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UTAH COUNTY LOOKS AT MORE BUS SERVICE

SHARE UTAH COUNTY LOOKS AT MORE BUS SERVICE

Spanish Fork may be the only roadblock for Payson, Mapleton and Salem - three south Utah County cities still hoping to receive Utah Transit Authority service.

Officials in the three cities, as well as their counterparts in Spanish Fork, have requested annexation into UTA, and the issue could go to the voters this November. Since 1990, when Springville voters approved the funding to go with UTA, the mass-transit system's Utah County lines have ended just a mile north of Mapleton."We're at Spanish Fork's mercy," Payson Mayor Russ Hillman said. "(UTA officials) have flat-out told us that if Spanish Fork does not commit to UTA, we're not going to get it."

Both Hillman and Salem Mayor Randy Brailsford say their residents are supportive and that mass transit could be important, if either city is to improve its financial standing.

"(UTA) would help a lot of things here," Hillman said.

Spanish Fork leaders could be coming around to their way of thinking, because a bus service could help prevent future traffic problems that will arrive with the new Fingerhut distribution center in Spanish Fork Canyon. However, it will be the voters, and not officials, who will have the final say.

In the 1992 elections, Spanish Fork voters turned down a proposal for a mass transit service by a 71-29 percentage margin.

"I think some of the people were confused about the proposal," Spanish Fork Mayor Marie Huff said. "They did know they wanted bus service. They just didn't know how they wanted to get it."

The issue was defeated by a door-to-door opposition campaign from residents, who objected to the proposed tax increase. The proposal would have levied an additional 0.25 percent increase in the local sales tax - or an additional quarter paid on a $100 purchase - to either start up a new city-owned-and-operated mass tran-sit service or to annex into the UTA.

The new proposal would levy the same taxation amount, which would amount to approximately a $30 yearly increase in sales tax for the typical Utah County family, UTA spokesman Bill Barnes said.

"It's not really that much of an increase, and a lot of families have already been paying those increases in Provo and Orem for years," Barnes said.

No formal plans for the service have been drawn up, and none will be forthcoming until informational meetings and public hearings are held. However, Barnes said it would probably include extensions of current bus routes and some new routes, particularly in Spanish Fork.

"The only thing we were against on UTA was that we thought we weren't going to get enough service - we wanted more than just a trip through Main Street," Huff said. "If it happens, we are going to pay the price. There's a lot more sales tax coming from Spanish Fork than the other three cities. On the other hand, we could receive a lot more service."

Last year, residents in the northern part of the county approved a UTA proposal, which added four routes and brought service to Alpine, Cedar Hills and Highland and increased attention to American Fork.

Because of a tie vote in Vineyard, a line extension to Geneva Steel was nixed.

The south county proposal isn't the only one in the valley this year. The Utah County Commission recently authorized a letter to UTA's board of directors requesting annexation for the Provo Canyon area, specifically to include service to the Sundance ski resort.

Service could begin on some of the routes as early as next spring, if approved by the voters in November.

The first public hearing regarding the south county bus service will be held following a regional UTA meeting Wednesday, Aug. 24. The meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Spanish Fork City Council Chambers, 350 S. Main, and the hearing is expected to follow approximately two hours later.