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AM News Brief: Positive snowpack totals, national park free entry days & registering gifts

A parking lot is lined with several of Zion National Park's iconic natural-gas-powered busses. The canyon walls rise up in the background.
David Fuchs
If you plan ahead, you may be able to enter a national park for free next year. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, Dec. 29, 2021

Northern Utah

Atonio Sivatia’s family sues West Valley City Police Department

The West Valley City Police Department is being sued for use of excessive force and a violation of constitutional rights. Atonio Sivatia’s mother filed a lawsuit against the West Valley police Tuesday after her son was left permanently disabled while in police custody. The lawsuit alleges officers told Sivatia to lie on a dark road after he was tased and detained last December. He was then run over by a vehicle while on the ground. Robert Sykes, the family’s lawyer, said the police failed to do their jobs or follow their policy on use of force. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez 


Five free entry days to national parks 

If you plan ahead, you may be able to enter a national park for free next year. The National Park Service announced Tuesday the five days people can visit without paying. Martin Luther King, Veterans and National Public Lands days are free every year. So is the first day of National Park Week. Recently, the agency added the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act to the list of days people can visit without paying. It’s being celebrated on Aug. 4. The act was passed by Congress last year and puts nearly $2 billion a year for the next five years toward park maintenance. — Lexi Peery

Got a new car? Don’t forget to register it

If you were gifted a new car for the holidays, you are still required to pay taxes on it. And the Utah State Tax Commission is warning people that trying to get around that is illegal. The agency said people frequently underreport how much a vehicle costs so they don’t have to pay as much in taxes. If an amount appears to be wrong, that report will be audited. If the purchase price is found to be lower than what was reported, there is a 100% fraud penalty. That means if you were trying to save $200, you’ll have to pay that, plus another $200 in fines. — Caroline Ballard


Federal programs could be key to region’s affordable housing shortage 

Communities across our region are facing a critical housing shortage. The Build Back Better Act would have expanded support for affordable development. Though the bill appears to be doomed, the Center for Regional Studies in Nevada says the government could still act. Officials with the center say local governments rely on federal programs like Low Income Housing Tax Credits which help private developers build affordable units. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

Climatologists encouraged by recent snowpack totals 

Recent storms have given a huge boost to snowpack throughout the Rocky Mountains. Snow in Colorado and Wyoming eventually turns into water that supplies 40 million people across the Southwest. Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist, said she feels very good about where snow totals are now, but “we need to keep seeing more.” Snowpack totals are on the rise around the rest of the Colorado River basin as well, with most of Utah and Nevada also climbing above average. A number of ski resorts in Utah saw multiple feet of snow from Christmas Eve to Tuesday. — Alex Hager, KUNC

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