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Op-ed: Cache Valley is booming, and that spells trouble for Logan

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A view of Cache Valley as seen from the mouth of Sardine Canyon.

A view of Cache Valley as seen from the mouth of Sardine Canyon.

Caresa Alexander Randall

There’s trouble in Logan City. It’s not the kind of trouble “with a capital T that rhymes with P, that stands for Pool,” a line made famous in the town of River City by professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man.”

Logan City’s Trouble with a capital T rhymes with G, and that stands for Growth.

Cache Valley, home of Logan, is growing. The housing market is booming. Farmland is being sold and developed into multiunit housing developments faster than you can say trouble. Conversely, the population of Logan City is shrinking in proportion, especially the student population at Logan’s city schools.

Logan is facing a crisis with both its downtown business district and its school district. Businesses started moving out of downtown Logan ever since the Cache Valley Mall was built back in the mid-’70s, and the exodus has continued over the years. Many buildings and storefronts are empty. This is not an uncommon problem to Utah towns and cities, or to any town and city across America. It’s Progress with a capital P that rhymes with T, which stands for Trouble, especially for the downtown business boys.

A challenged new mayor and City Council will again try to revitalize downtown, but the developers are building out into the valley faster than the farmers’ kids can sell Granddad’s land and faster than the downtown brain trust can think, and that’s where people are moving, and the businesses follow the money, as they will. If you listen really closely in the dead of night, you can hear a sucking sound created by the vacuum of the businesses and people leaving Logan.

Up until this year, there have been three main Region 12, 4A high schools in Cache Valley, which includes numerous towns — Logan being the largest — like Smithfield, Hyrum and Wellsville, just to name a few.

Cache Valley’s three rival high schools have always been Logan High (the Grizzlies) in Logan, Sky View High (the Bobcats) in Smithfield and Mountain Crest High (the Mustangs) in Hyrum. Now, in just one year’s time there are two more, Ridgeline High (the RiverHawks) in Millville and Green Canyon High (the Wolves) in North Logan. All five high schools are within just a few miles of one another. They could open a zoo!

Many valley residents have noted that it seems unproductively redundant to have so many high schools in such a small space. Cache Valley is about 25 miles long and less than 10 miles wide. Just for reference, Manhattan Island would fit nicely into Cache Valley. Some have cited socioeconomics and the changing demographics as the reason; some have cited racial and religious issues. Logan High, in inner-city Logan, is Cache Valley’s most ethnically diverse high school.

Logan High draws financial support from the property tax base of Logan’s city residents, the numbers of which are shrinking by proportion. All the other schools are Cache County schools drawing financial support from the tax base of the county residents — the rapidly growing population.

Logan’s school superintendent recently acknowledged the financial problems in the district and indicated Logan High might have to cut staff. This comes at a time when the school’s new multimillion-dollar expansion building is being completed, after two bond issues have been created to tax the idling Logan City residents and after much speculation about gross overages and construction costs. The controversy continues as the previous superintendent, now retired, is still working as a consultant to the project two years after construction began. Fiscal responsibility is being questioned.

A critical financial crisis is looming on the horizon for both Logan City and the Logan School District. And that spells Trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with C, that stands for Challenge.

John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.