Thursday, June 27, 2013

Council to Tackle Budgets, Invite Dialogue

Last week the Council approved a tentative budget for the FY 2014. However Council Chair Gary Winterton indicated a readiness to begin discussions and dialogue with the community regarding budgeting priorities for FY 2015.

“We would like to begin a dialogue with the community on how the Council should approach budgets,” Winterton said. “That includes such ideas as budget prioritizing and planning for the tough issues.”

The Council has adopted the following policy guiding documents to aid in the formation of policy: 
  • Council Intent Statements,
  • Vision 2030, 
  • The General and Master Plans. 

For the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, the Council has also utilized the following broad guiding principle to analyze budgets:

It is the legislative intent, policy, and priority of the Municipal Council, to work with the Mayor, to develop a structurally balanced, long-term, fiscal plan for the City of Provo, that is evaluated in frequent and regular intervals to maximize its continued relativity.

How can the Council balance difficult questions arising from how to formulate policy and determine whether the budget furthers those policy goals?

Here are some steps that the Council staff will be taking to help provide the Council context for evaluating and implementing policy that shapes the structure of the budget:

  • Focus fiscal and policy analysis efforts on the city’s general fund (only the first $42 million of a $168 million budget).
  • Conduct a benchmarking analysis on each division of the general fund.
  • Articulate to the Council findings of how the budget moves the city closer to realizing policy goals or not.  

Council adopts Ordinance to Amend Temporary Use for Shaved Ice Stands

Photo credit: Sean Loyless / / CC BY
The Council has adopted an ordinance to allow “temporary use” shaved ice stands to extend their operating period. The change amends the temporary use operating period to extend that time by a month, allowing shaved ice stands to begin operation on April 1 and end October 31.

If you’d like to read the Ordinance for yourself, you may visit or peruse the city code here. Chapter 14.35 deals specifically with temporary uses regarding shaved ice stands.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Maeser Neighborhood “Paint Your Heart Out” Event a Success

The Maeser Neighborhood recently held a “Paint Your Heart Out” event, which targeted a two block area around 300 East between Center Street and 200 South to improve the community by allowing neighbors to meet each other and work to build stronger relationships while providing a benefit to the neighborhood.

As a part of the Council sponsored Matching Grant Program, the City supplies the funding for neighborhood capital improvements and the neighborhood matches the City’s contribution with local resources of volunteer labor, donated materials, professional services, and funding.

Combined with federal CDBG funds, the improvements to this target area in the Maeser neighborhood have included the following:
  • New curb and gutter
  • Trees trimmed and pruned and where needed removed and replaced
  • Homes painted
  • Sprinkler systems installed in homes previously lacking pressurized irrigation
An upcoming “Plant Your Heart Out” event will also be held in the Maeser neighborhood, where neighbors will plant foliage and other plants to beautify homes in the target area.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Matching Grant Program, and possibly applying for a grant, visit to view details and download the grant application.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dixon Neighborhood Kickoff Extravaganza

This is a guest post by Dave Harding, Neighborhood Chair of the Dixon Neighborhood. Dave was elected this May, and organized the Dixon Neighborhood Kickoff Extravaganza event to engage with community members. Dave has served under two previous Neighborhood Chairs, and has been an active participant in the Provo Community.

Dixon Neighborhood held a Kickoff Extravaganza in early June to help the residents catch the vision of the neighborhood, encourage their involvement, and to introduce the new neighborhood chair and vice-chair.

We gathered under the large shade trees in the front of Dixon Middle School for the pep-rally which included door prizes donated by neighborhood and local businesses. The grand prize was an Android tablet donated by Dixon's own CompuClinic, a PC repair shop. One of the purposes was to increase awareness of the neighborhood. There are some residents who don't even realize that they belong to an official neighborhood.

We talked about the rich heritage of Dixon neighborhood being a magnificent tapestry of lives interwoven over the last 164 years. The history of Dixon neighborhood plays a big part of the history of Provo, and indeed the State. The story of Dixon neighborhood is now a part of our individual stories and our stories are being woven into Dixon's story. We discussed our stewardship of Dixon's heritage and how to pass an even stronger and more beautiful heritage on to those who follow us.

 We talked about some of the many reasons that we chose to live in this great neighborhood and the things we can do to make it even greater. Many of these treasures and opportunities are described in the Dixon Neighborhood Vision []. There are many attractive aspects to living in Dixon Neighborhood, including the wonderful variety of residents, the close proximity of so many of our daily destinations, and the warmth and neighborliness of the residents. We all have a part to play to continue our wonderful quality of life in our comfortable, welcoming community and to make Dixon Neighborhood and even better place to live.

Overall, the event was quite successful with many residents committing to get involved. There is an excitement for even better events in the future. We appreciate the support of our neighborhood and local businesses, especially CompuClinic, Heritage Dental, Fresh Market, Station 22, Old Towne Grill, and RCWilley, who contributed door prizes for the event.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Council to Review Code to Align with State on Fireworks

The Council will consider revisions of the city code (Chapter 9.43) to align the city with a newly-adopted state law which allows cities to ban or restrict consumer fireworks in certain areas.

Due to extreme fire danger as a result of commercial fireworks, Provo City has in the past maintained a “Discharge Restricted Area” where no fireworks are permitted. This area has remained consistent over the years with only minor adjustments.

In 2012, many cities banned commercial fireworks outright over fire hazard concerns, and this new state law reflects those concerns. To comply with the state law, a restricted area must be enacted by ordinance by the local governing body or city. To maintain its restricted area, Provo Fire and Rescue has drafted a plan which addresses the geographical layout of the restricted area, and indicates the dates (July 1-7, July 21-27) during which commercial fireworks will be restricted.

Here is a link to the proposed new ordinance, and a map of the restricted area proposed by Provo Fire and Rescue. 

Proposed Fire Restricted Area -click image for higher resolution.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Council Business Licensing Fee Amendments Discussion

As part of the Council’s work session agenda this week, there will be a discussion of amendments to the business license fee structure in Provo to potentially lower rates on small businesses with fewer than five employees.

Council staff has drafted a proposal (see document attached to agenda) at the request of the Council to address concerns about the current business license fee structure and how it may be adjusted.
Share your thoughts with the Council either by posting a comment here, or by contacting your Council Member Directly here

Council Hears Presentation on Transportation Fee

The Council heard a presentation discussing how a transportation utility fee could be an answer to the challenge of funding Provo’s roads as a long term replacement for bonding.

The presentation was offered by Vern Keeslar of InterPlan, a transportation planning firm, and outlined four different ways a transportation safety fee could be implemented, with the goal of equal and fair participation in the system by everyone using Provo’s roads.

 “Good roads cost less,” Keeslar said. “Maintaining roads to a good standard is going to cost less than letting roads wear out and rebuilding infrastructure every 10 to 15 years.”

 Keeslar said one key advantage to a transportation utility fee is how it allows equal participation of all people who are having an impact on Provo’s roads. According to Keeslar, Provo is unique in that approximately 55% of Provo acreage parcels are exempt from paying property tax, yet those property owners have a significant impact on Provo’s roads.

A study by Utah State University’s LTAP, Local Technology Assistance Program, has shown that over the next ten years, Provo’s roads will require $42 million in repair and maintenance costs.  Those costs indicate a need for $4.2 million per year in road funding, however, Provo’s public works department believes that with some smart planning, it will be possible to meet the needs of maintaining roads with just $3 million per year.

Currently, the city funds roads using a variety of sources, including bonding, funds from the state, and from vehicle registration fees.  The Council is shying away from bonding due to inefficient use of bonded monies through interest payments, and the fact that bonding is not keeping up with increasing maintenance costs.
The Council ultimately agreed that further consideration and discussion was necessary regarding the merits of the proposed options, and will revisit the issue at a later date.

What do you think should be the solution to Provo’s long term road funding issue? Let your Council member know by either posting a comment to this post, or by contacting them directly here

Friday, June 14, 2013

Agendas for June 18

Council Agendas for June 18 have been posted to

Some key items on the agenda include: 

An ordinance updating Provo City Code to reflect elements of the Utah Fireworks Act and a discussion regarding End of the Year appropriations, and more! 

Visit the site to view the full agenda and get updates on issues which matter to you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Council discusses Center Street Community Development Project Plan Area

In anticipation of a public hearing to be conducted on June 18 on the Center Street Community Development Project Plan area, the Council heard an update on this issue from Paul Glauser, Director of Redevelopment.
Glauser discussed the main idea of the project, stating that it is about the replacement of the Central Business District Redevelopment area established in the 1970s. The Redevelopment Agency’s ability to use tax increment financing for this area will expire under Utah State law after 2015.

What is tax increment financing? According to Glauser, it is a process used to “level the playing field” between suburban and urban development sites. Glauser said tax increment financing is relevant when a developer considers costs of a new project, and whether suburban areas will be more attractive locations due to low cost of construction and development than urban areas with higher costs. In order to encourage developers to build in urban areas, and increase the tax base of those urban areas by increasing property values, the Redevelopment Agency uses “tax increment financing” to help make up for the cost differential that the developer will incur in choosing to develop in an urban area.

This means that the four taxing entities which affect the development (Utah County, Provo City, Provo School District, and Central Utah Water) may pledge to use their share of new tax revenues generated by a project in an urban area in its early years to offset the cost gap of developers investing in an urban project.

“I want to emphasize that this is about renewing a tax increment financing area which we've had from the 70s. It’s about responding to new development opportunities. It has absolutely nothing to do with an assessment or with raising taxes,” Glauser said. “It’s only about how tax revenues from new developments may be used, and not about increasing the development tax rate, or anyone else’s tax rate.”

Glauser also said that even after the Project Area Plan is approved, nothing will change until or unless the affected taxing entities agree to go forward with individual development deals. The proposed area for a new district will range from 600 W. to 200 E. and from 100 N. to 100 S.

On June 18, a public hearing will be held on the proposed Project Area Plan. The Council will also consider whether to adopt the Area Plan. If the project area is approved, the Redevelopment Agency will then bring specific development deals within the area to the four taxing entities for their consideration and approval on a case by case basis.

 If you have comments for the Council about the proposed Project Area Plan let them know by commenting here, or reaching them directly. You may also consider attendance at the June 18 hearing.

Sows’ Ears and Silk Purses - Council Member Hal Miller

In retrospect the idealistic launch of the city-owned fiber network a decade ago was admirable if freighted.  The ideal was futuristic—a community in which every resident could opt for access to a super-fast network by which to be informed of matters large and small, in-the-city and out, and, in turn, to inform the city’s government about issues of concern.  Such ease and extension of high-speed interactivity seemed to promise new styles of citizenship and levels of civic awareness that could be transformative.

The network’s launch was not decided by popular ballot.  Instead it took life by fiat and a $39M bond issue. Optimism ran high that its popularity would assure repayment of the bond and then some, providing an appreciable, ongoing revenue source for the municipal budget.  After all, what loyal Provo resident wouldn’t pay for phone, internet, and television access from the city’s own service?

Without mentioning names, the number of those who didn’t was legion.  Some carped that the city-as—nonprofit-corporation competing with the for-profit variety was unfair.  Others worried that the quality of customer service would be sub-par.  The state legislature weighed in on the former matter, the market on the latter.

The fate of the network in the interim has been checkered at best.  In and out of the hands of private owners, bedeviled by lapses of service, subscription, and marketing, last year the network landed back in the city’s lap as its owner, this time legally labeled a public utility and thus eligible for fees.  They first appeared on utility bills last fall, labeled “Telecom,” which is short for “Learning our lesson the hard way and now having to finish paying off the bond” fee.

When the fiber network initially was installed, something momentous was taking shape in Silicon Valley.  Google came into being with its corporate leitmotif of “faster” and motto of “do no harm.”  Who knew the now-storied internet behemoth eventually would find its way to Provo?  Answer: The city’s fiber network was the charm.  When Google came calling, the municipal administration rightly was ravished.  The details were hush-hush at the suitor’s insistence, but the marriage was announced as “epic” and brought overnight celebrity to our fair city.

Sold for a dollar, the network will receive a deserved and costly remake.  Finally it will become available to every residence and on terms that can be described as generous indeed.  What it will assure is high-speed access under every residential roof, and for an added fee, dazzlingly high-speed.  Provo has become certifiedly faster.  A brave new world awaits it.

In recognition of this epochal event, I offer the following lines:

Faster Provo
                                                                The fibers are coming!
                                                                Sure enough, they reached to our neighborhood.
                                                                The cables that carried them were unassuming—
                                                                No bright colors, no transparency,
                                                                No outer emanation to signal the inner aura.

                                                                Then came the “drop”,
                                                                And we became a fibered family.
                                                                iProvo was now available, if shaky, 
Then later reincarnated--
                                                                Nuvont, Veracity, iProvo anew.

                                                                The fiber had a way of turning deep red.
                                                                I was there when the mayor
                                                                Announced, er, um, a bailout—
                                                                Nested there in the utility bill,
                                                                Hardly welcome—the dues on integrity.

                                                                We are a debt-averse people.
                                                                Searches for buyers languished.
                                                                How much for a fast-aging system?
                                                                Nada.  Rebonding?  No thanks.
                                                                Where was rescue?

                                                                The system savior entered epically.
                                                                With utmost silence at first, then—
                                                                Hurrah!  No turning off the light.
                                                                Instead, our family’s drop promises added instantaneity,
                                                                Google-goosed.  Faster and faster.

Hal Miller
Provo City Municipal Council Member
May 2013

Related Reading

Carr, N. (2011). The shallows:  What the internet is doing to our brains. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Gleick, J. (2000). Faster. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

Mayer-Schonberger, V. & Cukier, K. (2013). Big data: A revolution that will reshape how we live, work and think.
Boston, MA: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Schmidt, E., & Cohen, J. (2013). The new digital age: Reshaping the future of people, nations and
                business.  New York, NY:  Knopf.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bicycle Master Plan Draft Presented to Council

The Council has received an update about the Bicycle Master Plan from Casey Serr, Operations and Planning Section Manager of Provo City Public Works Department.

Serr presented a technical report, which he said had been the work of several years drafting and planning as part of an effort to integrate bicycles into the Transportation Master Plan for the city.

The technical report is eight chapters long, with a detailed breakdown of current plans and future recommendations. The report also describes how the city’s plans have developed into their current form. Serr said the final plan is around 245 pages, with the recommendation section covering about 38 pages. The report was prepared by Alta Engineering, guided by a steering committee including Council Members and citizens.

The report also includes current plans from a variety of organizations and agencies which may impact Provo’s vision. These plans include input from UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation), MAG (Moutainland Association of Governments), UTA (Utah Transit Authority), the existing BRT (Bus and Rapid Transit) and Provo’s Vision 2030 documents and other sources. 

Serr said chapter five of the report includes recommendations resulting from studying those and other plans, as well as input from the Council’s trip to Boulder, Colorado. 

“We are purposing a streamlined version of the recommendations outlined in chapter five of this report for the Council to adopt officially as the Bicycle Master Plan. This will replace the current policy, and become a segment of the current Transportation Master Plan,” Serr said.

Other portions of the presented plan included way finding and bike parking, and the programs associated with how to make the Master Plan work with community goals. One key segment of the plan addresses how funding sources can be obtained. 

“There are a lot of tools in the bike toolbox as a result of this report,” Serr said. “This document is going to be a working document for us now and into the future.”

Serr said there is no projected time-frame for the implementation of the plan, as available funds and budgeting for costs have yet to be worked out. Serr said the plan also lacks a discussion of how additional costs from construction elements and right-of-way will ultimately affect the plan, as those costs are hard to predict.
Council Member Rick Healey asked if there were anything that Serr disagrees with in the report.  Serr responded he doesn’t necessarily disagree with anything in the plan, but acknowledges challenges to implementing parts of the plan.

“I don’t know if there’s anything I disagree with, but there are some elements that are clearly going to be a challenge to complete politically, financially, and fiscally,” Serr said.

Council member Hal Miller asked if this report has been shared with the Mayor’s Sustainability Committee, to which Serr responded that he had shared the plan with the Mayor’s office, but emphasized that the plan is still in draft form.

Serr indicated that at this time he’d like the Council to review the plan for potential red flags and stumbling blocks before the draft is finalized. However, he also expressed his confidence in the report.

“This is a good document; it has a lot of input from everyone,” Serr said. “If we implemented this plan I think we’d be able to garner a lot of national recognition for implementing a wise strategy.”

The Council will review this draft for several weeks before giving feedback to the public works department.

Are there issues you think the Council should give special attention to? What’s your idea for how bicycles fit into the community? Let your Council member know by commenting on this post, or on contacting them directly here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Engage the Council and the Issues - Agendas Online

If you're looking to become more informed on the issues affecting your community, and want to become involved in the conversation, a great way can be to read the Council's agenda, and listen to archived minutes of Council meetings at

Here's a quick update of what the Council will be discussing this week (June 4, 2013) at their work session and Council meeting:

  • Bicycle Master Plan
  •  Center Street Community Development
  • Electrical Rate Increase
  •  Budgeting
  • Economic Development Plan
  •  Public Hearing announcements for a variety of issues
  • Redevelopment Agency of Provo
  • Storm Water Service
This is a great resource for those who are unable to come to meetings themselves to continue to engage and be informed about city policy.