The City Council of Bountiful is proposing a multi-million dollar plan to build a new city hall and plaza to revitalize a long neglected area of Bountiful. Years ago a group of residents of the Bountiful Fort Historic District fought and won an effort to re-zone a large portion of the Historic District. This was done to prevent the demolition of historic homes on large lots from becoming replaced with high-density housing. The new city hall would be an addition to the effort to improve the Bountiful Fort Historic District and revitalize the area. A small vocal minority has used illegal posted signs and outdated arguments against the proposal. Though a final decision has been made, it is time to tell “The Rest of the Story.”
When subdivisions were first built in Bountiful in the 1950s, many neighborhoods had covenants that prohibited the sales of homes to individual based on race and ethnicity. Currently, and for good reason, those provisions are illegal and unenforceable. Many of us as youths passed the “Special Class,” where those with disabilities were segregated from the general student population. With the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975, children with disabilities were required to have the same educational opportunities of others. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The law was passed to end the discrimination and exclusion of persons with disabilities from public buildings and businesses. The law requires that all citizens have equal access to public buildings. The time for segregation and discrimination is over. We need to move forward.
The current city hall is discriminatory at best and illegal at worse. The disabled and elderly must enter the east door of the building and are unable to use the west main public entrance. Once in the building it is very difficult for the elderly and disabled to get downstairs to the public meeting rooms for available for citizen’s use. This segregation and exclusion is discriminatory and is restricting these individuals from their legal right of access to the existing City Hall. Many of us remember automobiles without seatbelts, and riding in the open backs of pick-up trucks. These conditions and activities were and are still unsafe and dangerous.
The construction of the old Stoker Elementary building is also unsafe and dangerous. It does not meet current building standards. Observation of the fire escape on the west side will show the obvious danger of the current structure. If still in use today, by the Davis School District, the building would have long been replaced. Renovations have been made to most of the older schools in the district, including the complete replacement of Davis High School to bring it up to current building standards. School districts across the State of Utah are upgrading buildings to meet the needs of their students. Many of the elementary schools in the Salt Lake School District have been replaced with new schools that are safer and accommodate all students.
When it was proposed to replace East High School in Salt Lake City, there was a similar discussion about wanting to keep the existing building. The final decision was to build a new building to accommodate all students including those with disabilities.
Another issue that has not been addressed is the current location of the Bountiful Farmers Market. The Bountiful Farmer’s Market located on 100 South, just north of the existing Stoker building, needs a new home. The proposed plaza behind the new city hall would give the market a much needed new home. The Farmer’s Market is currently infringing on the religious rights of those residents who use the Bountiful Tabernacle as a place of worship. Every Thursday afternoon and evening during the summer, the street is closed restricting one third of the parking of the Church. Despite signs prohibiting any parking for none-Church use, the patrons of the market continue to illegally fill the main parking lot, eliminating another third of the church parking. A Care Center on the north side has been allowed to let their employees use the north side parking, thus elimination all parking for the Church on Thursdays. The Farmer’s Market needs to move and have their own space where the religious liberties of others are not trampled upon.
The old Stoker school is property owned by Bountiful City. It is seismically unsound and poses a danger to those who use it. The cost to bring the building to current building standards is not feasible or sensible. Should there be an earthquake and lives lost or injured, the city, as the owner of a known unsafe building, is liable. This liability is financial burden hanging over all the residents of Bountiful. An effort to keep it would require any remodel to meet the ADA requirements, which is not financially feasible with the existing structure.
Another complaint about moving the location of the City Hall is increased traffic. Other than the occasional resident paying a utility bill, there is very little traffic at the current location, compared to the hundreds of students currently using the Stoker Campus of the University of Utah. Another concern is the cost of a new building. We no longer live in a time of a dime candy bars or cans of soda. We must face the reality that things are more expensive now and that cost will only go up in the future. It is time to stop bickering about unimportant details and move into the future with a new city hall in Bountiful.
The new city hall will help revitalize downtown Bountiful. As Paul Harvey would famously say, “Now that is the rest of the story.”