This year had plenty of tragedy, triumph and political intrigue
Twelve months after a tragic beginning to 2018, Box Elder County has
seen evidence of a resurgent economy; Washington, D.C.-esque political
intrigue as part of a contentious and controversial election year; a
frightening lack of moisture that led to a highly active fire season;
and other events that caused sadness, celebration or concern.
Following is a summary of week-by-week review of the news that impacted
residents throughout the last year, and may continue to in the future.
It is not a “Top 10” list, and includes content from throughout the
newspaper, not just what appeared on the front page. For the entire
review, please see our online or print editions.
January 3 Ellertson cousins die in motorcycle accident On the evening of Dec. 31, 2017, two teenagers died after the motorcycles they were riding in West Corinne collided.
Cousins Wyatt Ellertson, 15, and Caden Ellertson, 14, were driving
motorcycles on a dirt road between two corn fields when they collided
nearly head-on going an estimated 30 to 40 mph. Neither of the bikes
were equipped with headlights or taillights.
January 10 Brigham City approves site for splash pad
After months of wrangling, hand-wringing and second-guessing, the
Brigham City Council approved John Adams Park as the site for the city’s
splash pad. The announcement was the culmination of more than a year’s
worth of controversy within the community about the location of the
January 31 Property offered for Willard water tank
In ongoing developments related to Willard City’s quest to find
solutions to water-storage issues, a representative of Blue Ox
Development, which had plans to develop 122 acres into building lots and
had proposed a gravel pit operation in the area, offered to let Willard
place a 500,000-gallon tank on its property.
February 14 Hardy claims fourth state title, Ripplinger retires
In sports, local wrestling standout Brock Hardy became just the second
Box Elder High School athlete to be crowned a four-time state champion.
The only other to accomplish the feat was Jeff Newby, 1999-2002. At the same time, it was announced that coach Mike Ripplinger, the Bees’ coach for 34 years, was retiring.
Ripplinger left an impressive legacy at the school, including a long
list of individual state champions and six of the school’s eight state
February 28 Boys’ basketball claims region title
For the first time in 14 years, the Box Elder High School boys’
basketball team claimed a region title trophy following a dominant
victory over Woods Cross, 71-55.
March 28 Box Elder Creek floods homes
Storms in February and early March that had helped improve snowpack
conditions throughout much of the state, including Box Elder County,
were also a factor in flooding along Box Elder Creek that caused
significant damage to many homes. Another factor was a severe
rainstorm throughout the day on Thursday, March 22, that accompanied
high runoff caused by sudden warmer temperatures. City crews
responded in the early morning hours of Friday, March 23, to contain
flooding from creek and protect homes in the area around 100 to 300 West
and between 500 and 600 North in Brigham City.
April 18 First murder in Tremonton in 50 years For the first time in 50 years, Tremonton police arrested someone on murder charges.
According to police reports, Brandon Keith Thompson, 30, called to
report that he had shot a man in his home. Thompson was booked into the
Box Elder County Jail on charges of first-degree felony aggravated
homicide, first-degree felony obstruction of
May 16 Girls claim sixth straight region track title
The Box Elder High School girls’ track and field team continued their
stranglehold on Region 5 and claimed their sixth straight region title.
The Bees were as dominant in the region as they had been for more than
half a decade, winning by more than 60 points over second-place
Bountiful at the region meet on May 9.
May 30 Softball team earns elusive state championship
In a story reminiscent of the Box Elder High School volleyball team’s
state title earlier that school year, the Bees’ softball team raised the
state championship trophy. It was the team’s first state title since
June 6 Heated commission race begins
What would eventually become a highly controversial and hotly contested
primary election for two available Box Elder County Commission seats
started with an advertisement in the newspaper touting the
accomplishments of incumbent commissioners Jeff Hadfield and Jeff Scott,
and urging voters to keep them in office. The ad was signed by Kerry
Zundel, Gilbert Miller of Workman Miller Enterprises, and Janice
Chournos of the Sam Chournos Partnership, and was paid for by Promontory
Point Resources, the company building a landfill on Promontory Point.
Another ad paid for by Hadfield and Scott touted certain
accomplishments, including the county’s low unemployment rate, the
creation of 1,200 new jobs and the elimination of all county debt. The
claims were repeated in the Promontory Point Resources ad. The
election reached a boiling point the following week with the release of
campaign finance disclosures, and statements made at a meet the
candidates event in Bear River City. But the political
shenanigans in the race reached a climax when campaign finance
disclosures revealed that two challengers, John Adams and Charley Young,
received contributions from a Salt Lake City-area political action
committee (PAC) worth almost $20,000. The only donations the PAC
received were from Garden Creek Ranches, LLC, out of Brigham City, and
Bar-M Cattle Company, LLC, out of Ogden, each of which donated $10,000
to the PAC on the same day in May. The two ranches are owned by Phil
Adams and Randy Moulding, who has tried to get a 220-acre landfill
approved near Snowville. Adam’s and Young’s opponents used those
financial disclosures, as well as comments the two candidates had made
at the Bear River meet the candidates event, to imply that the two men
were trying to hide the contributions and had lied about it at the
meeting. A creatively-edited video circulated on Facebook and
showed both Adams and Young saying they did not receive or accept any
cash donations, and that all expenditures had come out of their own
pockets. But what the video did not show is that the two men almost
immediately corrected their statements, saying they would accept, and
had received, in-kind donations in the form of mailers. The video
listed some of the same people who had signed the Jeff Hadfield and
Jeff Scott newspaper ad (of June 6) as having paid for the video. The
News Journal received a copy of the video from Tim Munns, which had been
forwarded to him by sitting county commissioner Stan Summers.
The heated race pointed out the contradiction and incompatibility of
candidates’ deadlines for campaign finance disclosures on one hand, and
county clerks’ deadlines for vote-by-mail on the other. According to the
Utah State election website, political action committees and candidates
have to file reports seven days before the primary election, which was
June 19, but mail-in ballots are sent to residents no fewer than 21 days
prior to the primary election day. That meant ballots were put in
residents’ hands up to three weeks before final financial disclosures
were required. The issue spurred state Rep. Lee Perry (R-Perry) to research possible solutions.
Perry said his recommendations would include possibly increasing
penalties for violations of financial disclosure deadlines, after it
became clear that the PAC that contributed signs and advertising to the
Adams and Young campaigns did not meet certain deadlines. There are no penalties for violations of those rules, which Perry saw as a problem.
“The penalty side and seeing this PAC in Box Elder County piqued my
curiosity as a legislator,” Perry said, adding that if PACs violate the
laws, “there’s no penalties. There’s just nothing there.”
July 11 Christmas in July
The news that Brigham City would be the location for filming portions
of a Christmas-themed movie and that extras would be cast from among
locals generated more excitement within the community than just about
anything else in 2018. Filming locations included Idle Isle Cafe,
Main Street sidewalks between Forest Street and 53 South, and the Box
Elder County Clerk’s office.
August 1 Grouse Creek residents evacuated
Residents of Grouse Creek were evacuated as two fires that started in
Nevada—the Goose Creek fire and the China Jim fire—combined in Utah,
becoming the Goose Creek fire and burning over 118,000 acres, including
tens of thousands of acres of rangeland in Box Elder County. The
fire, which would end up being the most devastating in the county,
tested fire crews who were already spread thin battling several blazes: a
1,241-acre fire in the Raft River Mountains; a 745-acre fire at
Monument Peak; an 80-acre fire in the Bovine Mountains; and mopping up a
1,008-acre fire in Hansel Valley.
Aug. 15 Ranchers face future after fire
The improvised city that sprung up near Grouse Creek to house and
supply crews battling the massive Goose Creek fire disappeared as crews
moved on to battle other blazes in Utah and beyond, but residents were
left to clean up and find a way to move forward without much of the
grazing land they depended on for their livelihoods. “It was
crazy during the fire but now it is just devastating and there are so
many long-term consequences people don’t realize,” reported Heather
Warr, who, along with her husband, Kelly, runs the Warr Land and
Livestock Ranch. None of the Warr’s cattle perished in the fire,
but the land where the herd grazed would not be usable for the next two
or three years needed for regrowth after the BLM reseeded the land.
Aug. 22 Fire numbers normal, but acreage way up
The number of separate fires in Box Elder County in 2018 was about
normal, reported Fire Marshal Corey Barton in a county commission
meeting, but the amount of acreage that was consumed by fires was “way
up.” Barton reported that approximately 99,216 acres were burned
in Box Elder County. Following Barton’s report, seven more blazes
sprung up in the county, bringing the total to 80.
September 5 Washakie owners charged with tax fraud
Two owners of Washakie Renewable Energy in Plymouth, brothers Isaiah
and Jacob Kingston, were charged with defrauding the federal government
out of $511 million in refundable fuel-tax credits. The brothers
faced several felony charges of larceny, theft, bank fraud and money
laundering, as well as lesser charges of aiding and abetting the same.
Driest year in a decade
Weather records indicated that 2018 was the driest year in a decade,
and about the 13th driest since records have been taken. From June 1 to
Aug. 31, measurable precipitation in Brigham City was just 0.08 inches,
the lowest measured at the site at 900 North 800 East since it went
online in 2009.
September 12 Housing crisis
A study done at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy
Institute showed that a shortage of affordable housing could threaten
the state’s economic prosperity, and according to local officials, Box
Elder County was not immune. For the first time in 40 years, Utah
had more households needing housing than available units, the research
showed. The shortage was the result of the state’s booming economy and
nation-leading job growth.
September 26 Brigham Crossing moves forward
A resurgent economy that boosted most local economies and resulted in
budget amendments in many cities due to better-than-expected sales-tax
revenue also led to the resurrection of a proposal for a commercial and
housing development on 1100 South in Brigham City. The 72.25-acre
development, once called Upland Square, now called Brigham Crossing,
had been in the planning stage for several years. The previous project
owners had entered into a agreement with the city in 2009 that had not
been acted upon following the Great Recession.
Oct. 10 BC man finally wins giant pumpkin contest
After 14 years of growing giant gourds with the goal of having the
biggest in the state, Brigham City resident Ross Bowman finally
succeeded, winning Utah’s Giant Pumpkin Competition with an entry
weighing in at 1,170 pounds. Bowman prides himself on being
ranked second in the “Heavy Hitters Club,” an elite group among giant
pumpkin growers that have competed using certified scales with at least
five pumpkins. The weights of their heaviest five pumpkins are averaged,
and that number becomes their “heavy hitter” score and determines their
rank. Bowman’s average is 1,060 pounds.
Oct. 17 Bees win first football region title since 2004
Following a season of white-knuckle finishes and multiple overtime
wins, the Box Elder High School football team won a share of the Region 5
football championship, its first region title since 2004. The
Bees won the title with a nail-biter over Woods Cross that required a
roughing the kicker penalty on Woods Cross, an injured Parker Buchanan
hitting critical passes to keep a key drive alive and score the
game-winning touchdown, and a missed extra point by Woods Cross to give
Box Elder a 35-34 win.
Oct. 31 Community rallies for assistant police chief
The community again rallied in the face of tragedy after Brigham City
Assistant Chief of Police Dennis Vincent suffered a stroke from a
ruptured brain aneurysm and underwent surgery to correct the damage.
Vincent died at University of Utah Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 26.
Doctors told the family that bleeding had caused irreversible damage to
Vincent’s brain, and the family made the heartbreaking decision to turn
off life support. An avid supporter of organ donation, Vincent was then
rushed into surgery again for doctors to harvest organs that could
provide others with the opportunity for life.
Volleyball team wins region title
What the Box Elder High School volleyball team could not accomplish in
2017 despite winning the state championship, they were able to realize
this year when they hoisted the Region 5 trophy following a straight-set
sweep of Roy in their final regular season match.
Nov. 7 Businesses win chance to sell on HSN
Three Box Elder County business owners earned a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to sell their products on the Home Shopping Network when an
event was held in Brigham City to locate potential products for the
network. Lindsay Reay’s company, Hwy 102 Soap Emporium in
Garland, was selected for her products, including bath bombs, bath
salts, bath melts and lip balms. The business fills orders out of a
studio apartment she rents, with 99 percent of orders coming from
online. Anna Crockett, owner of Crockett Gear, was selected for
her collection of word-printed dish towels. The towels are not
screen-printed, but the graphics are heat-pressed right into the fabric
for brightness and durability. Crockett said she’s been in
business since 2005 cutting and sewing for furniture and apparel shops,
but that she started this new line of word-printed dish towels in 2015.
Tina Peacock, of Brigham City, was selected for her solid shampoo and
conditioner bars under the business name of This Old Peacock House. One
bar of either shampoo or conditioner takes the place of three bottles of
the liquid products. Peacock said there are no fillers like wax
or alcohol in the bars, which contain natural ingredients like shay
butter, coconut oil and argan oil. The selected business owners
were go through workshops training them to go in front of the camera
before launching their products on the network.
Nov. 28 More charges for Kingston brothers
Federal prosecutors filed additional charges against brothers Jacob and
Isaiah Kingston, along with their associate Lev Dermen. The original indictment charged the trio with nine counts of filing false tax returns and five counts of money laundering. The new grand-jury indictment increased the false-return charges to 14 counts, and money laundering charges to 10 counts.
According to prosecutors, the brothers used fraudulent tax documents
from their Box Elder County business, formerly known as Washakie
Renewable Energy, in Plymouth, to claim renewable fuel credits for
producing biodiesel fuel that was never actually manufactured or sold.
Dec. 12 Suit from trooper’s death dismissed
A judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against Rocky Mountain Power by the
widow of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth, seeking damages
for his death in Nov. 2016. Through the lawsuit, Janica Ellsworth sought
recompense for medical and funeral expenses; lost wages; pain and
suffering; loss of care and comfort; and punitive damages.
Box Elder News Journal PO BOX 370 Brigham City, UT 84302