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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan: 2017 year in review

Jan 01, 2018 04:44AM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Firefighters from across the state raced to California to help battle the state’s wildfires. (Photo/Brad Kurtz,Twin Peak T2IA Crew Member, Utah)

This past year brought many new things for South Jordan. A lot of good has happened, and there were many notable changes designed to continue making South Jordan a great place to live. 

The election of a new judge 

The year started off with the appointing of a new judge, Michael Peter Boehm, who replaced Judge Clinton Balmforth who resigned in January. 

Boehm received a degree in business management from Brigham Young University. He returned to law school after a short stint in the corporate world. Boehm received his Juris Doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, before joining the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor where he handled a broad range of matters, including several high-profile cases over the eight years prior to becoming the South Jordan judge. 

Boehm, his wife and three kids are residents of South Jordan. When Boehm was elected, he told City Journals that he loves working with law enforcement. 

“I care about what I do and even care about the people I prosecute,” said Boehm. “I’m where I’m at because I work hard and I care about what I do. Without the love that I have from my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” 

Boehm said he is involved in public service, which he finds important and rewarding and that there is nothing in his background that would bring dishonor to the court or to the council. 

“I’m here for my family,” he said. “I try to make the best decisions I can make. There is nothing that I couldn’t share with you about my life that would dishonor this court.” 

Additional changes of city staff 

The next change of staff occurred when South Jordan hired Dustin Lewis as the city’s assistant city manager. Lewis was selected out of more than 64 candidates to replace Chief of Staff Paul Cunningham, who retired at the end of February. 

South Jordan City Manager Gary Whatcott said he was confident Lewis would rise to the challenge of his new position. 

“Dustin has been an engaged leader in our organization,” Whatcott said. “His ongoing contributions will help to keep South Jordan a leader in municipal governance.” 

Lewis’ role as assistant city manager has been to provide professional support and assistance to the city manager. He has worked closely with city department heads and helped to outline goals and outcomes. Lewis currently leads day-to-day city operations, directs assigned committees and projects, and assists in agenda development and preparation of the budget. 

Rezones and construction projects 

South Jordan had its share of ups and downs this year, and it started with the rezone of a property located at 11054 South Lucas Lane. The council voted 3–2 in favor of the rezone that would ensure the road adjacent to the property would connect to River Heights Drive. Several residents who attended the city council meeting on Jan. 17 were unhappy with the decision. They were concerned with the connection of the road to River Heights Drive and voiced their concerns over increased traffic and decreased safety for their secluded neighborhood. 

Another construction project sure to make heads turn is the main intersection at 11400 South Bangerter Highway. The construction got underway a few months ago and is scheduled through Fall of 2018. While it may be a long and inconvenient, crews are trying to do everything they can to help ease concerns. The project is phased so that traffic can flow easier during construction. 

John Gleason, public information officer for the Utah Department of Transportation, said so far things are on track with the completion of the intersection, and it should wrap up in late next year. 

“It was started this past spring and is scheduled for two construction seasons,” Gleason said. “It’s one of the five freeway style interchanges they are working on this year, and once completed, Bangerter will feel much more like a freeway with fewer stop lights, improving safety.” 

City Hall expansion underway 

The City Hall expansion project was approved and the city is in the process of constructing the new public safety building and civic plaza. The public safety building will house the South Jordan Police Department and Court and will be located in the South Jordan Towne Center between the county library and The Pie Pizzeria. 

The plaza will feature three interactive fountains, a walkable area and library seating. 

The Public Safety Building is 44,00 square feet and 3 stories tall. It will feature a crime lab, evidence room, meeting and training room, and records storage, and it will be the new home to the police department and fire administration. It is estimated to be completed by early 2019. 

USA Today names South Jordan best city to live in Utah 

Somewhere along the way, someone was paying close attention to the city of South Jordan. USA Today named it the best city to live in Utah of its most livable 50 cities around the country. 

Ahead of Layton and Orem, South Jordan ranked No. 46 on the list. There are several factors experts look at when deciding which cities would make a great place to call home. South Jordan has a population of just under 70,000. The median home value of $385,300 is in the top 25 percent, and 34.1 percent of the residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. 

USA Today reported that not only is South Jordan the best city to live in Utah, but it is one of the best in the country. Two factors contributing to the high quality of life in South Jordan are the city’s low poverty and unemployment rates. The city has a poverty rate of 4.1 percent, and only 3 percent of the city’s labor force is unemployed, far less than the national 14 percent poverty rate and 4.9 percent unemployment rate. 

South Jordan is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The working population has increased nearly 11 percent over the last three years, the eighth-most of any U.S. city. USA Today reported that the construction of the planned community of Daybreak, which could nearly double South Jordan’s housing stock once completed, is one of the main factors fueling the city’s rapid growth. 

Approval and construction of all abilities playground 

South Jordan leaders are doing all they can to make sure they have a great living environment for everyone. During the fall of 2017, construction on the city’s first all-inclusive or all-abilities playground started at East Riverfront Park (10991 S. Riverfront Parkway). The playground will include sensory, physical and social activities for everyone with any ability and will provide cooperative play, cozy spaces and vestibular motion to support children with autism. It will also include enhanced landscaping. 

The $400,000 funding for the project was provided through the assistance of South Jordan City, Salt Lake County, South Jordan Rotary Club, George S. and Dolores Eccles Foundation, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and the Michel Foundation. 

Transportation funding controversy 

In June, Mayor David Alvord brought to light a significant discrepancy in how certain county sales tax funds are use. Alvord called on Salt Lake County Council members to change a process that has seen revenue, from county sales tax funds that are used for regional transportation projects, disproportionately distributed across the valley. 

Since 2003, South Jordan received none of those funds, while other cities—Sandy, Taylorsville and Draper—received $42.9 million, $23.5 million and $18.5 million, respectively. 

The process of how those funds are distributed has caused ire among residents and city officials, and South Jordan officials have contributed $20 million to a county fund that, up until this year, brought the city nothing. 

“What upset the council and the mayor and the city manager was that your tax money was basically going to fund other cities’ transportation projects,” Alvord said. 

In 2017, $47 million from the fund was distributed, with South Jordan receiving $1.5 million, while Draper and Sandy receive another $5.8 million and $5 million, respectively. 

The lack of knowledge on how which cities get what money is what irked city officials and countless others. City officials felt it was determined by lobbyists and that there was no public vetting process. 

“It wasn’t for a lack of needing projects; it was simply that we weren’t ever told how to apply for this money,” Alvord said. “Again, this list wasn’t done in a transparent way.” 

City council members and residents were appreciative of the mayor’s endeavors to restore justice to the regional transportation issue and fair practiced funding. 

Additional changes that benefits the city 

Throughout the year, city leaders faced many other challenges but seemed to have the best interest of the residents it represents in mind. From striking down a senior community housing plan to the rezoning of the Glenmoor Golf course, city council members often spoke of what would have the smallest negative affect on city residents. It wasn’t just their own residents they wanted to serve; when the neighboring city of Riverton needed help with their animal control services, South Jordan leaders elected to help them out. 

When Riverton split from Salt Lake County Animal services in July over mounting cost increases, the city was left to fend for itself once their contract expires in 2018. 

The South Jordan contract is more of a stepping stone, to help out with the city’s transition away from countywide services taking surplus animals that Riverton doesn’t have room to house. South Jordan can’t be Riverton’s sole animal shelter provider, due to space concerns over its own animals, but Riverton residents can rest assured they will have a place to shelter their animals while it finds alternate solutions to their animal services concerns. 

Council thanks its firefighters for their service 

The South Jordan City Council reflects the kinds of residents it has. When California broke out in flames a couple of months ago, several of Utah’s firefighters, including four from South Jordan Fire Department, headed west to help battle some of the deadliest fires in California’s history. 

Many of Utah’s fire agencies responded to the call for help. After a big rally at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Oct. 14, nine agencies, along with additional firefighting resources, deployed to California. 

Those California wildfires devastated communities, ripped through the heart of cities and towns, destroying everything in its path claiming the lives of 42 people. Less than two months after returning home to Utah, several of those same people returned to battle the Lilac and Thomas fires in Ventura, California, that have destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings—including 700 homes—burned nearly 400 square miles and claimed two lives, including a firefighter from San Diego. 

A change of mayors 

Sometimes there are changes at the end of the year that bring excitement and change to the city. In 2018, the city will have its first female mayor after electing candidate Dawn Ramsey in the November elections. 

Ramsey was among several newly elected mayors across the state who shook up the races this past election. Ramsey said she is fully committed to spending the time necessary to protect what the city has built and is ready to fight for what is needed to maintain and elevate the quality of life in South Jordan. 

Before being elected mayor, Ramsey served as a full-time volunteer on behalf of public education, representing the parents of the Jordan School District at the regional and state level. She served on the Utah PTA State Board of Directors and was the region director over 57 schools within the district. 

Ramsey said she is excited to use her time and leadership experience on behalf of the residents and the city she loves. 

“It is an honor to be elected as our next mayor, and I am committed to working together to keep South Jordan one of the best cities in America to live and raise a family,” Ramsey said. “I will be transitioning out of my PTA role in order to devote my focus to the residents of South Jordan. I am prepared to give my full-time effort to representing and advocating for our city and will not have the distractions or demands of other full-time employment.” 

Ramsey and her husband of 25 years, Dan, have lived in South Jordan for almost 14 years with their six children—three boys and three girls. 

In addition to Ramsey being elected, city councilman Don Shelton, who represents District 3 was also re-elected. Jason McGuire will replace outgoing District 5 councilman Chris Rogers in January. 

With the end of 2017 also comes the end of a term for the outgoing Mayor David Alvord, who has represented the city over the last four years. Alvord said he will always love the city of South Jordan and all the support he has received from the residents. 

Alvord, his wife and four children have been residents of South Jordan for 14 years. With his dental practice, Oquirrh Mountain Dental, appropriately located adjacent to city hall, he doesn’t plan on going anywhere, anytime soon.