West Valley journal | August 2021

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August 2021 | Vol. 7 Iss. 08



OF WEST VALLEY CITY PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT By Darrell Kirby | d.kirby@mycityjournals.com


or the first time in 33 years, the West Valley City Public Works Department has a new director. Dan Johnson was approved by the city council in July to replace longtime director Russell Willardson, who retired after serving in the role since 1988. Johnson is no stranger to the department, having been a city engineer for 22 years and assistant director for the past six months to help make for a smooth transition from Willardson’s tenure. “I look forward to addressing the various challenges as they arrive throughout the coming days,” Johnson said after being sworn in to the position. “We’ve done a lot of good things over the years, but we intend to continue to improve the way that we do business and the way that we maintain our infrastructure,” Johnson later told the West Valley City Journal. “I just look forward to finding ways to be more efficient and do better.” Before his appointment to lead the department, Johnson was the city engineer since 2007. His previous positions with public works were doing construction inspections on various projects, designing roadways and reviewing plans. He earned an engineering degree from the University of Utah. Public Works in West Valley City has four divisions: engineering, sanitation, stormwater and streets. “I love public works and love building and fixing Dan Johnson, right, chats with Mayor Ron Bigelow shortly after the city council approved his appointment as West Valley City’s new public works director. things, so it’s a perfect role for me,” Johnson said. l (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

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August 2021 | Page 3

Last-minute WestFest considered success by officials By Travis Barton | travis.b@thecityjournals.com


fter a 2020 that saw West Valley City’s annual celebration canceled, along with countless other events, 2021 witnessed the return of WestFest. Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Day presented a recap of the event to the West Valley City Council in July discussing how it went and what they hope for the 2022 version. The festival was held in a limited capacity compared to previous years as organizers weren’t assured it could be held until mere months before the June 17 start date. Gone was the parade, Dutch oven cookout and skate competition among other normally scheduled events. All of which, Day said they plan to bring back next year. The cookout, for example, had “additional restrictions that it wasn’t feasible to do that so that’s something we definitely anticipate bringing back next year,” Day told the council. While there were less events taking place and a smaller number of booths than normal (40 craft and business and nine food vendors), Day said they were pleased with the attendance. She noted one police officer felt it was the busiest WestFest in a long time. Events such as the K9 and fire demonstrations as well as a softball tournament were still held along with Saturday night fireworks and a 5K to California Avenue and back. A stage still featured 17 performances during the festival as well. The city netted just over $5,000 between expenses ($62,300) and revenue ($67,237). The carnival, she said, had a record year of attendees for the 30 rides it had available. Only 21 were on a hand a few years ago. For vendors, Day said their goal is typically 60 for craft/business booths and 20 for food. She said the food vendors still had

Journals T H E

WestFest attendees enjoy the carnival in June. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

many Covid protocols in flux and vendors didn’t want to commit until they knew for sure. “We didn’t have time to develop that, it’s the same reason we didn’t have a parade,” she said. Usually the festival only has around 50-55 craft/business vendors. Day said their goal is to bring in more home-type businesses. “We feel we’ll have more success with that next year,” she said. “We didn’t know

what to expect so we couldn’t even update the website (westfest.org). We’ll have more time to prepare for next year.” Next year Day said the WestFest committee anticipates holding a pickleball tournament, a bike demonstration and competition on the pump track to go along with hot dog and pie eating contests among other things. “Things we didn’t know if we could or should do this year,” she said. “But we anticipate more growth and opportunities heading




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into 2022.” One booth, the West Valley City Fire Department was able to raise $5,000 for burn centers. A few ideas Day laid out as possible improvements going forward included finding additional sponsorships, increasing the number of volunteers on the committee and reviewing the layout to both improve the flow from booths to carnival as well as place audiences in the shade for the performances. l

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August 2021 | Page 5

West Valley City continues to step up its trail system By Darrell Kirby | dkirby@mycityjournals.com


uly was declared “Use the Trails Month” by the West Valley City Council. While the proclamation itself was routine, it serves as a reminder to residents, many of whom are unaware, that West Valley City has a network of 27 miles of walking and biking trails available to get around the city. It’s also a good way to stay in healthy physical and mental shape as gas prices rise and minds and bodies emerge from the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proclamation states, “Outdoor activity has numerous health benefits for public health and personal well-being, including increased vitamin D levels, physical activity, mental clarity and mood enhancement.” West Valley City Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Day said the trails are a popular recreation amenity in the city. “When we did our needs assessment right before COVID hit, our community wanted to see more green space and more trails. The community loves them.” A typical day will find a variety of walkers, runners, bicyclists, parents pushing strollers, and any number of other people traversing the concrete and asphalt paths. The trails largely run through residential areas and connect many of West Valley City’s 27 parks.

WVC trail photo: This section near 3500 South is part of West Valley City’s network of 27 miles of walking and biking trails. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

Day said the city isn’t stopping at 27 miles of pathways as it seeks greater connectivity from the city to the Jordan River Parkway, and Mountain View Corridor trails. “We have more coming. We’re not quite

done yet.” For a map of the trail system, including distances from one point to another, visit the West Valley City Parks and Recreation website at wvc-ut.gov/214/City-Parks and click

on Interactive Parks and Trails Map. “If we can educate people on where that’s at and how to use it, that will be really beneficial,” Day said. l


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West Valley City Journal

Martin Bates retires after 11 years as GSD superintendent By Bill Hardesty | b.hardesty@mycityjournals.com


hh…the blessings of retirement. “I will go to bed at night on the 30th (of June) and turn my phone off, and it will be the first time in 11 years. So that it won’t wake me up at five on the first, and so I’ll sleep a little bit longer, maybe,” said Martin W. Bates, retiring superintendent of Granite School District. Bates has worked for the Granite School District for 26 years—the last 11 as superintendent. Richard Nye took the reins on July 1.


In his retirement Bates plans to be a more hands-on grandpa. “We’ve got five and two-thirds grandchildren, and I’m jealous of the time my wife gets to spend with them,” Bates said. “In the past, she calls me from Thanksgiving Point at the dinosaur museum, or, from the zoo. They’re watching this baby gorilla grow up, and I’m texting from meetings that I’m in, so I’m looking forward to being a grandpa.” Bates told a story that one of his sons called because he needed to take a couch to the dump. Bates had the truck, but he had to schedule it in two weeks. “I ought to be able to go help him when he needs help. I shouldn’t have to schedule those two weeks from now.” The Bates are also planning some traveling, and they hope to serve missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Bates mentioned that technology had changed education over his years as superintendent. For example, he told a story about a measles outbreak in a high school 10 years ago. In that case, anyone who couldn’t show their shot record for measles had to go home without access to education until they were vaccinated. “I was looking at the technology that we had, and I said, ‘We got to be able to teach from a distance. We got to have the tools for that,’” Bates said. He credited this measles experience as the catalyst for preparing GSD for 2020. In between, the district did a lot of work about distance learning, but it was just theoretical. Then, with school closing, the plans went from theory to reality. “It was what a shock. Frankly, I’m so honored to have worked with people, shoulder to shoulder with people who stepped forward and did things they’ve never done before. In an environment where they were just more than a little bit uncomfortable,” Bates said. “Technologically infrastructure wise. We were perhaps a little more prepared for what happened this past year because of that experience that we’d had 10 years previously.” Another change is the morphing GSD demographics. Social-economic demo-

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Former GSD Superintendent Martin Bates retired June 30 after 26 years of service—11 of them as superintendent. (Courtesy of Granite School District)

graphics continue to shift, and Bates says that the district and teachers had to move their teaching. “We don’t have any teachers that are teaching the same way they were teaching 10 years ago because they’ve got different students and different families in different neighborhoods,” Bates said. Ben Horsley, GSD communications director, added, “I think there’s this notion that school buildings and classrooms still look like it did when somebody graduated 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. I think most people wouldn’t recognize what instruction looks like or what that classroom looks like.” Bates mentioned the importance of adopting best practices. He noted that there is so much more knowledge about teaching and learning than a decade ago. “Especially in our secondary schools, classes and classrooms and schedules don’t look like they did before. We’ve got this technical center next door where students are working with cadavers,” Bates said. “We’ve got second and third graders that are multiplying and dividing fractions. They used to not do that until sixth grade. So, the teachers had to step up because that’s where our society or community needs schools to do.” Another change is the increasing amount of public interaction. Bates observed that he had been more engaged with the public than his predecessors. For example, he started to hold town hall meetings throughout the dis-

trict. He also created 400 to 500 “snapshots,” short videos where Bates answered a question. Bates said they ranged from “It is OK to eat our desk?” to “What are we doing with Special Ed challenges?” Another change is the demands on schools. Bates mentioned how the Armstrong Academy has these really tall tables for kids to sit around. The tables force students to lean into each other. “Just by the way it’s set up, they do group work. So, we’re able to do group work and research and productivity in real-world kinds of ways. Because the real workforce works in groups, they work in teams,” Bates said. “We are building schools so they can do much more real-world practice and use real-world tools, elementary through high school. So, from the very architecture of the building to teaching methodology, we’re changing.”


Bates was hesitant to list his administration accomplishments, but he did share some thoughts. “I think what we’ve done transitioning from a textbook lecture style to an interactive student production style. We’ve jumped miles in that direction,” Bates said. He mentioned they were always creative and aggressive in hiring and retention. They always were fully staffed on the first day of every school year. They focused on employees and their families. One of these

creative initiatives is the creation of the GSD Wellness Center. The center is an instacare for GSD employee and their families and is entirely free. GSD is the only school district to have such an employee benefit. “I think we do, community engagement, better than we’ve ever done. Because kids go to school, but they’re also part of a larger community,” Bates said. “We get to work with their families and businesses and communities and siblings and parents.” GSD operates 30+ Family Engagement Centers at elementary, junior high, and high schools. Besides help for parents to interact with the district, many of these centers have food pantries. In addition, Bates served on the Utah Refugee Connection board, which is closely affiliated with the district, and on the Department of Workforce Services for refugee board. “My mother was a refugee, so I’m a first-generation American. English is my second language. And so, I look at those kids, and I see me. I see myself,” Bates said. “The difference. It’s all in education. Education is what it’s all about. And that’s the future for everybody. So, the education this little gal, this little guy gets while they’re sitting in one of my schools is going to affect them and their children and their children’s children.” Horsley added that respect of his peers is another accomplishment. “If you talk to any of his peers at the Superintendent’s Association, they will point out that Granite is always considered one of the more innovative and progressive organizations and looking to enhance student learning,” Horsley said. “He knows each and every mayor in Granite School District, by name and they know him, and they know they can call him. If they have questions or concerns, and so he has preeminent credibility and stature.”


To the students of GSD, Bates’ farewell message is: “We’ve done our best to give every one of them a teacher who cares about them and is going to give them what they need to be able to take the next step forward on their way to successful college career and lifetime experiences.”


To the employees of GSD, Bates said, “There is no greater profession. There’s no more honorable profession than education. When I say education, I’m talking about the classroom teacher and the principals who oversee and direct. But, still, none of us could do our work if it weren’t for custodians, for grounds, for glazers, for painters and HVAC technicians. Students couldn’t go to school if it were the same temperature inside as it is outside in January or in June.” l

August 2021 | Page 7

Essential school bus drivers, nutrition, custodian staff needed for upcoming school year By Julie Slama | j.slama@mycityjournals.com


s the school year approaches, many students and their families may be wondering who will open the door and greet them at the start of the school year as they board a big yellow school bus. Some area school districts also may be wondering as websites and signs across the Salt Lake Valley are posted, advertising bus driver positions. As of July 1, in Canyons School District, there were 40 positions open for bus drivers or 18% of its staff who transport about 20,000 students. In addition, 35 of the 55 attendant positions were available. Canyons School District Transportation Director Jeremy Wardle has worked in the industry the past 14 years, working his way up from driving while putting himself through college. “There’s always turnover,” he said. “I think the difference this year is COVID and the fallout from that.” Wardle said that a large number of the district’s drivers are on a second career, but with the extra protections during COVID-19 pandemic and drivers’ possibly health issues, there just were not enough drivers returning. Plus, he said the area has changed, which means more drivers are needed to transport schoolchildren. “Twenty years ago, Draper was more farmland than it was houses and now it’s the complete opposite; we’ve seen a huge population boost not only in our district, but in other districts. We’re becoming more of an urban setting. It seems to be the same way in all districts across the country,” he said. Jordan School District also has a need for drivers. “We always are short bus drivers; Every school district in Salt Lake County, or probably in the state, there’s high turnover,” said spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf. “And we’re a growing school district, so we always have more routes.” To attract more drivers, Canyons has boosted their salaries to $21.19 per hour for starting pay. Attendant pay is $14 per hour. Wardle said there are part-time and full-time positions available for the 180-day school year and full-time contracts come with benefits. Murray School District spokesman Doug Perry said Murray’s district also may be down a few drivers at any given time, along with the same numbers of nutrition services staff and custodians; the district also increased pay for those positions. “We only have about a dozen or so regular bus drivers and about four dozen lunch workers and a couple dozen custodians in total so our shortages might be two-three positions at any given time out of those three

Page 8 | August 2021

A friendly wave and smile is what students and parents expect this fall from their bus drivers, but some school districts are still hiring people to fill the vacant positions. (Photo courtesy of Canyons School District)

groups, which is pretty manageable,” he said. Pay in Murray District for bus drivers is $22 to $25 per hour; nutrition service, $13 to $18 per hour; and custodians are $11 to $15 per hour. Granite School District also continues to see “traditional vacancy challenges” in transportation and custodial departments as well as classroom and school aides, said spokesman Ben Horsley. “Part-time para-professionals continue to be difficult to find in this economy,” he said. “One strange challenge is the amount of open school psychologist positions we still have at this point in the year.” Starting salaries are about $21 per hour for bus drivers; $18 for custodians and $11 for hourly para-professionals. In Canyons, commercial driver licenses are required before bus drivers take the wheel, however, there is free in-house training and testing, Wardle said. Drivers also are expected to perform a pre-trip “look over” that ranges from brake check to light cleaning. Eight mechanics on staff are responsible for repairs. Additionally, there are trainings for the position from first aid and CPR to student management and emergency evacuation.

Attendants also have additional training for working with students with special needs and learn how to load a wheelchair and strap it securely, he said. Flexibility and schedules being similar to schools attract many personnel to the position. Wardle, when he was a driver, was able to study in between routes and said the position is attractive to parents, who start and end their day at about the same time of their kids and have the same school vacation schedule. “The kids are the highlights from drivers. They get to know them. They’ve seen them from kindergarten through high school. Some of them work well into their early 80s because they love the kids,” he said. While Riesgraf said Jordan School District has a “moderate” need for nutrition services staff, Canyons District is looking to hire 34 kitchen staff and 23 cashiers in schools for the upcoming school year, said Sebasthian Varas, nutrition services director. Starting wages increased for those positions in Canyons with starting pay at $15.50 per hour for kitchen staff who typically prep and cook meals and deep clean the kitchen afterward; and $12.16 per hour for cashiers, who are responsible for ensuring student meals meet with the USDA guidelines for re-

imbursement of the meal. There are advancement possibilities, he added. Canyons positions include training in equipment, first aid and district policies; each employee is responsible for having a food handler’s permit. Ideal candidates should be able to follow directions, work as a team, be able to meet some of the physical demands of the job and have a high school diploma or are working to earn a GED or equivalent, Varas said. He said that it’s an ideal position people who want day-time positions and especially, for parents. “If your kids are at the school, you work the time when they’re at school and you’re at home when they’re home. You don’t work any weekends or holidays and we provide you with a lunch and you’re making some extra money,” he said. “It’s a fun job. You get to interact with the students, which I think is fantastic. This is a great opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life. I think one thing that we’ve learned from the pandemic is how essential the nutrition services workers are. So, if they truly want to make a difference in someone’s life, come and work with us. It’s hard work, but it’s a very rewarding position, knowing that we’re feeding students.” l

West Valley City Journal

West Valley City’s public works director of 33 years calls it a career By Darrell Kirby | d.kirby@mycityjournals.com


t’s rare to find someone who has worked for the same employer since Ronald Reagan was in his first term as president. But after 38 years, Russell Willardson is retiring from West Valley City. The 65-year-old leaves as the city’s public works director for the last 33 years, but has held several positions in the department since joining it a mere three years after West Valley became an incorporated city. “It seems like the right time to go. We have a good team that’s ready to step in and take over,” Willardson said. He started as a 20-something design engineer, then was a city engineer until 1988 when he was appointed public works director after the death of his predecessor. The public works department oversees streets, storm drains, engineering of public and private infrastructure, city buildings and vehicles, and sanitation. Water and sewer service, often the main functions of public works operations in other cities, are handled by independent districts in West Valley City. Willardson has seen a lot change over the years as West Valley City has matured. “What we do in public works is a lot of construction and there’s certainly been a lot of that over the years,” he said.

Technology has become an integral part of public works operations during that time. “We didn’t have computers sitting on our desks when I started working,” Willardson recalled. “I remember the secretaries sitting at a typewriter typing construction specifications with carbon paper.” Today, Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, and other digital programs enable public works staff to look at information about the city’s infrastructure on a computer screen. Street maintenance has improved with better methods and materials. Traffic signals have gone from being controlled by timers for signal cycles to now using pavement sensors and radar to guide when and how often the lights change based on traffic flow. If you think 38 years is a long time with the city, “there are a few others who have been here longer than I have,” Willardson said. To put the sheer length of Willardson’s tenure with West Valley City in perspective, just weeks before he was hired, flood waters from record snowmelt were channeled into a makeshift river down State Street in neighboring Salt Lake City. Scott Matheson was governor of Utah. There have been six governors since then, some serving multiple terms. There have been seven U.S. presidents since Willardson joined the city. Utah had just half of today’s

The West Valley City Public Works Department houses several city services including street maintenance, sanitation and engineering. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

population of 3.2 million. Likewise, West Valley’s resident count has nearly doubled from the 72,000 nearly four decades ago when the fledgling city was trying to gain its footing. His retirement plans? “Take time to pursue hobbies and spend more time with my grandchildren,” Willardson said. “I don’t have any major plans to do anything. I’m not going

to go travel the world or anything like that.” The city council in July approved the promotion of deputy public works director Dan Johnson to replace Willardson. Public records show that Willardson earned a base salary of $179,000 as of last year. l

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August 2021 | Page 9

During pandemic: traditional schools may resume ‘normal’ look, online learning options will continue By Julie Slama | j.slama@mycityjournals.com


s area students head back to school, it tion and our cabinet, they came up with the may look more like a “normal” school reopening plan when we reopened,” Riesgraf year. said on July 1, adding if it comes to re-adUnderstanding that health and safety dressing the current health situation, “we will COVID-19 protocols and guidelines may yet decide what works best in Jordan.” change, “as of right now, things will be closA benefit from virtual learning during er to normal than not,” said Murray School COVID-19 in Jordan School District was ofDistrict spokesman Doug Perry on June 30. fering flexible Fridays, where teachers were “We follow state and local health depart- able to individually meet with students or ment guidelines and mandates as they are the small groups, in person or virtually, to offer health experts. As of right now, schools will additional instruction, enhanced learning or be open, no masks will be required,” he said review. This year, as a result of parent surin late June. veys indicating its benefits, Jordan will conMurray School District, like its neigh- tinue to offer the flexible Friday learning four boring districts—Canyons, Granite and Jor- times: Sept. 10, Nov. 19, Feb. 11, 2022, and dan districts, will offer in-person and online April 29, 2022. learning. Another positive outcome, Riesgraf “We will have two learning options, one said, was the establishment of offering online in-person and one online for those who don’t learning in their own virtual schools—Rocky feel comfortable or are at risk,” he said. “Our Peak Elementary, Kelsey Peak Middle and bell schedule will revert back to what it was King Peak High. before the pandemic, so that includes a short “Every student in the district has the day on Wednesdays. We have not heard of option to sign up and attend at one of those any recommendations regarding distancing schools if they want to do online learning this and are presuming there will be no distancing year,” she said. “The elementary and the midguideline but that’s not fully determined.” dle school will offer in-person learning one Perry said that some sanitation protocols day a week so they will have the option one were good and may well continue, such as day to come in and have in-person learning.” frequent handwashing and surface cleaning. She said that is unique and will give stuWhile it’s not certain what schools will dents an opportunity, if they choose, to have look like when they start in mid-August, Perry more hands-on learning and be able to work said, “Our decisions impacted by COVID-19 in small groups or partners to build commuare influenced heavily by expert recommen- nity. dations from the health department; the State “I don’t know anybody else in the state Board of Education would be another import- is offering that and nobody else in the state ant partner, along with our colleagues in the is offering K through 12 (online education),” other four Salt Lake County school districts she said, adding that students still are able and those in neighboring counties.” to participate in extracurricular activities at Granite School District spokesman Ben their boundary school. Horsley said that with their protocols in Canyons School District also will offer place, such as Test to Stay and Play, “we do in-person learning and online options. not anticipate any additional COVID restricLast spring, Canyons students and facultions or mask requirements for this fall at this ty and staff had the option to wear face covtime.” erings its final week of school in the 2020-21 However, he pointed out that COVID-19 school year and like other districts, it will has proven to be “a dynamic event that re- abide by health and safety guidelines and quires a lot of flexibility and adjustments. We continue to monitor the situation, according are preparing for every potential scenario.” to district spokeswoman Kirsten Stewart in As of July 6, Granite District will offer late June. in-person “in the same fashion as it was preAlta View Elementary Principal Scott COVID,” five days per week. Families who Jameson said through use of technology, still have concerns will have a distance learn- some positive aspects have come out of ing option at all grade levels. COVID-19. Jordan School District spokeswoman “With virtual learning, we likely won’t Sandra Riesgraf said that “we are going to be have snow days where we have to make up in the classrooms and right now, the plan is to the learning day during the holiday breaks,” have classrooms back to normal.” he said. “Our teachers have learned to use However, she added that could change technology and use it effectively. Kids do depending on the pandemic and guidelines well with it in general so I can see using that they receive from the county and state. experience and integrate more technology “Our Board of Education has a very into the classroom or if we need to switch much hands-on (approach). They looked at to teach online or hybrid again. Even elethese situations and our school administra- mentary schools are using Canvas (learning

Page 10 | August 2021

Will mask reminder signs for students be a sign of the past this fall in schools? (Julie Slama/City Journals)

platform) in their classrooms, so if a student is absent, they can log in to see what assignment they’re missing and if able to, be able to do it.” Jameson also said that all the “good hygiene” of hand-washing and hand-sanitizers will be encouraged in his school. In the spring, the district did establish a new online opportunity, updating its virtual high school offering. Canyons Board of Education approved the launch of Canyons Online, a technology-driven educational initiative for grades three through 12 that will begin this fall. “This past year has taught us how important in-person instruction is because of relationships and connections students make with teachers and their schools,” Canyons School District Superintendent Rick Robins said on March 31. “What it also has taught us is how we can deliver education virtually. Some of our students have flourished online, while others have missed those relationships in our schools. We realize we can offer our students the flexibility of online learning

while blending it with those connections.” That ability to make and maintain connections with their neighborhood schools is what makes Canyons Online unique among other online-learning programs, he said. Canyons Online elementary-age students will be able to participate in beforeand after-school music programs, science fair and debate. Middle-schoolers enrolled in Canyons Online can take electives at the local school, plus compete in science fairs and debate. Canyons Online high school students will be allowed to dual enroll so they can have full access to high school programs. “We’re re-establishing relationships with kids who have stayed online with their neighborhood schools to build that instruction and connection into Canyons Online,” Robins said. “The blended online format will have the academic component, whether it’s support and remediation or acceleration, plus the connection to their neighborhood school. This is really at the heart of what personalized learning can be.” l

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Lessons learned during pandemic ‘changed education forever’ in Granite School District Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimmillion people are living er’s 6.2 or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brainwith disease that causes 6.2 million people are living with a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are Alzheimer’s diseaseEvery in the United 10 warning signs and symptoms. individual may experience Alzheimer’s disease in the United one States. or more ofOver these signs in a different degree. If you notice any 34,000 people in Utah of them in yourself or a34,000 loved one,people please see in a doctor. States. Over Utah

alone. This disease kills more people

10 SIGNS OF This disease kills more people alone. each year than breast cancer and ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

eachloss year 1. Memory that than disruptsbreast cancer and prostate cancer combined, and is the daily life prostate cancer combined, and is the 2. Challenges in planning or 4th leading cause of death in Utah. problem solving 4th leading cause of death in Utah. 3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, More than 104,000 people in Utah More than 104,000 people in Utah work or at leisure 6.2for millionsomeone people are living with Alzheimer’s provide living 4. Confusion withunpaid time or care disease in the United States. Over provide unpaid carepeople for insomeone living34,000 place Utah alone. This disease kills withunderstanding Alzheimer’s disease. The impact is 5. Trouble more people each year than breast cancer with Alzheimer’s disease. The impact is visual images and special and prostate cancer combined, and is the widespread and can be devastating to 4th leading cause of death in Utah. relationships widespread and can be devastating to 6. New problems with words families. More than 104,000 people in Utah proin speaking or writing families. vide unpaid care for someone living with 7. Misplacing things and Alzheimer’s disease. The impact is widelosing ability to Forthemore information, aboutto families. spreadto and learn can be devastating For more information, to learn about retrace steps Together we can work to findor a cure support groups or other resources, 8. Decreased or poor and ultimately have our first survivor! support groups or other resources, or judgment Join the fight and lend your to to get from helpwork immediately contact thevoice 9. Withdrawal or this critical cause by attending the to get help immediately contact the social activities Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall. There Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 are eight Walks throughout the state 10. Changes in mood Association’s Alzheimer’s free 24/7 of Utah: and personality Helpline at:

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800-272-3900 800-272-3900 or visit our website at: or visit our website at: www.alz.org/utah www.alz.org/utah For more information or to get help immediately contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s Togetherfree we24/7 can work Together we can work Helpline at:

to find a cure to find a cure and ultimately have our first survivor! 800-272-3900 and ultimately haveRegister our first survivor! at: orJoin visit our thewebsite fight at: and lend yourtoday voice to www.alz.org/Walk Join the fight and lend your voice to www.alz.org/utah this critical cause by attending the this critical cause by attending the Page 12 | August 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall. There Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall. There are eight Walks throughout the state

By Heather Lawrence | h.lawrence@mycityjournals.com


hether or not you’re superstitious, there’s no question that Friday, March 13 was a big day. That’s the day the governor announced a “soft two-week closure” of schools. When that closure stretched on for months, we all found out that what goes on in schools impacts our society and economy. Granite School District is the third largest district in Utah, and their website reports they serve roughly 67,000 students and employ 7,500 people. Ben Horsley, communications director, said that because of Covid-19, “Education changed forever, for better or worse, and the impacts will be seen for decades.” Horsley said GSD has always had a distance learning option, but in 2020 it was kicked into high gear. That gave them a crash course in what works and what doesn’t. “At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, we had about one third of our students doing distance learning. By the end of the year, it was about 18%. We anticipate that 3-5% will still be utilizing distance learning this coming school year,” Horsley said. They started with a dual modality approach, where teachers were required to do in-person and online instruction. That stretched many teachers beyond their limits, forcing them to work unsustainably long days. Millions of dollars in rescue funding was recently approved by the federal government for Utah schools. With Granite’s portion of the funding, they will hire dedicated teachers for online instruction. It will be available for all students K-12. Horsley said that kindergarten enrollment for fall 2020 was the lowest it had been in decades, which he thinks was a direct response to the pandemic. “We learned that families’ needs vary widely. We do our best to offer flexible ways to meet those needs. We are concerned about transiency, child care and internet availability. We’re keeping the distance learning option for those families who need it,” Horsley said. The pandemic pushed Granite to rethink how they interact with parents. Parent teacher conferences went virtual this past year, which offered a lot of flexibility. “I think in the future you’re going to see ways where we can reach more parents using a distance option, like we did with parent teacher conference. “This will advance engagement with parents. I think schools will utilize online and Zoom resources. We’re looking at updating our systems to allow parents to connect with the teachers not just with Canvas, but in a variety of different ways,” Horsley said. These options also help students who are

Ben Horsley of GSD is pictured at a board meeting wearing a mask. Horsley said that the past year has “changed education forever.” (Granite School District)

distance learning due to a long-term illness or home hospital situation. They can connect with a dedicated online teacher, and they’ll be able to hear and watch a lesson online live as opposed to a recorded one. “We feel strongly that despite our best efforts, in-person instruction will always have a higher success rate for the majority of our students. But we will offer a distance ‘self-paced’ option. We’re expanding those offerings, and students can take as many classes as they want to and go as fast as they want to. This is good for the self-motivated student,” Horsley said. So what if the pandemic had never happened and the district hadn’t been forced to grapple with all of these issues? “We were always looking at expanding our offerings, but this forced us to bring it all up to date as soon as possible. The silver lining to the pandemic was us being able to increase the options and individualization for students. “Our teachers also became much more versed and fluent in how to use the different online platforms,” Horsley said. Granite will also use portions of their federal funding to create summer programs and address the mental and emotional issues brought on by the pandemic. “Education changed forever. That’s not just in terms of learning loss and trying to fill that gap, but also the emotional and mental health challenges as a result of isolation and lack of socialization. We have 40 million dollars in Covid aid that we’ll use to provide a variety of interventions for our students,” Horsley said. l

West Valley City Journal

Granite foundation hopes to provide 15K backpacks by start of school By Hannah LaFond | h.lafond@mycityjournals.com

Never-Ending Network Evolution, Are All Broadband Providers Up for the Challenge? By Bryan Thomas, VP Engineering, Comcast Mountain West Region

Working and learning remotely for the past 15 months brought unique circumstances for all of us to navigate in several areas, and central to it all is having access to a reliable, secure internet connection. The pandemic posed the biggest technological test in the history of the internet. When offices and schools closed in March 2020, internet traffic across the U.S. surged by 20 – 35 percent, as millions of people transitioned to working, learning and consuming all of their entertainment at home. Now our communities are transitioning back to working from offices or making hybrid work arrangements, and schools are planning to reopen their doors beginning in August. A flexible, continuously evolving network staying ahead of customer demand is critical. The success of a network hinges on three factors: decades of strategic investment, continuous network innovation, and the best team in the business. Investment In the last three years alone, Comcast invested $389.6 million in technology and infrastructure in Utah, including upgrades to our network. Since 2017, Comcast devoted more than $15 billion nationwide to strengthening and expanding our network – including building more than 33,000 new route miles of fiber, which is like driving from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine more than 10 times. Every two and a half years, the company has added as much capacity to the network as it has in all the previous years combined. One of the greatest advantages of our massive network is we already pass 60 million homes and businesses with a powerful, fiber-dense network, and we have the ability to quickly, surgically, and efficiently add additional fiber and capacity when and where it’s needed. Because of our continuous investment in our network, we can often complete targeted upgrades in weeks rather than months and years. We have a proven track record of completing network upgrades and improvements ahead of schedule, and delivering the performance our customers need well before they need it.

Granite School District student walking down the hall with backpack (Provided by the Granite Education Foundation)



Continuous innovation throughout every part of a network is key. Comcast is a leader in the 10G initiative, which leverages new standards and technology to dramatically increase internet speeds. The technology lays the groundwork for network operators, like us, to deliver multigigabit download and upload speeds over connections already installed in hundreds of millions of homes worldwide. Meaning, we can deliver multigigabit speeds to homes without the need for massive digging and construction projects. With this technology, Comcast can continue to deliver ultra-fast service today, while simultaneously building capacity for future needs.mAnd with decades of experience, Comcast is advancing network virtualization and data access to cloud-based technologies for greater performance, increased reliability and easier upgrades. Simply put, we’re able to meet the needs of tomorrow – today, and continually improve the customer experience by delivering faster speeds, greater capacity, and more dynamic connected experiences.

ach year, the Granite Education Foundation holds a school supply drive to give students in the Granite District new backpacks and all the supplemental supplies they will need for their classes. This year, members set their goals higher than ever before and hope to complete 15,000 backpacks filled with school supplies by the beginning of school. Justin Anderson, chief marketing officer at Granite Education Foundation, explained they are raising the bar because of the need in the community. Each year social workers from schools in the district reach out to the foundation with students they know will struggle to afford school supplies, and this year the number of students was more significant than ever. Anderson told the City Journals that approximately 54% of students in the district live at or below the poverty level, and around 41,000 students rely on free or reduced lunches. The seemingly lofty goal of 15,000 backpacks is in response to that growing need. “Especially the year after COVID, the need is greater than ever before,” Anderson said. “But I think word is also getting out about the services that the foundation provides, and so we have more and more schools and social workers that want to step up and take advantage of what we can help offer.” Despite the high standard, the foundation is well on its way to reaching its target. Anderson said they have several organiza-

Wvc Journal .com

tions committed to donating and individuals and church groups who have pitched in to help. Anyone who wants to pitch in can donate online at granitekids.org. The website also has a list of school supplies that they’re looking for, so donors can give physical supplies instead of monetary donations. They’re hoping to complete all the backpacks by Aug. 16, the first day of classes. Although, they do accept donations for the drive year-round. As Anderson said, “If someone wants to bring us a backpack in January, I will happily accept it.” With such a significant need in the community, the foundation’s work goes far beyond the school supply drive. They work on other projects throughout the year, including food pantries. The food pantry provides snack kits for children after school and full meal kits for families. Those in need can pick up the kits for weekends or school breaks to ensure that no students go hungry when they’re not at school. “Really our main goal is to allow these kids to come to school healthy, fed and ready to learn. So, we do food; we do clothing. We do a Santa sack program and holiday assistance for children and families who might not have Christmas or the other winter holidays otherwise,” Anderson said. “We work really hard to provide an equitable experience for all the kids.” l

Team Support In addition to investing billions in building and evolving our network, Comcast engineers, artificial intelligence scientists, and cybersecurity experts across the country are continuously developing and deploying new technologies to protect our customers and ensure our network can meet emerging threats and challenges. We have a team of cybersecurity experts scanning the network for threats and actively defending our network and our communities. Our teams are made up of elite talent working at every level of the network from software and artificial intelligence at the core, to the best field teams laying new fiber and upgrading the network year-round in all conditions. New network entrants who don’t have a plan or resources to support never-ending network evolution, cybersecurity protection, and hardening may put customers who rely on them at unnecessary risk. As the country shifts yet again, home and business internet connections remain essential for video calls, education, healthcare access, workforce development, streaming entertainment, and more. At Comcast, we remain relentlessly focused on connectivity, to deliver the smartest, fastest, most reliable network to the communities we serve – keeping you connected to more of who and what you love.

August 2021 | Page 13

Skate park is still the place to hang By Greg James | g.james@mycityjournals.com


early five years ago the city opened its first skate park and it has become a gathering place for skaters, families and spectators of the sport. “I am here every day,” Hunter High sophomore Havik Walsh said. “It is a great place to hang out with my friends. I really think this is the best free skate park around.” Walsh and several of his friends took turns jumping and twisting out of the large center bowl at the city skate night community jam with music, water and cookies. He completed a trick on his scooter called a nothing front scooter flip. In the trick the rider takes his feet off the scooter and rotates it in the air attempting to land on the other side of the obstacle. “I think this place has great ledges and rails. I like the obstacles that I can jump,” Walsh said. The skate park has become a play destination for youth from all over the valley. Each athlete performs his or her version of a whip, tail grab or 360 before landing and skating away perfecting the trade of boarding. “I think it is good for the community,” Jim Vesock said while watching several skaters maneuver around the park. “I am glad the city encouraged the building of this

The skate park is home to skateboards, scooters and bicycles. (Greg James/City Journals)

facility. It has become a center point of the community.” Frequent visitors to the park include


enthusiasts who bring tools and replacement parts to help the younger and inexperienced athletes repair their equipment.

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“I go to East High, and I love this place,” said 16-year-old Brandon Rosen. The park opened in October 2016 and cost the city approximately $1.2 million. The park contains several features designed for experienced skaters and also structures for intermediate and beginners. The park allows skateboards, inline skates, scooters and bicycles. It contains five fun boxes (swimming pool type holes). The boxes have rails for grinding the ramps to provide speed and obstacles, tricks and jumps. The city administration reports the facility only needs light maintenance. A park official stops by weekly to collect the garbage cans and check the facility. Terrain in streets and shopping centers have long been enticing for young skaters. Centralizing these items into one park makes a safe place for these athletes to practice without outside danger. Even without performing elaborate tricks; pushing the board around and maintaining your balance can elevate your cardiovascular system. According to mensfitness. com, eight-12 calories per minute can be burned in its participation. “I think everyone should try it out,” Walsh said. l

Photo: Don Polo Photography

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West Valley City Journal

Former Lancer headed to the NFL By Greg James | g.james@mycityjournals.com


former football player at Granger High School will be playing in the NFL on Sundays. Khyiris Tonga was selected in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. “This season we (his BYU defensive teammates) were more confident in ourselves,” Tonga said. “We have a lot of great players. I am still the same guy on the front. I still had to do my homework like everyone else. I am just going to continue to work hard.” The four-year starter at BYU was recruited heavily by its head coach, Kalani Sitake, but not for the team from Provo. Tonga wanted to play for the University of Utah where Sitake coached the defense. While on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints in Wichita, Kansas, Tonga heard that Sitake had taken the head coaching job at BYU. “Kalani gave me my first college scholarship offer when I was 15 years old,” Tonga said. Although it did not end up as they had planned, Tonga and Sitake remained close and shared a unique bond on and off the field. Tonga graduated from Granger in 2015.

During his time as a Lancer the team only won 10 games and he endured three head coaches. He did not play his senior season, but still attended each game and practice. “I would do anything for the city,” Tonga said. He and his little league football teammates were asked to play for the more successful high school teams in the city, but he and his family decided to stay at Granger and make a difference for the team and the community. As a Lancer he played tight end. He could have entered the 2020 NFL draft but decided to return for his senior season at BYU. He had 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss last season. He was the first Cougar defensive tackle drafted by an NFL team since 1999. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 321 pounds, Tonga had moments of complete dominance at BYU. His game in 2019 against USC, the Trojans had no answer for him along the defensive line. “They were a good team and the quarterback is a good player,” Tonga said humbly after the game. NFL summer camps opened at the end Khyiris Tonga had a formidable career at BYU after graduating from Granger. He was a four-year starter and of July, and Tonga hopes to earn a spot on became the seventh round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. (Photo courtesy of BYU athletics) the team. l


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West Valley schools set to start football season By Greg James | g.james@mycityjournals.com


ootball season is approaching quickly and Hunter, Granger and Cyprus high schools are getting ready to defend their home turf. The Lancers started last season with two convincing wins over Syracuse (28-24) and Clearfield (40-21). The season fizzled after a COVID-19 school and team outbreak. They were forced to forfeit against Kearns and could never rebound. Junior Dionnzy Fue completed 60 passes and over 580 yards. He also ran for three touchdowns. Only two seasons ago they threw the ball twice per game. The players have made marked improvement in a style of play they had no experience with. “Our program is night and day different from where we were,” Lancer head coach Pala Vaitu’u said after last season. The Lancers scored 14.9 points per game while only allowing 21. They finished the season 3-7 and lost to Bingham in the first round of the state tournament 33-3. Hunter football has made the state playoffs in every year the school has been open except its first. The UHSAA has now made every team a postseason participant, but it shows the history of the program. The Wolverines finished last season with a 4-6 record. They lost in the first round of the

playoffs to Westlake 35-23. They trailed the entire game, but made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. Last season nine players carried the ball more than five times. Koni Tahi amassed 289 yards and had 2 touchdowns. The Wolverines will need to replace graduated quarterback Josh Harding. He threw for over 1,700 yards and had 13 touchdowns. Hunter defeated both of its West Valley rivals last season: Granger 28-8 and Cyprus 417. They took home the imaginary trophy in the “Battle of the Vill” as the teams have begun to call it. Cyprus was one of the first schools to have a game postponed because of COVID-19. Their second game of the season last year against Ridgeline was canceled because two Pirates tested positive for the virus. “The coach and administration did everything right,” Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said after the cancellation. The team had six players opt-out of participating last year, but head coach Tyler Garcia said the team continued to work hard despite the setback. Cyprus finished the season 2-7. They defeated Taylorsville (32-30) and Granger (10-0). Sophomore Skyler Armenta stepped in at

Roundtable Talk with Representative Weight IM PORTANT: THIS YEAR’S EL EC TIONS That’s right – elections this year. Although we won’t see prominent headlines or perpetual media chat about candidates, our 2021 votes are even more valuable in these local elections. That’s because we will be voting for our neighbors running for city leadership. Those are the leaders we can join at regular meetings about neighborhood conditions, local taxes, the city budget, and city department ideas. One confusion comes from the Ranked Choice Voting method being used in many cities – not in West Valley City. Our city council voted to hold traditional primary elections in August and then the general election in November. With Ranked Choice Voting, ballots will go out only for November, and all candidates in each race will be ranked in order of preference. It will be interesting to compare reactions to the different voting methods. You can get lots of information about our West Valley City and other elections at www.


The line play at Hunter High School has always been a key to their powerful running game. (Greg James/ City Journals)

the end of the season at quarterback for the Pirates. He replaced Rush Monsen after he was ruled out of the season. Combined they threw for over 800 yards and 4 touchdowns. Defensive linebacker Julius Tikoisuva led the team with two interceptions. Since 1950 they have played Murray 53

times and Granger 50. They are currently 2227-1 against the Lancers and 4-14 against Hunter. The UHSAA has realigned its region this season, Region 2 will only look slightly different. West Jordan has been moved out and Roy has taken their place. l

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wvc-ut.gov/258/City-Election-Information or slco.org/clerk/elections. And now some key questions:  Are you registered to vote? • Once you do that, you will always get a ballot in the mail!  Will you vote? • Make a plan and do that. You can even register on election days if you vote at a polling place.  Do you know the candidates? • Take a few minutes to see their online information. Take a few more minutes to note questions and ask them. Candidates want to share ideas. I am part of a formal state civics education working group, established by the legislature earlier this year. The huge concern behind the legislation was lack of engagement and misunderstanding of voting, voting rights, and government systems. Our kids are ready to talk about civics and participation in our community. Let’s learn and talk about candidates and elections with them. Also, feel free to invite me! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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West Valley City Journal

GRANGER FOOTBALL SCHEDULE Aug. 13 American Fork Aug. 20 at Mountain Ridge Aug. 27 Davis Sept. 3 West Jordan Sept. 10 Hunter Sept. 17 at Taylorsville Sept. 24 Cyprus Oct. 1 Kearns Oct. 7 at Roy Oct. 13 at West

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Government 101: Form of government in cities


n Utah, there are two possible types of government: Council-Manager or Council-Mayor. There’s a possible third type of government, a Charter, but none of the cities in which City Journals publishes has one. Council-Mayor The mayor is elected every four years and represents the entire city. They are the head of the executive branch, like a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) in a private business. All department heads within the city report to them. When a new mayor takes a seat, they can hire or fire department heads, but council advice and consent is required. City council members are also elected every four years, though usually not at the same time. This prevents the city from having an entirely new council at once. Each council member represents a portion of the city (district), or the city as a whole (at-large). The council is the decision making body but does not have any power over city staff. The council makes decisions for the city: budget, property, code, planning and zoning, etc. The mayor may be invited to attend, speak and contribute. Council meetings, usually twice a month, are run by city council members. The mayor is responsible for carrying out the decisions made by the council. The mayor can veto if they disagree with any legislation passed by the council. The council elects its own chair who conducts the public meetings.

By Erin Dixon | e.dixon@mycityjournals.com

Council members do not have any administrative powers to direct staff. Council-Manager The mayor is elected and represents the entire city. They are part of the council. In this form of government, the council appoints a city manager to be the CEO. Department heads answer to the manager and the manager can hire or fire department heads, though hires are subject to council advice and consent. Council members are elected every four years, though usually not all at the same time. In some cities, the mayor votes with each decision. In others, the mayor only casts a vote if there is a tie. The mayor is chair and the face of the council. The manager attends council meetings, gives reports and advises council in decision making. Council meetings, usually twice a month, is run by the mayor. The city manager is responsible for carrying out the decisions made by the council. The mayor does not have veto power. Council members do not have any administrative powers to direct staff. Cottonwood Heights: Council-Manager, mayor always votes Draper: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker Herriman: Council-Manager, mayor always votes Holladay: Council-Manager, mayor always votes Midvale: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker Millcreek: Council-Manager, mayor always votes

Each city government operates differently, and elected officials have different responsibilities depending on the form. (infographic/Erin Dixon)

Murray: Council-Mayor Riverton: Council-Manager, mayor is tie breaker Sandy: Council-Mayor South Jordan: Council-Manager, mayor always votes South Salt Lake: Council-Mayor Sugar House: Council-Mayor, governed by SLC Taylorsville: Council-Mayor West Jordan: Council-Mayor West Valley: Council-Manager, mayor always votesl

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Page 18 | August 2021

West Valley City Journal

Take a midweek break at local food truck night By Darrell Kirby | d.kirby@mycityjournals.com The food trucks are back at Fairbourne Station near West Valley City Hall. Each Wednesday this summer from 6 p.m. to dusk, visitors can get dinner (or snacks) from a variety of food trucks along Lehman Avenue at Market Street. Dubbed “Hump Day Buffet,” the midweek gathering will also feature occasional concerts and other things to do for adults and kids. For a schedule, visit www.wvcparksandrec.com. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

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Alleviating (at least some of) the post-pandemic social awkwardness By Cassie Goff | c.goff@mycityjournals.com


020 was an extroverted social butterfly’s nightmare. As we developed proper Zoom-tiquette while in varying degrees of quarantine, many of us lost touch with our in-person social skills. Many of the friends and colleagues I have seen in-person recently shared a laugh with me over not knowing how to social anymore: yes, as a verb. And man, if you thought a room full of writers was socially awkward before the pandemic, imagine us now. I wanted to share some quick tips and tricks to improve social interactions this month. Before I do, I’d like to emphasize if trying to remember suggestions for social interaction detracts from engagement, forget it. The most important thing for any social interaction is to be completely engaged in the moment. Authenticity is what we seek in social interactions. Think about it. We instinctively know when they’re not. We notice when someone stops listening, even if they tune back in. We can sense when another is either too bored or too amped to be fully present. Even some of our commonplace language is indicative of our societal value of authenticity. “Fake” and “basic” are insults. “True to your heart; you must be true to your heart” are lyrics in a very catchy Disney song. (Daa

da-da da.) I digress. Take these suggestions only to store in the running background programs of your cognition. (I must add that these suggestions are highly Utah specific, socially and culturally. For 2021, the importance of facial expressions may be (re)discovered. We developed habits after realizing, even subconsciously, the majority of last year dragged on without others being able to fully perceive our faces. As the masks come off and the Zoom meetings become nostalgic, our faces are fully public again. Meaning, if you adapted to only smiling with your eyes, it’s time to retrain those smile muscles. Courtesy smiles are back. Speaking of faces, maintaining eye contact has become a new struggle for many. It’s natural for humans to look around when recalling a memory, formulating a lie, trying to find the right word, or simply taking in our environment. Instead of feeling pressured to maintain constant eye contact for the majority of a social interaction, try maintaining eye contact for only what feels comfortable and appropriate for the social interaction. (Someone once told me that if you’re uncomfortable with eye contact, stare at the person’s nose directly in between their eyes, as to gives the

same effect.) Most of our communication is nonverbal (60 to 95%, depending on who you ask). That means, pay attention to your body language, positioning, tone, and nonverbal cues. Maintain an open body language. (Is any part of your body slouched, crossed, or otherwise reserved?) Consider the positioning of your body in the specific environment. (Are you close to the door?) Feel the tone of your voice. (Are you speaking monotone?) Mind your gestures. (Are you speaking with your hands?) Lastly, show genuine interest in others. It’s likely we are interacting with humans who we want to spend time with, for differing reasons. Communicate valuing their time and relationship through both nonverbals and verbals. Ask questions that go beyond small talk, really listen to their answers, ask thoughtful follow-up questions about barely mentioned details or their own interpretations, make mental notes of any upcoming important events of dates, and allow for laughter. Okay, really lastly, be gracious with yourself. Any amount of social interaction after over a year of distancing and quarantining can feel draining. Our energy storage for socialing might deplete more rapidly. It’s okay to only want to go out one night per week,

July Deadline 1 – In 2020, a group of writers mingle over Zoom….will they remember how to social when distancing is no longer required? (Cassandra Goff/ City Journals)

when we used to go out multiple nights per week; and to feel like going out to dinner was equivalent to running a marathon; and to accept a more introverted lifestyle. It’s okay to feel a little socially awkward. Because we all do. Research from: Aragon, Bandura, Bargh, Burgoon, Darics, Duffy, Cherry, Clark, Dunbar, Ekman, Friedman, Guerrero, Guyer, Hendriksen. Houpert, Navarro, Nguyen, Pease, Perry, Rosenthal, Skinner, Thompson, and Willard. Dang. I’m not the only one who wrote about this phenomenom: “It’s not just you…” by Bonos; “We’re all socially awkward now,” by Murphy. l

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Page 20 | August 2021

West Valley City Journal

County softball is back By Greg James | g.james@mycityjournals.com

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The Utah Bullets won the 12-and-under division of the Firecracker tournament held in July. (Greg James/City Journals)


he Salt Lake County Sports office has hosted its first softball tournaments in nearly 15 months. “It is like the sun is shining again,” Salt Lake County Parks Program Manager Josh Olmstead said. “These players, families and fans are so excited to be back out here.” The Valley Complex and Larry H Miller Cottonwood softball complexes held the Firecracker girls accelerated tournament July 15–17. A total of 53 teams competed in five age groups. “This is a great revenue generator for the county,” Olmstead said. “It brings teams from many different states here to compete.” Teams from Montana, Washington, Idaho and California participated in the tournament. Winners in the five age groups were the Grantsville Shock, Utah Bullets, Utah Crush, Force and Bad to the Bone. These teams will play 50–75 games a year including these tournaments. Girls accelerated softball is played by over four million athletes across the country. Teams in Utah play in several leagues and tournaments almost every weekend. The USSSA is considered the largest sanctioning body in the United States. To compete at the national championship, a team must earn a spot in a qualifier tournament. A girls fastpitch team may compete in several tournaments to prepare for the opportunity to qualify. The county also hosted the USSSA softball state finals and will hold the Copper

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Classic in September. “Teams like to come here,” Olmstead said. “Our fields are nice to play on and the county has lots of opportunities for the teams to vacation.” The Larry H. Miller Cottonwood Complex has finished its recent renovation. The fans seating area is now covered with a system to keep cool. All the dugouts are covered and there is a picnic area at the top of the seating complex. “It is state-of-the-art now,” Olmstead said. “Everyone needs to go and check it out.” The Larry H. Miller charities donated $5 million to rebuild both the Cottonwood Complex and Valley Region Softball Complex in Taylorsville. The Cottonwood facility opened this season and construction at Valley will begin later this fall. “Larry was passionate about softball, and this complex will forever be a part of our family’s legacy,” Gail Miller said at the press conference announcing the donation in 2019. Salt Lake County also began its men’s, women’s and coed softball leagues this month. Its 15-month postponement has players itching to get back on the field. “I think it is even more popular,” Olmstead said. “People are ready to get out and play again. I came out to Taylorsville Days, and there were people everywhere, and I could feel this sigh of relief that it was time to get outside and be with our friends again.” l

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August 2021 | Page 21

Making sense of your property tax statement Did you get your property tax statement and feel overwhelmed trying to understand it? Every year we get calls from residents who need help making sense of their tax statement, so here is some info that might be useful. The county treasurer is responsible to collect taxes for over 70 different entities, not just Salt Lake County. That means that your city/township, school district, water districts, and other entities show up on your property tax statement. Once we get the money, we distribute it to the different taxing entities. The Salt Lake County assessor oversees the assessment of your property value. Once your value is assessed, then the tax rate is applied to that amount. If you think your assessed value is incorrect, you can appeal it between August 1 – September 15. Just go to slco.org/tax-administration/how-to-file-an-appeal/ to see instructions. One great thing about our state is that Truth-in-Taxation is required. That means you will be notified if a government entity is trying to raise your taxes. My property tax notice, for instance, showed an increase with my school district and two of the water districts. It also shows when the public hearing will


get one free!

Aimee Winder Newton Salt Lake County Council | District 3 be held so government officials can hear from you. Just because a tax rate stays the same, doesn’t mean your taxes won’t increase. After your property is assessed, the county adds in additional growth and

then divides all the property values by the proposed budget amount. That is how we get the tax rate. Government cannot collect more than what they did the previous year without a Truth-in-Taxation hearing. If property values and growth are going up, your tax rate would go down if there was no additional tax increase. When taxing entities tell you the rate hasn’t changed, that still could mean a tax increase from that entity. Don’t worry, though… it should be crystal clear on

your property tax statement if it’s an increase. If there is a public meeting, that entity is raising your taxes this year. If you find yourself falling on hard times and need some tax relief, you can apply to the Treasurer’s office for a few different programs designed to help. The programs are as follows: Circuit Breaker– 66 years old or surviving spouse with household income below $34,666. Indigent – 65 years old or disabled with household income plus adjusted assets below $34,666. Hardship – Extreme financial hardship at any age with adjusted household income plus assets that do not exceed $34,666. This limit is increased by $4,480 for each household member. There are also programs to help veterans. Visit slco.org/treasurer for details. Although paying property taxes is not pleasant for anyone, keep in mind the many services that our cities, counties, school districts, water districts, and even the mosquito abatement district provides. And don’t hesitate to get involved in these government entities. The more that people get involved, the more taxes stay in check.



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My grandson and I thought we’d practice hitting golf balls into lakes and shrubbery, so we went to a par 3 course to get our game on. It was sunny, the birds were singing, everything was right with the world, until the clueless 20-something young man at the counter asked if I was eligible for the senior discount. Cue record scratch. First, I’m NOT. Second, you NEVER ask a woman if she’s eligible for the senior discount. I’ll die at 107 without ever accepting a $3 dotage deduction off ANYTHING. Soon after my ego-destroying golf course incident, I visited my dad in the hospital when the nurse assumed I was his wife. First, eww. Second, I have to accept the fact that my “Best By Date” has come and gone. It’s not that I wander the streets carrying a tabby cat and a bag of knitting, but I find myself becoming less visible to anyone under 30. Trying to get help at a store is impossible because I must look like a pair of sandals walking around by themselves. No one wants to help a foot ghost. I receive barely disguised disdain at the make-up counter as the salesperson indifferently directs me to the anti-aging, skin-firming, wrinkle-removing face spackle, even if I want mascara. It’s a social


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August 2021 | Vol. 7 Iss. 08



OF WEST VALLEY CITY PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT By Darrell Kirby | d.kirby@mycityjournals.com


or the first time in 33 years, the West Valley City Public Works Department has a new director. Dan Johnson was approved by the city council in July to replace longtime director Russell Willardson, who retired after serving in the role since 1988. Johnson is no stranger to the department, having been a city engineer for 22 years and assistant director for the past six months to help make for a smooth transition from Willardson’s tenure. “I look forward to addressing the various challenges as they arrive throughout the coming days,” Johnson said after being sworn in to the position. “We’ve done a lot of good things over the years, but we intend to continue to improve the way that we do business and the way that we maintain our infrastructure,” Johnson later told the West Valley City Journal. “I just look forward to finding ways to be more efficient and do better.” Before his appointment to lead the department, Johnson was the city engineer since 2007. His previous positions with public works were doing construction inspections on various projects, designing roadways and reviewing plans. He earned an engineering degree from the University of Utah. Public Works in West Valley City has four divisions: engineering, sanitation, stormwater and streets. “I love public works and love building and fixing Dan Johnson, right, chats with Mayor Ron Bigelow shortly after the city council approved his appointment as West Valley City’s new public works director. things, so it’s a perfect role for me,” Johnson said. l (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

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