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Today's word on journalism

Friday, May 12, 2006

THE FINAL WORD

PETERSBORO, Utah -- Gloom like a Bulwer-Lyttonesque pall hung heavily over the Cache Valley as word came that the WORD had gone.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire. . . ." No, wait. . . . That's actual Bulwer-Lyttonism. Scratch it.

We conclude, with joy and trumpets and a tankard or two, the 10th season of TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM. What began in 1995 as a professor's strategy to get his students to read email (guess that worked!) now has spread, birdflu-like, far beyond that unwilling audience to self-flagellating WORD volunteers on five-and-a-half continents. But the willing and unwilling alike--the halt and addled and addicted and deluded--will have to get a life and smell the roses, for a while anyway.

Today marks the end of the WORD for this academic season. Even ere the rosy dawn that didth bust o'er this glade, this vale, this happy home. . . . ooops. Avert already, Sir Bulwer, you mangy cur!!!!

See you in the fall. . . TP

Can River Heights make enough money to pay its bills and survive? Time will tell

By Ben Walker

April 30, 2006 | RIVER HEIGHTS -- River Heights is one of the smallest cities in Cache Valley. It has an estimated population of just over 1,500. It doesn't even cover a full square mile.

One interesting problem River Heights has is an almost complete lack of commercial land and, in turn, commercial revenue. Mayor Todd Weston says utilities are almost the only source of revenue for the city.

"Eighty percent of the property taxes go to schools and that's fine," Jensen said. "That's where it belongs, that's what the law says, but it doesn't give us much leeway to bring in enough money. Some things in our city are wearing out and we need to replace them. We've got this big water problem last year that cost us $100,000, and when you take that out of your budget, it hurts you."

Weston has been a River Heights resident for 60 years. City Councilwoman Mary Barrus is another longtime resident of River Heights. Barrus lives in the Riverdale area, which was incorporated by River Heights in the mid-1970s. Barrus said shortly after the incorporation, some Riverdale landowners wanted to develop their land to make some money.

"As with everything governmental, the process was slow -- too slow for Mr. Lundahl and Davis -- and they felt their needs would be better served through Logan city," Barrus said.

She said the landowners requested to be de-annexed from the city and the issue went to court. The landowners won and were de-annexed from River Heights.

"With their disconnection, River Heights basically lost any opportunity for acquiring any viable tax base through development of any kind of commercial property," Barrus said. "[Councilman] Brent [Greenhalgh] and I saw the sustaining of River Heights as an entity basically go down the drain."

River Heights' audit for the year ending June 30, 2005, reports that the city has net assets of just over $1.7 million and spent over $613,000 for the year. The city pays over $60,000 for police and fire protection.

"Because of this dilema, most the the constituents close to my age would support annexation," said Rob Gines, the youngest member of the City Council. "All the old folks in River Heights are vigorously opposed to any form of annexation."

"River Heights is very strapped for resources right now," Jensen said.

So can the city afford to continue its existence?

"Time will tell whether we can afford to do that or not," Jensen said. "We still have some land that we can zone into commercial if the council is in a mood to do that. We haven't lost all of our land that has commercial potential. If we work wisely and carefully I think we can make some properties become commercial. We're not at the end of the road yet."

"I believe that we can fiscally exist and provide for the citizens of River Heights for the forseeable future of 10 to 15 years," Gines said.

Barrus said, "Planning and Zoning tried real hard last year to come up with some ideas of who and what to pursue to create revenue. There's not much out there and River Heights would be very difficult to locate in because there's limited access. Also, River Heights can offer very little in the way of incentives to a business.

"I think it's inevitable that River Heights will eventually be consumed on the north or the south, but I sure don't want it to happen on my watch," Barrus said.

Mayor Weston said he doesn't want that to happen.

"Anyone who's lived here as long as I have has some fond attachments to independence and to River Heights itself," he said. "We'd like to guide our own destiny and I think the majority of people feel that way. We've just got to find out a financial way to do it."

Barrus said the city has a sewer contract with Logan City due to expire in 2020. "Former Mayor [Vic] Jensen proposed that the city could stay intact until 2020," she said. "That's when the sewer contract with Logan City will run out and they will kill us with fees."

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