Rural news round-up

Today’s stories from around the state include a rural budget crisis, an effort to increase diversity in school staff, a Pearl Harbor sailor’s remains are finally identified and are coming home, Farmers feeding Utah were in Kanab, San Juan County expecting “hordes of visitors,” Logan welcomes a new Encircle facility and the St. George City Council really likes the name ‘Dixie’.

Increasing diversity in school staff – San Juan County holds two of Utah’s historical legacies: Mormon homesteaders, who came to Utah in the 1800s, and various Indigenous tribes, who have called the land home for thousands of years. In an effort to help teachers connect with students living on the Navajo Nation, the San Juan School District is launching a hiring initiative hoping to increase Native American representation on its teaching and administrative staff. “We do believe that if our administrative and leadership positions increase in diversity, that will have a positive effect on the diversity of our teaching staff,” said Ron Nielson, SJSD superintendent. “I think this will improve our recruiting and retention efforts, and I think it’ll improve morale and the environment and culture of our school district.” (Moab Sun News)

Encircle comes to Logan – Encircle, a nonprofit focused on providing local space and resources for LGBTQ youth, recently kicked off plans for expansion in Logan after receiving a $4 million donation from Apple, Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley Smith, and Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds and his wife, Aja Volkman. The Logan home will be built across the street from Old Main Hill at the former location of the May Swenson house, on land owned by Utah State University. Encircle and the university are still negotiating a long-term lease on the 1.4-acre property, part of which is planned to be a park. Larsen said the design of the new home was intended to represent its predecessor, where the poet Swenson, who was lesbian, spent her childhood. (Herald Journal)

Mantua’s budget crisis – The Mantua Town Council held a special meeting last week to discuss a budget crisis facing the town this year, but a lot of discussion was had about the fact that the issues would continue to be ongoing, and need a long-term solution, which could include disbanding the town’s police department, or raising taxes to pay for it. Mantua Financial Clerk Brenda Dixon presented the council with a potential amended budget that would help mitigate the budget shortfall, but even after anticipated increases in property and sales tax, and revenue from development were factored in, Dixon estimated that town would still have to find some cash to balance the budget. According to town officials, the budgetary issues stem from two sources, a significant decrease in court-related revenue and spending by the police department. Dixon told the council that despite revenue increases in several other areas, they would not make up for the estimated 50% loss in court revenue and an over-budget police department. (Box Elder News)

WWII sailor’s remains coming home – Theodore Que Jensen, who was killed on Dec. 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, will be returned to rest in the Delta Cemetery next to the American Legion Post named in his honor. In a surprising telephone call last month, family members were notified of a monumental discovery. The Navy and the Department of Defense changed their records from “killed in action and no recoverable remains” to “due to very recent advances in forensic techniques we are able to provide the Charles Matthew Jensen family with the remains of Radioman Third Class Theodore Q. Jensen who served in the U.S. Navy.” Now, after nearly 80 years, the Navy will bring Theo’s remains to Delta and conduct a proper military burial. (Millard County Chronicle Progress)

Farmers feeding Utah in Kanab – When COVID-19 hit the country last year, many farmers and ranchers were left without an outlet for their products due to processing shortages and market loss. Fresh food went bad, and milk was dumped because there was no way to get the farmer’s products to the consumers. Consumers were also negatively impacted, as they were unable to purchase much needed fresh food. Members of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation created a solution to help Utahns. Together, Ron Gibson, Dale Newton and Rex Larson founded the 501(c)3 entity Miracle of Agriculture Foundation as the charitable arm of the Utah Farm Bureau. Clayton Beckstead, successful businessman and third-generation Utah farmer, is now the Executive Director of the Miracle of Agriculture Foundation. “The pandemic is starting to ease up, but there still is hunger all over the State of Utah,” said Beckstead. “We are raising money throughout the state, and we buy as local and direct as we possibly can. We give Utah products to Utah families. We’ve partnered with the Hunger Solutions Institute, and together we are able to reach those who need our help.” On March 26, the Kane County Farm Bureau sponsored a Farmers Feeding Utah event in Kanab at the Kanab Center. “Through Farmers Feeding Utah we are able to help both farmers and ranchers, as well as people who may be struggling during these times,” Dusty Reese, President of the Kane County Farm Bureau, said. “That’s why we’re here today, we want to help. (Southern Utah News)

Hordes of visitors – Spring has arrived in the Canyon Country, and its arrival also marks a significant increase in visitation. Because of a host of social distancing restrictions that have been implemented in Grand County due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari is having a larger impact on northern San Juan County. The Jeep Safari, which attracts thousands of Four Wheel enthusiasts each year, is hosting a large number of the popular guided rides in locations centered in San Juan County. In addition, San Juan County is the location of a large vendor fair at the business park in Spanish Valley and at outdoor events at Area BFE south of Spanish Valley. The BLM asks visitors to plan ahead and follow local, State and Federal guidelines, laws, and regulations to ensure a safe visit. Some BLM-developed recreation sites and areas may have limited services. Campgrounds, restrooms, trailheads, rivers, and recreation sites may have restrictions or new operating procedures in place. (San Juan Record)

Home building up in Tooele – Tooele City appears to be the single-family residence- building king in Tooele County for 2020. At 266 building permits issued for single family residences in Tooele City in 2020, the city issued 130 more SFR permits than the 136 it issued in 2019 for a 96% increase. It appears the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect new home building in Tooele County during 2020, with 867 building permits issued for new single-family residences in Tooele Valley in 2020 compared to 571 in 2019, for a 52% increase. However, even with that increase, Tooele County real estate agents reported that the supply of homes for sale in Tooele County was short of the demand in 2020 and that trend is continuing in 2021, so far. In March, with 38 listed homes on the market in the county, there was about a two- week supply of homes for sale at the current sales rate. (Tooele Transcript Bulletin)

Unanimous support for ‘Dixie’ – The St. George City Council unanimously vote Thursday in favor of a resolution to continue to support the use of the term “Dixie.” After the vote, council member Dannielle Larkin said that she is aware that the term means different things to different people. “I’m in support of the regional meaning,” Larkin said during the meeting. “But it’s important to remember that there are no villains in this discussion.” 

What does the resolution mean for the citizens of St. George? The resolution concludes with some specifics, then points to something broader stating that “the Mayor and City Council will continue to support Dixie by leaving the Dixie on the Sugarloaf, keeping the name Dixie Drive, keeping the name of the Dixie Academy Building, keeping the Dixie Sun Bowl and we will continue to support all businesses, all schools, sports, and institutions with Dixie in their name.” (St. George News