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UTAH COUNTY MAYORS SPLIT ON OLYMPICS-FUNDING ISSUE

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With municipal elections just around the corner, Utah County residents may be looking to their elected officials for guidance as to how to vote on the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics referendum, but so far opinions are split down the middle.

Officials from the county's major towns and cities voted unanimously to support Salt Lake's Olympics bid in the past two Utah League of Cities and Towns meetings, but other city officials have sent mixed signals to their citizens as to their respective cities' stand on the issue.Three cities (American Fork, Orem and Spanish Fork) have passed resolutions in support of the bid, and only Pleasant Grove is planning to discuss the issue in the next two weeks. However, officials in nine of the county's cities have strong opinions on the subject.

Unlike Utahns in a recent Dan Jones Olympics poll - in which 60 percent were in favor and 40 opposed - five of Utah County's mayors said they generally favor the bid proposal, while four oppose the bid for various reasons.

Olympics For Utah's Vicki Varela said she and other officials are concerned that voters might be sending International Olympics Committee officials a mixed signal if the vote is less than overwhelming in favor of Salt Lake City's bid. OFU officials also might be concerned about Utah County's not-quite-positive, not-quite-negative outlook.

Perhaps the county's most ardent supporter, though, is Provo Mayor Joseph Jenkins. Jenkins, who is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Utah Olympic Committee, said he echoes his City Council's (and city's) feelings when he speaks in favor of the bid proposal.

"My biggest argument in favor is that there is no better way of getting good publicity for the state and for its counties. With the Olympics, the state could get exposure - the good kind and the long-lasting kind - to help the state for the next century."

People opposed to the referendum generally don't understand such implications, or the fact that it will not require a tax increase, Jenkins said, something Varela also stresses. Varela said the funds come from "a tax diversion, not an increase. People just don't understand."

Fifty-five million dollars has already been set aside, Jenkins said. "It will not cost us any additional monies. That part of the taxes was imposed by the Utah State Legislature in 1982 or 1983 and was delayed for planning purposes."

Some of those funds were used for flood prevention and damage caused by flooding, but now the rest is for the bid proposal, Jenkins said. "That money will be paid back immediately with television contracts, so there is actually very little risk. Just think of the tourism and good business in the state."

Two other Utah County mayors have come out publicly in favor on the referendum. The two say that long-term benefits will more than pay back the Olympics expenses, and that Utah may be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime if Salt Lake City does not receive the bid.

"I'm strongly in favor of the proposal, even though the financing takes money away from our city," Pleasant Grove Mayor David Holdaway said. "I'm willing to forego that money, recognizing that the bid is a gamble. The potential benefits - like economic development and potential image-boosting - convince me that it's a risk well worth taking."

The state "needs to take a step forward," American Fork Mayor Kent Evans said. "The Olympics would be a great thing for the economy of the state." Evans said he has seen the fruits of two previous Olympics and that "it's a very worthwhile endeavor - everyone will see."

Mayors from four towns (Mapleton, Salem, Springville and Santaquin) told the Deseret News they are not opposed to the idea of having Salt Lake City host the Olympics, but for various reasons are concerned about Utah County's participation in the funding.

Springville's and Santaquin's mayors said they do not support reallocation of tax funds (which would utilize one-thirty second of a percent of each sales tax dollar) for Olympic bid use.

"I'm opposed to the planned financing of the Olympics," Springville Mayor Kenneth Creer said. "What is the benefit Springville gets from using tax benefits, which they would usually get from sales tax, for the Olympics? The funding will come from grocery stores and small businesses in the downtown areas rather than those larger businesses who should be supporting it."

Santaquin Mayor D. Lynn Crook said he has to be sold on the idea of using tax money for the proposal and that "Utah has to decide what to do with the facilities afterward. Are they going to need to dispose of the facilities, or sell them? They need to let us in on their plans for down the road."

Mapleton's Everet Predmore said he is wary of the proposition because "the pay-off is so far down the road - it favors the young," while Salem's Allen Woodhouse said the idea of changing sites for each U.S. Olympic bid is wasteful.

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(Additional information)

Leaders' feelings about the Games

American Fork Yea

Provo Yea

Pleasant Grove Yea

Spanish Fork Yea

Orem Yea

Mapleton Nay

Salem Nay

Santaquin Nay

Springville Nay