Let's hope the basketball games at Utah County's special-events center are a lot closer than Tuesday's bond election, which was a rout in favor of the proposal.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a $7.7 million bond to construct the center at Utah Valley Community College. The unofficial score was 6,063 in favor and 2,827 opposed. That's 68.2 percent to 31.8 percent. The final canvass will be done next week.Only 8.7 percent of the county's 102,159 registered voters marked ballots.
Nevertheless, college and county officials gladly accepted the victory.
"I think this is a terrific day for Utah County. We're going to accomplish some great things," said UVCC President Kerry Romesburg.
The college will take the $7.7 million and add it to $10 million it anticipates receiving from the state to build an events center that will contain physical education facilities. The county will pay off the bonds by imposing a 1 percent tax on prepared foods sold in the county.
Planning of the new facility is to begin in July. The commission can begin levying the tax July 1. But Commissioner Gary Herbert said he doesn't know how soon the commission will act on the tax.
"I don't know that we have any set timetable, say three months before or five months before" construction begins, he said. "It's a ways down the road before we implement that tax as far as I'm concerned."
Local municipal leaders are already lining up other projects for the commission to consider. Restaurant-tax revenue is to be used for recreation, cultural, tourism and convention facilities. The county estimates it will take in about $700,000 a year.
Romesburg attributed Tuesday's victory to good press coverage, which he said helped people understand the issue. Romesburg also lauded UVCC student body officers who spent the last few days on the telephone urging students to cast ballots.
"I think we made a good push at the school to make everyone aware," said Kelly Bitters, student body president.
"I think the people can see this is an opportunity for them," Herbert said. Proponents of the events center say it will enhance the county's image and spur economic development.
However, officials were disappointed with the low voter turnout. Commissioner Malcolm Beck called it "lousy."
"It's unfortunate that voter turnout was low," Herbert said. He said the lack of controversy surrounding the proposal left people with a "ho-hum" attitude.
Orem Mayor Blaine Willes said there were few negative things to say about the events center. "It's primarily an idea that's met its time," he said. "It makes good sense."
The proposal's greatest support came from the area near Provo's Timpview High School where 83.6 percent of voters favored the bond.