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AM News Brief: Rural County Grants, High Rates Of Jail Deaths & Scams Target Seniors

Photo of County building.
Judy Fahys / KUER
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to help rural counties get access to federal grants. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, December 3, 2020

State

Inland Port Looks To Satellites For System Expansion

Proponents of Utah’s inland port hope that a centralized distribution network will be a boon for the state’s economy. The controversial project is based in the northwest corner of Salt Lake City, but is looking to expand statewide. So far, 10 counties have submitted initial proposals for satellite ports, and several more are expected by the end of the year. At a meeting Wednesday night, board members spent little time addressing the public’s concerns about potential environmental impacts of expanding the logistics network. They haven’t made the satellite port proposals public either. Port Authority Executive Director Jack Hedge said there will be a public process before sites are chosen. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Stewart Sponsors Bill For Rural County Grants

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to help rural counties get access to federal grants. The More Opportunities for Rural Economies plan applies to all counties with less than 100,000 residents and over 50% federal public land. It would make it cheaper for those counties to get grants and provide technical assistance with applications. Stewart said the legislation is needed because the tax base is smaller in counties with lots of public land. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Northern Utah

Scammers Targeting Seniors

Salt Lake County officials are warning residents, especially senior citizens, to be mindful of scams during the holiday season. County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said a common one happening now is people posing as law enforcement and calling older adults saying they have a relative in jail. “We've seen grandmothers who have spent thousands and thousands of dollars in these scams trying to bail out over the phone their grandsons or granddaughters,” Rivera said. She said police and sheriff deputies never demand payment over the phone. To protect yourself, officials said don’t give out sensitive information like your social security number. And If you do suspect a scam, hang up and call that company directly to verify. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Zion Shuttle Returns Dec. 24

The shuttle system at Zion National Park is not operating for much of this month after being temporarily curbed on Monday. Park officials said the buses will start up again Dec. 24 for holiday visitors and will run through Jan. 2. Access to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and trailheads for Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail, the Riverside Walk, and the Narrows will only be possible by shuttle during that time, and tickets will be required. Park officials said the temporary ticketing system will be re-evaluated early next year based on conditions and public health guidance related to the coronavirus pandemic. — Diane Maggipinto

Region/Nation

High Rates Of Jail Deaths Throughout Region

A recent Reuters investigation uncovered inmate death rates in county jails across the nation. It showed that from 2008 to 2019, many states in the Mountain West region had death rates that were higher than the national average. At least two-thirds of those inmates had not been convicted of a crime and were still waiting for their trial or day of arraignment. Utah had the second highest inmate death rate in the region and is higher than the national average. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Colorado Passes COVID-19 Compliance Legislation

Local and state governments in the Mountain West have had trouble seeing eye-to-eye on COVID-19 precautions. But Colorado just passed legislation that could persuade counties to follow the governor’s health restrictions. It withholds relief dollars for small businesses and arts organizations if the counties don’t follow state precautions. The bill received bipartisan support, though some conservative lawmakers strongly objected to it, saying it was unfair to target certain businesses. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau