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GROWTH CHALLENGES CITY, OFFICIAL SAYS

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Growth and the outside influences it brings are challenges that residents and government must face together, said Lewis Billings, Provo's chief administrative officer.

Billings talked of Provo's ongoing challenges, programs and commercial projects Friday during the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce annual state-of-the-cities luncheon. City officials have helped complete several commercial and development projects, and others are in the works, to help meet the needs caused by growth.Maintaining the city's quality of life, however, is mainly the responsibility of residents, Billings said. With growth comes a lot of crime influences from outside areas. The cooperation and demands of residents are what fights off those influences and keeps the city's crime rate one of the lowest in the nation.

"It's not government that solves problems, it's people who solve problems," Billings said.

City officials recognized last year that they will never catch up on road repairs unless the city bonds and completes the projects in the next few years. Residents responded by overwhelmingly approving $6 million in road bonds, Billings said.

Residents have also responded to several programs aimed at meeting federal air-quality standards. As a result, the city might soon be taken off a federal list of carbon monoxide non-attainment areas. Residents have also participated more than expected in a volunteer recycling program. Many programs require a cooperative effort between officials and residents from Provo and Orem.

"We realize that what benefits one community, benefits both," Billings said.

At the forefront of the city's development projects is the proposed mall on South University Avenue. So far, Dillard's is the only announced anchor tenant, but city and mall developers are negotiating with several others. Mall construction was supposed to begin last fall, but acquiring land and relocating tenants of a trailer park has been more costly and time consuming than expected. Ground-breaking likely will take place in the summer.

"The mall will happen, but when it happens, we want to do it right," Billings said.

Plans to bring a Pioneer League baseball team to Provo was the hottest topic at the luncheon. Billings said the city will not only benefit by having a professional franchise, but local high school and college teams will have access to the proposed $6 million, 5,000-seat stadium.

As for Salt Lake Buzz owner Joe Buzas' threat to keep the Pioneer League team out of Provo, Billings jokingly said the answer is to create a 6-inch county between Salt Lake and Utah counties, which would take away Buzas' territorial rights. More realistically, Utah County residents should let Buzas know that keeping professional baseball out of Provo would be a big public relations mistake.