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Provo took its place Monday among the premier small cities of America.

The city received the 1991 City Liveability Award at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Diego. The award is sponsored by Waste Management Inc. and the mayors organization. Provo won the prize for cities under 100,000 in population. Newark, N.J., was tops among cities with populations exceeding 100,000."It really put us on the map," said city administrative assistant Raylene Ireland. Mayor Joe Jenkins, economic development director Gary Golightly and Ireland were in San Diego to accept the award Monday.

The more than 200 cities that entered the competition were judged on mayoral leadership and programs that improved the quality of life.

Provo centered its application on the development of the East Bay Business Center. That part of south Provo used to be the city landfill. In addition to the business center, the city built a golf course on the property.

Jenkins said the selection committee, made up of mostly East Coast municipal leaders, was impressed with Provo's "willingness to take a calculated risk in economic development that cities don't normally take."

The project helped awaken the city from the economic doldrums of early 1980s. There are now some 5,000 workers at various East Bay businesses.

The East Bay concept got rolling about 10 years ago under Jenkins' predecessor James Ferguson. When Jenkins took office in January 1986, there were no businesses in the center. Under his leadership, the city negotiated contracts with some of the major tenants, such as Novell.

The award recognizes the contributions of both mayors.

"Normally, cities don't become a developer," Jenkins said. City government took on the project because the private sector wasn't interested in it. "If it was ever going to get done, the city had to do it," he said.

The mayors conference put on a multimedia presentation about Provo during an awards banquet Monday. A copy of the production was given to the city to use as a promotional piece.

A formal presentation of the livability award will be made to the city in the next few weeks, possibly during America's Freedom Festival at Provo.

Runners up to Provo were West Hollywood, Calif.; Columbus, Ind.; Union City, N.J.; and Utica, N.Y.

The conference was attended by such notable mayors as David Dinkins of New York City and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Provo officials weren't planning to attend the convention until they learned of the award. Ireland said the city limits itself to a certain number of municipal conferences to conserve money.