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South Salt Lake voters to make $25M decision

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 5:25 p.m. MDT

South Salt Lake urban design director Sharen Hauri talks with members of the media prior to a tour of the old Granite High campus Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011. Voters will decide Tuesday if the city of South Salt Lake should buy the old Granite High campus from the Granite School District to transform into a community center.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Two years ago at this time, Cherie Wood was going door to door, chatting with residents and explaining why she believed she should be their next mayor.

Wood also listened to those residents, she said, and noted that one of the most common questions they asked was: What are your plans for Granite High School?

"It was very clear that residents were passionate about keeping Granite High for public use," she said.

Today, following two years' worth of public input, studies and surveys, Wood says she believes the city's plans for the now-abandoned, 105-year-old building and its 27-acre campus reflect the wishes of a majority of residents.

She'll find out for sure Tuesday, when South Salt Lake voters cast their ballots for or against Proposition 1 — a $25 million bond measure that would allow the city to purchase the Granite High property and reuse it as a center for community, arts, recreation and educational programming.

The bond also would fund renovations and seismic upgrades for all buildings on the campus.

If the bond passes, South Salt Lake homeowners will pay an average of $84 more per year, based on a home valued at $165,000, for up to 30 years. Businesses would pay $136 more per year, city officials said.

Wood says proposed uses for the property echo many of the comments she heard from residents during her mayoral campaign. Education, arts, recreation, a sense of community and a place for that community to gather all are important to South Salt Lake residents, she said.

The civic center still is in the planning stages, though city officials say it could include swimming pools, splash pads, playing fields, weight rooms, an indoor gymnasium, a climbing wall, and theater, art and dance space.

The Granite High building is seen as a possible site for a charter high school to serve South Salt Lake residents.

City officials also see the opportunity to make the historic Granite High School building part of South Salt Lake's future.

"We're doing this because residents have told us they really need these things and they're interested in paying for it," said Sharen Hauri, the city's urban design director.

Opponents of the bond say they don't believe a civic center is in the city's best interest. One group, Citizens for a Responsible South Salt Lake, contends the city would be better off leaving the property to be developed privately.

"We are a group of young, educated professionals who live in South Salt Lake, and we want nothing more than to see the city continue to flourish and grow," said Ginger Fairbanks, with Citizens for a Responsible South Salt Lake. "We don't, however, think purchasing another community center is the right way to go about it. We'd rather see this 27-acre property used in a purpose that would contribute to the tax base rather than take from it."

Fairbanks cites new townhome communities such as Waverly Station as the type of development city officials should be encouraging.

"There are a lot of housing projects that are happening in South Salt Lake that are bringing this young, educated population to the city, and that's what we really need," she said.

The group also alleges that the city's efforts to educate voters about Proposition 1 have been biased in favor of the bond.

"We really feel that South Salt Lake City officials have overreached their bounds," Fairbanks said. "They are not providing a fair and unbiased education effort for the (residents) to refer to. Everything, all the fliers, all the materials, are very biased."

She says even the slogan for the city's educational effort, Granite Rocks, is biased.

"We don't all think that Granite rocks," Fairbanks said. "I don't think that's fair."

More information about the bond is available at www.graniterocks.org. Citizens for a Responsible South Salt Lake have a Facebook page.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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