USU-Brigham backers brace for legislative funding effort

Nov 8 2013 - 6:10pm

BRIGHAM CITY -- Officials here share a variation of an "It's our year" mantra as they prepare to lobby the Legislature for the final $7.5 million of their 50-acre dream at the city's south end. 

Eventually 8,000 students would traverse the dream abutting the east side of Main Street that would become the city's gateway at 1100 South.

For now the site's initial $15 million two-story building would double the space the Utah State University-Brigham City campus leases on the other side of Main. That space along the 1100 South strip mall holds roughly 1,000 students and a 65-member faculty.

But first, the Legislature.

"We've been working on this for a number of years, laying the foundation among my colleagues in the Legislature," said Rep. Rhonda Menlove, R- Garland. "I think this may be our year. What we're asking for is half a building. That's a pretty conservative ask."

The city council has committed to the first $7.5 million. In January a special taxing district for the site was created to set up the funding for the coming $7.5 million bond.

As of this month, the city has already accrued $400,000-plus in tax increment financing for the coming $7.5 bond issue, said Paul Larsen, city economic development director, contingent on the Legislature popping for the other $7.5 million.

"This gives us a year to get ahead of the financing," Mayor Dennis Fife said. "We are extremely excited about the project."

"We feel pretty confident it will get funded in the legislative session starting January," Larsen said. "We think this is our year."

Tax increment financing baselines the tax generated for a site, with all increased tax revenues above that ceiling then designated for the site. USU bought and cleared the 50-acre site, tore down the old K-Mart, plus other developments have moved in, shops and restaurants. Other taxing entities, such as the city, the county, the school district, etc., had to agree to lose its share of the tax increment.

"They all agreed to give up tax revenue for the USU project, which is amazing," said Menlove, who will be among those leading the effort in January at the Capitol.

Sadly, they'll be competing with Weber State University's request for a $71 million science building --  currently No. 1 on the charts.

Both the state Building Board's capital projects list and the state Board of Regents' list has WSU's project as the top priority. USU-Brigham City is ranked 7th and 4th, respectively.

Menlove, embarking on her 10th legislative session, said from her experience, even a No. 1 ranking isn't always a lock for funding. It can be overlooked in the rough and tumble of a legislative session. "Although it would be great to be No.1," she said. "Weber State is in great shape."

Larsen, Fife, incoming Mayor Tyler Vincent, Larsen's contemporary Mitch Zundell, the county economic development director, USU President Stan Albrecht, USU-Brigham City Dean Tom Lee, university government liaison staffers, and other officials will be part of the weekly visits to the Legislature to speak for the project, officials said, and prominent Aggie alumni will be recruited.

"We have a number of Aggies in the Legislature," said Menlove, either connected to USU as graduates, or have spouses who attended, or children, friends and others. "That really gives us some clout."

She said she and Rep. Lee Perry, R- Perry, and Sen. Pete Knudsen, R-Brigham City, are primed for the effort. "We are three legislators committed to keeping the project in the budget discussions."

Lee said success in the coming session with the Legislature would be the culmination of three years of work there. Legislators have all toured the new site and the strip mall campus. The plan would be to break ground in May if lawmakers come through, and open for business in 2015.

"We're hoping this year is the year," Lee said.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at (801)625-4238, Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister. 

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