Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cemetery Expansion

At last Thursday's work session, the City Council gave preliminary approval for a property swap between the cemetery and the recreation department.

Here's the problem: The cemetery has run out of land. A moratorium has been placed on the few remaining plots, so that American Fork residents may neither purchase in advance nor reserve space for an entire family. Gravesites are priced at $800 each -- the highest price in the state. Nevertheless, available gravesites are expected to sell out within the year.

The problem calls for a long-term solution. Clearly, the City must purchase land for a new cemetery, and in fact, funds are being set aside for this purpose. The City hopes to secure land at the Developmental Center, but this property is held by the State of Utah, and the State seems undecided about the future of the Developmental Center. Mayor Thompson reports that Representative Ken Sumsion has pledged to help, but the City sees no near-term prospects for purchase.

Meanwhile, parks and recreation proponents have long been clamoring for completion of the ball diamonds at Art Dye park. Five are planned, but only three have been constructed.

Here's where the swap comes in. I'm not sure who first proposed the idea, but I like to imagine that inspiration came in a Newton-like moment when cemetery sexton Ray Garrett, watching a game in progress at the Filly Field just over the historic stone wall, was hit in the head by a baseball and said, "Eureka!"

The outcome is that, using approximately $60,000 in funds from the land purchase reserves (cheap!), the cemetery will "buy" the Filly Field from the recreation department by paying for the construction of the two new ball diamonds at Art Dye. Filly League games will then be moved to Art Dye, and the cemetery will use more funds to convert the Filly Field into a cemetery annex.

$40,000 will complete the fields at Art Dye, and $20,000 will convert the Filly Field into an estimated 2,432 gravesites -- enough for three to five years. This is a temporary fix -- but we may hope that three to five years will be long enough for the State to make up its mind about the lands at the Developmental Center, and for the City to accumulate funds sufficient for purchase.

As an added bonus, this will also free up space for additional Fitness Center parking, meaning that early morning patrons of the Fitness Center will now be able to take their exercise in the Fitness Center, rather than on the long trek from their cars to the front door.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Sorry, folks: No post this week. I had the best of intentions, but chose instead to write a grant. With luck, Friday's work will net us $250 for a tree at Robinson Park. This is a matching grant for the $1500 the Beautification and Shade Tree committee will be spending on Arbor Day next month. If you're curious, you can read about the grant here. Be sure to notice that the $250 could have been $400, if American Fork were already a Tree City.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No Restrooms in our Parks

Last month, the City received the following inquiry from a resident:
I was interested in reserving a park for a family reunion, and was surprised at the major lack of restroom facilities. Are there any plans to upgrade any of the parks?
Here follows my response. You may read it as a commentary on one of the two central challenges facing our City budget.

You asked whether there were plans for restrooms to be added to more of our parks. At this time, there are not.

Optimally, we would like to see restrooms at our three community parks (Rotary, Art Dye, and the Developmental Center lands) and the seven parks that are used for sporting events, making ten restrooms all together. The City's seventeen other parks are very small -- they are designated as neighborhood parks -- so, rightly or wrongly, they are not high on the priority list for restrooms.

As you know, only three of our parks have restrooms at present. Unfortunately, federal regulations fix the price tag for restroom facilities at more than $120,000 each. That's more than I paid for my house, and it adds up to more money than the City has to work with right now.

The problem is sadly symptomatic of the deteriorating infrastructure you see all over our City, whether it's parks that were never fully developed, or roads and sidewalks that need major repairs.

The current administration is hard at work trying to make up for years of neglect. This was a major reason for the unpopular tax increase that the City Council passed last summer. We are often asked why we are not using revenue from new commercial development, such as the Meadows, to address these needs. The answer is that, because of the bonds the City assumed to pay for infrastructure in these developments, it will be three to five more years before the City will receive any substantial revenue from this direction.

In the meantime, we are working as hard as we can to institute capital facilities plans that will help us to address the problem, and I will do all I can to be sure that the needs of our park system are fairly represented in these plans.

If deteriorating infrastructure is the first challenge to our budget, you ask, what is the second?

Answer: Personnel. Our City is chronically understaffed, and many of our staff are woefully underpaid.

Budget hearings begin on March 23. Balancing these two areas of need against our commitment not to raise taxes this year will be a job. I'm rolling up my sleeves.

Friday, March 02, 2007


My niece had some spare time during class at Mountain View High School, in Orem. She began reading a personal copy of The New Era, which is the LDS church's monthly magazine for teens. Her classmate, looking at the magazine, said, "Put that away. I'm offended!"

An American Fork teen checked out a sci-fi and fantasy anthology, Firebirds Rising, from the young adult section in the public library. A few pages into the first story, she found profanity and a description of a teen-aged girl's sexual arousal when a certain boy walked into the room. Offended, she closed the book and returned it to the library, asking that it be removed from the library's collection, or at least re-classified into the adult collection.

One teen finds religious themes offensive; the other finds profanity and teen-age sexuality offensive. How does our library decide which point of view to please?

The short answer is, it doesn't.

The long answer is found in the Library's collection development policy, which states, in part:

The American Fork Library obtains, organizes and makes available print and non-print materials which meet the needs of its citizens and support the mission of the Library.

To build collections of merit, materials are measured by a number of criteria. The basic test for selection of any item is whether it is of proven or potential interest or need to the community. Other criteria include the quality of the material, the consideration of critics, reviewers and the public, the amount of similar material already in the collection, and the extent to which the material may be available elsewhere in the community. In addition, the cost and physical make-up of the material are considered. In choosing material to suit a variety of readers, the collection will include differing viewpoints.

In response to community requests and interests, the Library specifically collects in the areas of popular adult reading, best sellers, series books, large-print books, Spanish-language materials, children and young adult literature, religious fiction, religious non-fiction, local history, periodicals, supplementary materials related to the State Core Curriculum, local and state newspapers, and popular media materials.

It should be recognized that some selected materials may be seen as offensive or without value to some readers, but may be meaningful and significant to others. Works being considered are viewed as a whole, not in isolated parts.

Responsibility for the choices of underage patrons rests with their parents or legal guardians. Selection of adult materials will not be restricted by the possibility that these materials may come into the possession of minors. The library will not act in loco parentis.

This approach is the accepted approach among libraries in the United States. It is grounded by our nation's First Amendment traditions. I found the philosophy best explained in a statement on Internet policies by the American Library Association, which I quote:

Libraries are the information source in our society. They link individuals with the knowledge, information, literature, and other resources people seek. It is never libraries’ role to keep individuals from what other people have to say.

By providing information and ideas across the spectrum of social and political thought, and making these ideas and information available and accessible to anyone who wants or needs them, libraries allow individuals to exercise their First Amendment right to seek and receive all types of information, from all points of view. Materials in any given library cover the spectrum of human thought, some of which people may consider to be untrue, offensive, or even dangerous.

To put it plainly: So long as the material does not fit under the very specific definitions of obscenity or child pornography, which are illegal, a publicly funded library makes no ruling on the question of what offends whom.

To be sure, some common sense is in order. A member of American Fork's Library Board, during review of the collection development policy, asked, does the library keep its adult collection within easy reach of children? The answer is that there is no "adult" collection -- at least not in the XXX sense of "adult". The American Fork Library does not collect in that area.

All materials that are not specifically juvenile or young adult are housed in the main reading room of the library, one floor above the children's section. This makes it reasonably difficult for the child of responsible parents to see or check out anything objectionable in our public library.

The Library's collection development policy was recently updated by members of the Library Board, working in concert with Library staff. The update will soon be forwarded to the City Council for approval.

We may hope that the City Council does not find it offensive.