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UVSC to delay building Heber campus

College says it can’t pay water, sewer costs

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OREM — Utah Valley State College hoped to christen a campus overlooking a picturesque Wasatch County valley a few months after the last gold medal was awarded at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

But plans for a fall semester opening of a permanent satellite campus have fallen through, largely because of a stalemate over who will pay for installing costly water and sewer lines to the site.

After months of discussion, the problem remains unresolved — and has prompted UVSC to consider holding off on the $8 million project.

Leaders at UVSC say Wasatch County commissioners backed away from a verbal commitment that water and sewer lines would be available at the land this year.

County officials, however, say UVSC should pay a large part of the bill for the infrastructure if it wants to build at the 22-acre site a few miles north of Heber.

College President Kerry Romesburg said the school doesn't have some $2 million that the county says is UVSC's share for the water and sewer system.

"There is no way we can come up with the money," Romesburg said. "Right now, if we used our donations, we wouldn't have the money to build a building."

Wasatch County could pay for the lines through a special-service district, which has been created by the County Commission, or Heber could annex the land and extend sewer and water service to UVSC's land.

"The problem is that as of today, neither is able to do so, nor can we safely predict when such utility access will be available," said Romesburg.

It was apparent that work would not start this year, so Romesburg pulled back legislative requests that would have allowed UVSC to start construction and receive money for continuing operation and maintenance costs.

"We really didn't want to get legislative support, donor support and then not be able to build as promised," he said. "That would be more than a little embarrassing, and it could cause legislators and others to question the viability of future requests."

Barbara Von Diether, dean of UVSC's Heber Campus, said the school does not need a new building to hold class. Some 400 students meet in three downtown Heber buildings that serve as UVSC's satellite classrooms. UVSC has offered classes in Heber since 1996.

"We don't have a shiny new campus, but we have a heck of a campus going on here," Von Diether said. "There is plenty of room to rent in downtown Heber."

She added that UVSC is not working under a time line to build in Heber. A $5 million pledge last year by an Internet entrepreneur to pay for the first building at the Heber campus does not expire if not used within a certain amount of time.

"We may not build next year," she said. "We may not build the year after that."

She said the school won't pay for sewer and water lines until developers who own land near the proposed campus agree to pay for the costs of bringing the lines to the hillside property.

Al Mickelson, the county's planner, said the creation of the special-service district is an indicator the county wants to help.

UVSC has solicited donations to pay for a Wasatch County campus since three landowners in 1999 gave the school about 22 acres on a Heber Valley hillside.

The college expects to attract some 3,000 students to the Wasatch Campus after the flagship building is completed. As the county grows, however, the campus may expand and eventually serve more than 5,000 students.

Utah's Board of Regents projects a 33 percent population increase in Wasatch and Summit counties by 2010. Such a growth spurt could bring in an estimated 2,500 additional students to the two counties.

E-MAIL: jeffh@desnews.com