NORTH OGDEN — Plans for additional upgrades to the Barker Park amphitheater will come up for discussion once again, likely generating continued debate over the future of the new facility.
The North Ogden City Council on Tuesday is to consider an amendment to the 2019 budget, allocating an additional $756,414 to the spending plan for continued work on the amphitheater. The money would be used chiefly for upgrades to the enclosed area behind the main stage, still unfinished and meant to house dressing rooms, a green room, storage space and more.
Brent Taylor, the late North Ogden mayor killed earlier this month while serving with the Utah Army National Guard in Afghanistan, was a key motor behind construction of the $1.85 million amphitheater. But the timing of Tuesday’s discussion doesn’t relate to the tragic turn, said North Ogden City Councilman Phillip Swanson. City officials had discussed the new spending earlier this year as they were putting together the 2019 budget, but held off on including the needed funds as they awaited additional plan details.
Now city officials need to apply for a grant to help with the planned improvements and need to include the project in the budget to show they’re serious about moving forward with the project, Swanson said. “We have been planning this budget discussion since late September. The timing is coincidental,” added Jon Call, the North Ogden city attorney.
Whatever the case, with Taylor’s death, a proposal has emerged to name the facility after him, possibly the Brent Taylor Memorial Amphitheater or the Brent Taylor Legacy Amphitheater. Jared Pack, Taylor’s brother-in-law, has launched on online petition to generate support for the proposal and so far has around 1,500 signatories.
Taylor probably wouldn’t want his name on such a facility “because that’s the way he is. He’s a very humble guy,” said Pack, whose wife is the sister of Taylor’s wife, Jennie Taylor.
But his death has united the community, and naming the amphitheater in his honor would be a way to symbolize that coming together and honor Taylor, Pack thinks. What’s more, Taylor, envisioning the amphitheater as a cultural draw, was a key force behind the project, one of the last major topics of city debate before he left in January for Afghanistan for a year-long deployment.
Still, Call doesn’t foresee any action naming the amphitheater “for a few months still.” And Swanson, calling Taylor “an everybody person, not a me person,” foresees, perhaps, a name that more universally honors those killed in military service, not just Taylor.
Either way, the planned new spending on the amphitheater is likely to generate plenty of focus. The city council meeting Tuesday, to be held at City Hall at 505 E. 2600 North, starts at 6 p.m. and the $756,414 budget amendment is one of several proposed changes to next year’s spending plan.
The first phase of the project — the large, covered stage and shell of the enclosed area behind it — spurred neighbors to file a lawsuit last February to halt the work, worried the amphitheater would disrupt the quiet residential area. And though it’s since been dropped and the city contractor finished that phase of the project last July, one of the North Ogden residents behind the legal action, Stefanie Casey, still has reservations.
“Putting more money into it right now makes no sense to me. There is still no plan, no business plan for how the city intends to use or run it. Still no parking plan that was promised,” Casey said in a message. “The whole thing is poorly planned and no more money should be spent on it until they have some real issues worked out.”
Rod Barker, who lives adjacent to the amphitheater but didn’t take part in the lawsuit, figures the city has spent so much on the project that leaders are almost obliged to keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean he’s happy — he thinks other North Ogden parks necessitate more immediate attention. “They’ve got an albatross around their neck,” he said.
HEATING, COOLING, LIGHTING, AUDIO
Per the city proposal, the $756,414 would be used for heating and cooling systems for the backstage area, lighting, an audio system, theatrical equipment like curtains and screens and other finishing touches. “Really to just get it to the point that it’s usable,” Swanson said.
Of that, $56,414 represents unused funds for the project included in the city’s 2018 budget, another $380,000 would come from a new city funding allocation and $320,000 would come from a RAMP grant. RAMP grant funds come from a special local sales and use tax meant for cultural projects and an advisory board appointed by Weber County commissioners decides on grant recipients.
If the city doesn’t receive a RAMP grant, the proposal calls for around $250,000 worth of improvements for a fire suppression system, lighting, electrical improvements and more “so that we can continue to hold a few events in the facility.”
As is, completion of the amphitheater will cost another $1.11 million, according to a report prepared by Call for city council members.