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COUNTY PURSUES SIGNETICS BACKUP PLAN

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That "backup plan" by Utah County officials to buy the old Signetics site keeps getting firmer by the minute.

On the heels of encouraging actions by the Orem Planning Commission and the Board of Regents, the Utah County Building Authority - in essence, the Utah County Commission - voted unanimously to finalize financing plans for the purchase of the 23-acre site for $9 million Thursday morning.The actions mean the county still hasn't written formal contracts to purchase the buildings, which have been empty for two years since the computer components company closed its Orem facilities. Instead, it means that should a plan by Fred Meyer Co. to buy the site fall through, the county would have possible financing to buy it and turn space over to Utah Valley State College, Brigham Young University and the Utah National Guard. And two related actions by state and local committees have added fuel to the fire.

This week, the Board of Regents endorsed the county's plan, though the regents did not discuss financing details. And the Orem Planning Commission denied rezoning in the area that would allow Fred Meyer Co. to turn the site into commercial stores.

Utah County's plan would give the lion's share of space in the buildings to UVSC, which is looking for additional classroom space after officials sold the old Provo campus to BYU.

Also, the county purchase could allow the BYU Earth Science Museum to move its collection of fossils and dinosaur bones, which are currently stored under Cougar Stadium.

Unlike the Fred Meyer plan, which has received some criticism from neighbors about the possible traffic congestion it would bring in, the county option seems to have support from the community, officials say.

"From my own experience, I've personally only had positive comments about the plan," said Building Authority Chairman Gary Herbert. "It's an opportunity for UVSC to move its Provo operations, and communities seem to be excited, in particular, about the (BYU) Earth Science Museum."

Herbert and Deputy County Attorney Kent Sundberg continued toeing the county's line, which is that the offer is only tentative and that the county does not want to interfere with Fred Meyer's negotiations. The Fred Meyer offer expires in February 1995 and would require the city to rezone the property for commercial use.

"At best, this is a backup. (Fred Meyer) still has to go through all the hoops while we bide our time to see if and when we get to go up to bat," Herbert said.

In late November, the building authority tendered a tentative offer to buy the site. However, property owners requested clarification of the offer and would like to negotiate the purchase price.

According to Herbert, no tax increase would be needed to make the purchase. Instead, the county plan asks the state to pay $4 million for UVSC's share and the National Guard to pay nearly $1 million for its share of the site, which would be used to house its linguistics program. The remaining $4 million would be paid through revenue bonds and possibly through private donations. Revenues from the museum would be used to repay the bonds.