Geneva Steel cannot simply flip a switch to become pollution-free. Utah County residents need to be more patient and allow Geneva to clean up and modernize, Mayor Joe Jenkins says.
In a press conference Monday, he said: "We must be willing to each do our part. Government's role is to serve as a catalyst in getting things done, not as a deterrent."The role of citizens is to evaluate their contributions to the valley's dirty air. Geneva's role is to proceed expeditiously to modernize and clean up, the mayor said.
Jenkins' comments followed a press conference held several weeks ago by Utah County Commissioner Brent Morris. The commissioner believes it is time to end "political dodging" and combine forces to make Geneva Steel clean up its pollution.
Everyone wants clean air, but the mayor said he wants good jobs in the county as well.
"I believe we can have both. Instead of taking an extreme stand, the role of government and business should be to sit down and negotiate together amicably."
Within a year or so Jenkins said he believes the county will have clean air and a better steel plant.
"Our commitment is to do whatever it takes as fast as humanly possible to get the job done," Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon responded.
Cannon said he did not expect Jenkins to make a statement concerning air quality and the plant but was pleased that the mayor would "use some political courage and be supportive of Geneva."
Monday's press conference was originally planned to announce Geneva Steel as a general sponsor of the 1989 Freedom Festival, but Jenkins said he wanted to make a public statement about Geneva and air quality.
"Geneva is a good corporate citizen in their willingness to help with worthy causes," he said. "They have helped with education, the arts and many community events. This has been their philosophy since opening their doors. There are many worthwhile things that can only be accomplished through voluntarism and private donations.
Jenkins said that last year the Freedom Festival total budget exceeded $1 million and very little of that came from the city.
Cannon presented Jenkins and Freedom Festival President David McDougal a check for $25,000, representing the first half of Geneva's $50,000 contribution.
In 1988 Geneva donated $20,000 to sponsor the Freedom Festival Grand Parade and had "such a positive experience, we determined to make our participation an annual thing," Cannon said.
McDougal said the donation will allow the festival committees to proceed with planning and scheduling. They are planning more than 25 events that will bring approximately 500,000 people into Provo from June 15 through July 8.
"Our goal is to make the Freedom Festival self-sufficient and carry the burden as much as we can, but we are only successful with corporate sponsors," McDougal said.
Festival officials began seeking corporate donors last year in order to provide the many free family events as part of the Freedom Festival.
The Geneva Steel donation will be placed in the festival's general fund for use in various areas.
Cannon said, "Some people say we shouldn't give money to the community and should use it on pollution, but we can do both. It is not like this amount would allow us to do more than we are doing.
"Utah Valley is our home and this is where our employees and their families make their homes. We want to be a part of whatever they do. And this is one of those ways to get and give that involvement."
"The issue of Geneva vs. clean air has become a divisive issue in Utah County and has started to polarize our citizenry. The issue has deteriorated to the point of an either or - either close Geneva or have clean air now. This should not be. I believe there is a better way." - Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins.