Man convicted of killing son in 2000 gets early parole
October 10, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
A Brigham City man who was convicted of killing his infant son in September of 2000 is being granted early parole.
David Mathew Ayotte, now 44, was originally scheduled to be released in April of 2022, but in an Oct. 2 decision the Utah Board of Pardons reduced the time by nearly two years, to Jan. 21 of 2020.
“The Board of Pardons recognizes and commends Mr. Ayotte for his rehabilitative, life skills and education efforts and achievements and changes the parole date because of those efforts. He is encouraged to remain engaged in such efforts until he is released,” read a note by the Board of Pardons entered into Ayotte’s hearing record.
Brigham City bans smoking, vaping in parks, cemeteries, or during mass gatherings
October 10, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
If you’re a smoker or vaper having a drink at the B and B during Peach Days, you’ll now have to go a lot further than outside to get your nicotine fix.
On Thursday, a bare quorum of the Brigham City Council voted to ban smoking and vaping in city parks, recreational areas including trails and playgrounds, at the cemetery, or within 50 feet of what the city called “mass gatherings,” meaning an outdoor assembly of 50 or more people gathered on city property. The ordinance specifically exempted the city-owned golf course from the new restrictions.
Car burglars apprehended in Brigham City
October 3, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
One adult male and three juveniles from the Ogden area were taken into custody on Saturday, on suspicion of multiple car burglaries, a problem that has been plaguing Box Elder County this year.
“Our guys caught three juveniles and an adult, and we tied them to a string of 12 different car burglaries from Willard to Perry, Brigham City and Mantua,” said Lieutenant Chris Howard of the Brigham City Police Department.
According to police the adult suspect, identified as 22-year-old Ramone Aguilar, was the driver of a stolen car that the three male juveniles, ages 15, 15 and 16, would ride in as the group broke into cars, stole valuables, and ran back to Aguilar to make a quick getaway.
Formal charges against Aguilar have not yet been filed, but he was taken to the Box Elder County Jail and booked on preliminary charges of auto burglary and attempted auto theft. The case is still under investigation, and more or different charges may apply pending the outcome.
Howard said that the suspects may be responsible for more area auto burglaries, but can’t say that definitively yet.
As more information becomes available, the News Journal will report it in future editions.
Willard moves ahead with Community Reinvestment Area
October 3, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
Willard City is moving ahead with a proposal to create a Community Reinvestment Area along west 750 North, to help facilitate funding needed to upgrade the city’s water system.
The current plan, devised by Box Elder County Economic Development Director Mitch Zundel, a former Willard City Councilmember, creates the area, which allows the collection of tax increment that will be used to make payments on a bond used to improve the city’s water system to accommodate new development.
An official cost assessment has not yet been completed, but Zundel estimated that the city would need around $2.5 million to upgrade the city’s storage capacity, and replace substandard water lines which would allow for adequate pressures down 750 North, where a large transit-oriented commercial development is being planned.
Tax increment is the difference between current taxes assessed on a property, and the increased tax assessment once the property is developed. When a reinvestment area is formed, tax entities agree to accept the current value of the property in taxes for a period of years, letting the increase go to pay for improvements to the property in the form of infrastructure, water, power, sewer, roads, etc.
Residents urged to secure vehicles, valuables, homes as string of burglaries continue
September 26, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
A rash of vehicle burglaries in both Brigham City and Box Elder County that began in June shows no signs of stopping, and has continued into September.
The Brigham City Police Department has logged 46 vehicle burglaries from June 1 through Sept. 24, as well as seven car thefts where citizens left their keys in the car. Total numbers for the county weren’t yet available, but the Sheriff’s office reported that burglaries were “way up,” including 15 in one day on Sept. 16.
“These are crimes of opportunity, meaning valuables left in the vehicles and the doors left unlocked,” said Chief Deputy Dale Ward of the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Department. “It is believed that there are multiple suspects and they likely have a group that is out on foot and being monitored by someone driving the getaway vehicle. The suspects are also believed to be driving stolen vehicles and will steal a vehicle if available, unlocked and keys in it.”
Brigham City Council approves contentious annexation
September 26, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
A petition to annex a 3.75-acre parcel on West Forest Street into Brigham City generated significant opposition at Thursday’s city council meeting, highlighting the ongoing issue of growth.
Bret and Marianne Craynor want to ready their property at 3100 West Forest Street, which is located in unincorporated Box Elder County, to build a home. In order to do that they need to be able to tap into a Brigham City culinary water line running adjacent to the property. But according to both the Craynors and Brigham City Public Works Director Tyler Pugsley, the city can’t provide a tap unless the property is actually part of the city.
“We do have an ordinance that’s in place that we do not provide water or other utilities outside of city limits for any new development,” said Pugsley. He explained that the ordinance was updated around the same time the Waukegan line was extended to the Procter and Gamble facility.
Several area residents are already hooked into Brigham City water, having been grandfathered in to the service when the line was owned by West Corinne Water.
Opposition to the annexation centered around neighbor’s fears that the Craynors would develop a subdivision on the property.
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.
Box Elder News Journal
PO BOX 370
Brigham City, UT 84302
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