Resident organizing concert series to draw crowds to struggling Academy Center
September 19, 2018 • Sean Hales • Managing editor
Following the second failed restaurant venture at the Brigham City-owned Academy Center complex earlier this year, and continued struggles with profitability of the conference building, one resident is looking to breathe some life into the facility by organizing monthly events that he hopes will draw crowds from Brigham City and surrounding communities.
According to information provided by Brigham City Administrator Jason Roberts, the Academy Conference Center complex showed a net loss of, and was subsidized for, $106,205 in 2105-2016, $212,924 in 2016-2017, and $190,750 in 2017-2018.
Bob Cosgrove, who has organized the annual Christmas concert in Brigham City for 10 years, and who has extensive connections in the music and entertainment industry, is hoping a series of events featuring dinner and premier entertainment will help reverse that trend.
Cosgrove’s Christmas concert has gained notoriety and is widely popular; Cosgrove said that last year there were attendees from as far-flung places as Rexburg, Idaho, and St. George. He’s looking to capitalize on the success of that event to help out what he sees as an important asset to the community both as a community building and historic icon, “because of my love of music and the history of it [the Academy Building].”
Due to the success of Cosgrove’s Christmas concert he has been asked to find entertainment for Peach Days and other events, including Brigham City’s annual ball. Discussions with Kelly Driscoll about the ball, led to the idea for the concert series. The first planned event will take place Oct. 19 and feature dinner catered by Maple Springs and the highly-popular local cover band, “A Toast to Bread.”
Cosgrove said he is currently in talks with other performers to present in the following months, and that he will spread the wealth of the events. He is looking at between four and five other catering companies to provide dinner for the concerts, and that each one will have a shot.
“We’re just trying to help everybody out,” Cosgrove said.
The event is not sponsored by, or associated with, Brigham City in any way, with Cosgrove finding sponsors to cover costs.
Brigham City Mayor Tyler Vincent said the city is excited to cooperate with the project, and that he, himself, supports the effort to help generate revenue for the building and increase usage.
“We need to figure out how to get more folks into the Academy Center,” Vincent said.
According to Vincent, ever since Brigham House, the second restaurant in the Academy complex, failed, the city council had been looking at ways to make the conference center and restaurant viable.
“We’ve been in forward gear since Enrique [Enrique Yescas, owner of Cobins Grill and Brigham House restaurants] pulled up stakes,” Vincent said about the restaurant (see related story on page 1).
Regarding the conference center, Vincent said the city is looking at revising the price charged to use the facility. That means coming more in line with the cost of other conference centers in the area, as well as looking at what cost the local market will support. The city is also looking at ways to increase usage.
Walker’s group issued an email on Sept. 13 that sets forth a three-step vision for the facility.
The group agrees that costs to rent the facility are too high, and that it’s essential for the city to find the “right balance in pricing that supports both local access and capitalizes on a top tier event facility.
Historic Downtown also suggests that the city market the entire property: conference center, kitchen and plaza, and emphasizes the elegant nature of the historic building.
“This is not a facility in which to hold community garage sales or flea markets. There is a big difference between a Community Center and a Community Center of Activity!”
The group also notes that there is a “mish-mash” of information online about the facility that needs to be cleaned up and centralized, and that “The most visible is currently managed by Historic Downtown on a volunteer led basis!” The city should also obtain intellectual property, such as domain names and social media channels as part of those efforts.
The second step would be to re-purpose the restaurant as a “shared use commissary, incubator, and commercial production facility to encourage the growth and development of small food related businesses,” including food trucks, start-ups, and existing vendors who need to expand production.
Such a course of action could “pave the way for several new restaurants which would be significant in the revitalization of Historic Downtown.”
“Without pointing fingers backward in time, the reality is that the restaurant was poorly designed as a standalone facility,” the email read. “Both former and current staff agree that there is conflict in using the kitchen in an event catering scenario while attempting to operate a full service restaurant. Both activities suffered when the kitchen was used simultaneously.”
Finally, Walker’s group said the city should re-focus on the history of the building, and it’s legacy of art and culture as the home of the Christensen brothers’ dance academy.
“As we build upon that legacy, Academy Square could become the go-to facility for many more art & cultural activities,” the email read, and noted the Academy Center Art Show and Sale, and the Nutcracker Festival as two such events. Both events are sponsored and organized by Historic Downtown Brigham City.
City looking at several ‘other angles’ for Academy Center kitchen space
September 19, 2018
When Enrique Yescas suddenly withdrew from his lease and shut down the Brigham House Restaurant at the Academy Center, he withdrew a much-needed revenue source that Brigham City had been relying on to help pay for the bonds it had taken out to create the project.
Initially Yescas had promised the News Journal that he would speak about the reasons behind closing the restaurant, but now he’s stopped returning calls, and city officials remain tight-lipped about the story, only offering that the separation was “mutual and amicable.”
Questions of what to do with the space, and how to recoup the lost revenue, remain, however, and one organization dedicated to the revitalization of Brigham City’s downtown has some suggestions.
“There’s no sugarcoating the challenges we face with the Academy Conference Center and the two failed restaurants associated with it,’ wrote David Walker of Historic Downtown Brigham City (HDBC) in a news release. “Especially challenging is the prospect of persuading a new restaurateur to make a third attempt, given the history and licensing issues at this location.”
HDBC, a non-profit organization run by Walker, is suggesting that the vacant restaurant’s kitchen could be rented out as a business incubator, to help local food businesses that don’t have the proper facilities or capital to startup or expand.
“The commercial kitchen at Academy Square (formerly Brigham House/Corbin’s) is being considered as an incubator for small food business startups and rental to existing vendors who need shared commercial kitchen space,” wrote Walker. His organization is now trying to gauge interest in such an arrangement, asking interested parties to fill out a survey located on HDBC’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/historicbrigham/ , as to how they’d use the space, and what they’d be willing to pay.
Brigham City officials say they’ve been contacted by Walker about the idea, and did a walk-through together in the kitchen to help explore the idea.
“The city is including this idea as an option for the city,” confirmed City Administrator Jason Roberts.
Brigham City Mayor Tyler Vincent said he wants to take a measured approach to make sure whatever solution is decided upon has the best chances for success.
“There’s some other angles I’m working on,” Vincent said. “I think we need to take it one step at a time.”
Ideas for how to utilize the city-owned restaurant space will be laid out for the city council in a future meeting.
washakie owners facing charges for tax credit fraud
government claims kingstons took $511m through fuel scheme
September 5, 2018
By Nelson Phillips • Staff writer
The two owners of the Washakie Renewable Energy plant in Plymouth are currently behind bars in the Weber County Jail, accused of defrauding the federal government out of hundreds of millions of dollars in refundable fuel tax credits.
Brothers Jacob and Isaiah Kingston are facing several felony charges of larceny and theft, bank fraud and money laundering, as well as lesser charges of aiding and abetting the same.
According to federal prosecutors, the brothers, each a 50-percent owner in Washakie Renewable Energy, falsified records and submitted fraudulent tax forms to the IRS, allowing them to receive $511 million in fuel credits between October of 2011 and March of 2015.
“Jacob Ortell Kingston and Isaiah Eldon Kingston, with each other and others known and unknown to the grand jury, including Lev Aslan Dermen, a/k/a Levon Termendzhyan, knowingly devised and intending to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud the United States, and to obtain money and property from the United States by materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises,” read part of the 21-page federal indictment, which was unsealed in the United States District Court in Salt Lake City on Friday.
Dermen is a co-defendant based out of California, with ties to the numerous Kingston business operations, which are themselves tied into “The Order,” the polygamous sect run by the Kingston family.
According to court records, the brothers were arrested on Aug. 23 as they attempted to board an aircraft bound for Turkey, where the Kingstons had bought a home and made substantial financial investments.
At the Friday hearing, the Kingstons plead not guilty, and through their attorneys made motions for bail, which were denied by Judge Brooke C. Wells after attorneys for the federal government argued that the two were a substantial flight risk.
Box Elder County entered into an agreement with the brothers in 2014, creating the Washakie Economic Development Area (EDA), which would have spent a portion of the area’s increase in property taxes on developing infrastructure for a future plant expansion, mainly for road improvements. According to Box Elder County Economic Development Director Mitch Zundel, although the EDA had been created, no county funds have been spent.
“We never pulled the trigger on the EDA,” said Zundel. “The EDA was created for the road. We would have pulled the trigger if we needed to put
In the beginning...
In this undated photo from the early 1900s, residents gather near Main and Forest streets during one of the first Peach Days celebrations. The gentleman in the white suit and umbrealla (center, front) is John Franklin Bowring, one of the three founders of the celebration, and grandfather of Brigham City resident Richard “Dick” Watkins. The city’s annual celebration gets underway this week, beginning with the Junior Peach Queen Pageant tonight, and with the crowning of Miss Brigham City tomorrow night, Thursday, Sept. 6. The carnival, vendor booths, and Main Street Stage entertainment begin Friday and continue through Saturday. For more information, see the Peach Days magazine available at the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce office, 6 North Main Street, Brigham City, or at the Box Elder News Journal, 55 West, 100 South, Brigham City.
BC loses business and community ‘giant’
September 5, 2018
By Nancy Browne • Staff writer
Brigham City lost a favorite son on Aug. 27, with the passing of Lowell Sherratt, Jr., at the age of 88, a man considered a giant in his business dealings, church assignments and family relationships, by those who knew him best.
Sherratt was CEO of Honeyville Grain, Inc., a family-owned operation that went from a small grain mill in California started by his father, Lowell Sherratt, Sr., in the 1950s, to the international corporation it is today with plants in both California and Ogden, Utah.
His children knew him as a man who loved them and attended every activity in which they were involved, said his daughter Sherri Merrell, adding that he and her mother were inseparable. “You really didn’t see one without the other.”
She said her father was a very “self-taught man, doing such things as buying CDs on physics and other topics,” in order to learn something in which he took an interest.
His grandson, Justin Merrell, wrote in an e-mail, that his grandfather left behind “a massive legacy. He’s impacted many and touched countless lives with his selfless service and giving nature. He will always be remembered as a silent giver and friend.
Colleen and Lowell Sherratt pose in front of a Honeyville Grain, Inc., semi-truck in 1970.
Property owners can challenge assessments, tax relief available
Box Elder County Auditor Tom Kotter wants to make sure that the property valuation notices mailed out last month by the county reflect a fair assessment of a property’s market price, and that taxes charged by the county are fair and accurate.
Kotter appeared before the Box Elder County Commission on Wednesday to explain the valuation notices, and to let the public know those estimates can be challenged.
“We want people to look at those,” said Kotter. “It says on there that it’s not a bill, so a lot of times people just chuck it.” Kotter continued that the county assessor’s office determines what they believe a property is worth in the current market, and that assessment determines property taxes owed. “They’ve used different models to arrive at that number, however, if for whatever reason the property owner feels that number is incorrect, they should come in and appeal it.”
Kotter said appeals need to be filed with the Auditor’s office, and can be done in person at the county courthouse, or online at www.boxeldercounty.org/auditor.htm. Appeals must be received by the auditor’s office prior to Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. Appeals received after that time will not be considerd.
Once an appeal is filed, it will be considered by the county board of equalization, and if mistakes are found, the market value of a property will be adjusted. According to Kotter, that adjustment will only be made down, and an appeal won’t result in increased property taxes.
In addition to the appeals process, informal hearings where taxpayers can speak with a county officer will be held Sept. 6 and 14 from 10 a.m to 12 p.m. Kotter reported that similar hearings held in August were not well attended.
Kotter also explained that people experiencing financial hardships might be eligible for various programs to help with property taxes.
Number of fires ‘normal,’ but acreage burned ‘way up,’ fire marshal says
As of last Wednesday, Box Elder County Fire Marshal Corey Barton reported that the county has seen 73 separate fires this season, burning approximately 99,216 acres within the county. The largest of those, the Goose Creek Fire, burned more than 130,000 acres combined in Nevada and Utah.
Since then, seven more fires have been fought by county firefighters, bringing the total as of Monday to 80 fires since June 1.
“As far as number of fires, what we’re seeing is normal,” said Barton. “The acreage, however, is way up, and that’s due to the Goose Creek Fire, which was 133,000 acres, and half of it in Utah.”
Volunteer firefighters with the county’s various agencies had a bit of a respite last week, battling no new blazes on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. That ended on Thursday, when a call came in for smoldering hay bales at a field in Elwood.
“People were just lighting hay bales on fire, and letting them smolder and burn,” said Barton.
Another fire began on Thursday near Etna, when a tree located between the already burned out area from the Goose Creek Fire and the Etna Road was struck by lightning. Crews from Park Valley Fire arrived quickly and kept that fire from spreading.
On Friday, a grass fire off of southbound I-15 near mile marker 354 was initially responded to by employees of Anderson Livestock, who slowed the fire’s progress with fire extinguishers until Willard City units arrived and put out the fire.
Also on Friday, a group of non-resident teens were cited for illegal fireworks and violating fire restrictions, after starting a grass fire in Kelton.
“Not only was using fireworks out there illegal, but they were illegal fireworks brought into Utah from another state,” said Barton.
Brigham House suddenly parts ways with Brigham City, closes restaurant
August 8, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
The business arrangement between the Brigham City Redevelopment Agency and Brigham House L.L.C., which ran the restaurant of the same name and managed the Academy Conference Center, was suddenly terminated as of Aug. 1.
“We have mutually agreed to terminate our relationship,” wrote Brigham City Administrator Jason Roberts in response to a News Journal query.
Police and the FBI are looking for this man, a suspect in a bank robbery that occurred at U.S. Bank in Perry last week.
“If anyone knows the guy, or has seen him, or has any other information, we’re asking them to give us a call,” said Hancey.
FBI investigating robbery at Perry bank
A robbery took place early Thursday afternoon at the U.S. Bank located inside the Perry Walmart.
According to Sergeant Scott Hancey of the Perry Police Department, at approximately 12:01 p.m. an unknown man walked into the bank and demanded money from the teller. The man did not display any weapons.
The teller gave the man an unspecified amount of cash, and he left on foot. His direction of travel after leaving the bank is unknown.
The suspect is described as a white male in his mid to late 30s, with brown hair and a slender build. He appears to have tattoos from at least the upper arms down to the wrists on both arms. He was wearing a collared button-down shirt with a blue plaid-type pattern and blue jeans.
Video stills of the suspect from the bank’s camera system were made available to police, and were shared with the News Journal.
“If anyone knows the guy, or has seen him, or has any other information, we’re asking them to give us a call,” said Hancey.
Calls can be directed to Box Elder Dispatch at (435) 734-3800, asking to speak with a Perry police officer.
The investigation of the robbery is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) out of the Salt Lake City field office. Online tips to the FBI can be made at tips.fbi.gov.
Storm suspected to have played a role in drowning death of Perry paddleboarder
July 18, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
A search for a Perry City man who went missing on July 8 came to a tragic end Wednesday morning, when his body was recovered from the waters of Willard Bay.
The man, identified as Brandon Larsen, 46, is suspected to have been paddleboarding at the bay, possibly drowning when a storm blew through the area on Sunday night..
According to Willard Bay State Park Manager James Morgan, the search for Larsen began on Tuesday morning after park employees noticed a car that had been parked at Eagle Beach since Sunday. Park rangers ran the license plate and learned that the car belonged to Larsen, and that he had been reported missing since Sunday.
A beach chair, sandals, beach towel, and car keys were previously found on Eagle Beach on Sunday night, and were turned into lost and found. On Tuesday park officials confirmed that those keys belonged to Larsen’s car.
Utah State Parks is currently investigating the death as a drowning. As part of the news release, the agency asked “everyone to always wear your life jacket when out on the water.”
West Nile Virus found in mosquito pool at Willard Bay
July 18, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
The Box Elder County Mosquito Abatement District was notified by the Utah State Public Health Laboratory last week that a mosquito pool collected near the north marina of Willard Bay has tested positive for West Nile Virus.
“This is the first positive pool in Box Elder County this year,” wrote the district in a statement released on Monday. “The virus has only been confirmed near Willard Bay thus far, but it is possible that the virus could be more widespread at this point. We are announcing this to make the county aware that West Nile virus season has started.”
No human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in the county since 2012, when two cases were confirmed. In one of those cases, West Nile Virus contributed to the death of an 84-year-old Harper Ward man.
The Centers for Disease Control have stated that most people—70-80 percent—who contract the virus will show no symptoms, but the rest will show flu-like symptoms including fever and possibly headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.
Box Elder News Journal
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Brigham City, UT 84302
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