they would reject the MAG funds ($4.5 million) and just do an overlay.
  • In a recent Council meeting we discussed our concerns with the agreement, including but not limited to our $15-$20k annual responsibility from day one, the ability for the County to give 6 months’ notice to terminate the agreement before the 30 year transfer of ownership (though they do have to give us money to maintain the road at their levels for the entire 30 year contract), that the agreement didn’t fix all the drainage issues nor install curb and gutter on the entire road through our portion, concerns with our ability to handle snow plowing immediately, and the eventual ownership and costs. While the improvements being proposed are significant, they do not raise the quality of Canyon Road to city standards.

At our request, we had a joint meeting with the Pleasant Grove City Council on November 22, 2016. This was an opportunity to hear where Pleasant Grove was with the agreement and to express our concerns. Also in attendance were Utah County Commissioners Bill Lee and Larry Ellertson, Commissioner-elect Nathan Ivie, Utah County Public Works Director Richard Nielson, Andrew Jackson with MAG, and many city staff members from both cities. At that meeting members of the Cedar Hills Council expressed concerns with the safety of Canyon Road and the agreement.

The major points that I brought up were 1) Cedar Hills isn’t in a position to expend $15-$20k per year to maintain a County Road, 2) our city is almost completely built out so our ability to own a road of that size and scope, even in 30 years, is limited as the cost will be in the millions of dollars, 3) while the County feels that County standards are less than those of a city with regards to roads, the improvements being suggested do not raise the quality of the road to city standards, 4) the improvements being recommended do not address all of the safety issues, 5) if the project exceeds the $9.3 million budget, the cities have the pay the balance, and 6) the County made this agreement with UDOT knowing it was not a rural road and had significant safety issues that should have been addressed some time ago.

My initial hope was that PG and Cedar Hills could work together and reject the agreement, ask the County to use the $9.3 available to them to fix the road and address the safety issues of the road they own, then later meet together with the County to discuss the future of the road. It was apparent at the end of the meeting that the majority of the PG City Council is willing to sign an agreement with the County to repair their portion and take on ownership in the future. It’s possible they have the ability to do so as they no longer have to maintain their previously owned portion of North County Blvd, but I do not know the details of their budget. I suggested to the County that we look at a separate agreement for Cedar Hills thatmakes sense for us. Our city is smaller than PG (CH population = 10,265, PG population = 38,052), our budgeted revenues are less (for fiscal year 2017 CH = $4,084,654, PG = $13,928,006), PG turned over ownership for their portion of North County Blvd where we are keeping all of the streets we’ve been responsible for, and PG has more staff and more resources to handle a road the size of Canyon Road. While the agreement as written may make sense for PG, it doesn’t make sense for a city of our size. At the same time, the road needs to be fixed and the County, as the owner of the road, should address issues for the safety of everyone who drives on Canyon Road.

After the meeting was over I spoke with one of the County Commissioners and am cautiously optimistic that something canbe done that addresses the issues without hurting our city. I will continue to post updates as more conversations take place.

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SR_146 Reconstruction and Widening Concept Report_Final (2)

CARE Tax

heritage-parkIf you are like me, you are tired of hearing about national politics and being told who to vote for or why your vote is a wasted vote. So instead, I’m going to talk about a local issue that will be on the Cedar Hills ballot.

This year we will decide whether or not renew our Cultural Arts and Recreation (CARE) tax. I am in favor and voting yes. This is a tax we are currently paying as it was previously approved by residents, so it won’t increase taxes from current rates. It is 0.1% on sales tax, which means for every $10 spent in a retail establishment within Cedar Hills, the city would assess a tax of one penny. By collecting this small sales tax, residents and non-residents who shop in Cedar Hills assist in generating funds for arts and recreational programs in Cedar Hills.

Since I have served on the Council we have used CARE tax funds for the following:

  • Basketball court at Heritage Park
  • Completion of the Community Center basement
  • Adding a restroom at Mesquite Park
  • Events hosted by the Arts Committee, which includes the annual date night and the children’s art contest as part of the Family Festival

For this fiscal year we plan on using CARE tax funds for Bayhill Park and Heritage Park improvements. The approximate amount we generate each year from this tax is $40,000. Our residents have expressed an appreciation for our parks and trails system and for our recreation programs. CARE tax funds go directly towards projects like these. We still have parks and trails projects on our capital improvements plan and we are continually adding new recreational opportunities for our children. The funds from CARE tax helps us complete these projects and add these opportunities.

Feel free to reach out if you have questions on this. I hope you will support our arts and recreational programs by voting yes.

New Park Scheduled for 2017

Over the years the city has collected feedback from residents through a variety of surveys and one of the things on which we consistently receive positive reviews is our parks and trails system. With so many children and youth in our community, it’s no surprise that we value places where our children can explore and play outside.

Thanks to the volunteer members of our Parks & Trails Committee and to city staff, the development of another park was approved by the City Council for completion in June 2017. This park has been on the city’s master plan for about a decade and is known as Bayhill Park as it is located on Bayhill Drive. Below are the plans that were presented to the Council.

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Bids for construction are currently being solicited with an approval date by the Council at a meeting in November so that construction can begin at the beginning of 2017. I appreciate the time and effort of the Parks and Trails Committee in redesigning the park and helping us move forward with more open spaces for our community.

The city does have a master Parks & Trails map that shows current and future parks and trails. That information can be found on the city’s website here.

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If you are interested in helping with the planning and development of the city’s parks and trails, as well as helping with various city events, the Parks & Trails Committee is always looking for additional volunteers. We meet once a month for one hour and are responsible for events such as the annual summer breakfast, the annual Santa night, the annual service day, and recommending future projects to the City Council. For more information, feel free to contact me via email at jrees@cedarhills org or on my phone at 801-358-8730.