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News Briefs

PM News Brief: Wildfire Prevention, Rent Deferral & Olympia Hills

Photo of the Utah skyline in the area where the Olympia Hills development is proposed
istock.com/Diane Labombarbe
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A referendum on a proposal to develop Olympia Hills in southwest Salt Lake County will move forward with signature gathering in an effort to get it on the November ballot.

Wednesday evening, April 1, 2020

STATE

Utah Renters Can Defer Payments

Renters in Utah will be able to defer rent payments and be protected from evictions until May 15, under an executive order from Gov. Gary Herbert announced Wednesday. The move comes as many Utahns are facing layoffs and businesses have closed after the state has implemented social distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus. Herbert said federal aid and state unemployment benefits could take weeks to arrive, so the executive order gives Utahns the financial flexibility they need. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Prisons Plan For Coronavirus Spread

The Federal Bureau of Prisons this week announced the start of a two-week prisoner lockdown. The lockdown won’t apply in Utah, because there are no federal prisons nor any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons and jails. Still, state and local officials say they are taking precautions to prevent an outbreak, which could spread quickly. Utah’s Department of Corrections is also not considering a system-wide lockdown yet, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Read KUER’s full story. — Jon Reed

Lawmakers Ask For Royalty Suspensions

All five Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation are asking U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to reduce or suspend royalty payments owed to the federal government by oil, coal and gas companies. In two letters, members of the House and Senate from energy-producing states like Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming say lowering or suspending these payments would help companies weather a downturn in the economy, preserve jobs and keep the U.S. energy market strongCaroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

Town Of Alta Continues To Deal With Large Crowds

The mayor of Alta issued a third emergency proclamation this week as the town continues to deal with large crowds of people visiting its recreational sites. Mayor Harris Sondak said over the weekend, nearly a thousand cars came to the area. He says they are fortunate to not have any reported cases of COVID-19 so far. But people should still be practicing social distancing. — Grace Osusky

Olympia Hills Proposal Moving Forward

A referendum on the Olympia Hills proposal will move forward with signature gathering in an effort to get it on the November ballot. Olympia Hills is a proposed development in southwest Salt Lake County that would add apartments, houses and retail space. Opponents said it will create traffic problems and overwhelm local infrastructure. The group, Utah For Responsible Growth, will have 45 days to gather signatures of at least 16% of Salt Lake County’s active voters. Because of social distancing guidelines, the group will gather signatures electronically. — Caroline Ballard

Sex Trafficking Arrests

Three Utah residents have been arrested on charges of trafficking underage teen girls in Ogden. Andre Gomez, David Mackey and Chandra Jones face charges of child sex trafficking, prostitution and sexual exploitation. The attorney general’s SECURE Strike Force and Juvenile Justice Services reports Gomez ordered two 17-year-olds to take nude photos of themselves. They were then taken by Mackey and Jones to a hotel in Ogden where they were solicited for sex. The victims have been referred to the Refugee & Immigrant Center-Asian Association of Utah, which provides help to human trafficking victims.— Caroline Ballard

REGION

Fuel Breaks Coming To Help Prevent Wildfires

Up to 11,000 miles of fuel breaks will be constructed to combat wildfires in Utah and the Great Basin. The U.S. Department of Interior announced the plan Wednesday to fund the project which will cover more than 200 acres. The fuel breaks are supposed to help contain the fires by creating gaps to minimize destruction and giving firefighters more access to fight the flames. Last year, officials with Utah’s division of forestry, fire and state lands said it was a mild fire season. — Jessica Lowell

Intermountain Healthcare Could See Cuts

As hospitals continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients, one major health care system in the region may need to change the workloads of some of its medical staff. Intermountain Healthcare is based in Utah, but has clinics, physicians, hospitals and telehealth services across the region. In a statement the company said Intermountain is doing everything possible to keep employees working during these unusual and difficult times including moving employees to areas of need.— Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

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