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Now that President Russell M. Nelson has dedicated a site for the Heber Valley Utah Temple and ceremonially turned the first soil, the obvious question is, when will the temple’s construction be done?
The question isn’t as simple as it seems, as I was reminded by Brent Roberts, the managing director of the Special Projects Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
First, the church will soon apply for a building permit. But there’s more.
“This will be about a 30-month completion once we start construction,” Roberts said after the Heber Valley groundbreaking ceremony. “If you can predict COVID for me or supply chain, I can give you a better date, but we’re shooting for 30 months. I don’t know exactly when construction will start once we’re done permitting, but we hope to be up and running in summer.”
The church has 54 temples under construction now. Plans to start another 73 have been announced. The church is in the midst of the largest expansion in temple building in its history.
“It is a very interesting time, on top of the big building that we’re doing, it’s just an interesting time,” Roberts said. “Supply chain is not an easy issue. It’s improving in some areas and in other areas, it’s slowing down. We just hope everyone gets back going and manufacturing. We feel more comfortable today than we did six months ago. We’re starting to see things loosen up, which is very exciting for us. Supplies are available again, which is very important.”
Temple construction continued during the worst of the pandemic because cities designated construction projects as essential.
“We kept building,” Roberts said. “We didn’t build at the rate we wanted to build. All of our wonderful contractors had to deal with the same issues that everyone else had to deal with. We were fortunate that most of the communities and cities said we were essential, but there is no question that there were delays, and on the end of that supply chain hit us.”
Stone is essential in Latter-day Saint temple construction, and supply chain issues in the delivery of stone slowed some work, Roberts confirmed. It will continue to be an issue, he said.
Shipyards can be a bottleneck.
Roberts said at one point during the height of the COVID-19 supply chain interruption, he was told 300 ships were lined up off the harbor in Long Beach, California, waiting to unload their freight.
“Some of those were ours,” he said. “We don’t like to import. We like to do everything here, but when you can buy quality stone for less price by bringing it in, that’s what we do.”
He said once shipments are unloaded, trucking is not a problem.
Inflation, however, is part of the equation.
“Prices aren’t going down,” Roberts said.
But they aren’t slowing temple projects.
“Things are going well,” he said. “We’re just blessed to be able to continue construction through a difficult economic time.”
Labor has not been a problem.
“There’s lots of labor out there, and qualified labor,” Roberts said. “We watch that, almost every day. About 95% of our work is contracted. We’ve got Okland Construction on this (Heber Valley) project. Obviously, they’re capable of doing what they need.”
I’ve asked Roberts several times over the past couple of years about whether the increase in temple building has required a similar increase in hiring at the Special Projects Department.
He has said there has been additional employment. He gave a similar answer this time.
“I’ve added scaled supervision as I need it, but we’ve stretched (our project managers), too,” he said. “Because our contractors have such great ability and we choose them wisely, then the project managers, for example, can do more temples than they did before. So we’ve added incrementally, but not what you would imagine.
“We’ve been very fortunate, and we’ve been fortunate to find good people that want to work temples.
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