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Orem, Vineyard, Lindon and Pleasant Grove choose to “wait and see” on ASD split

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Over a week ago, north and west Utah County cities unanimously agreed to form interlocal agreements to study and prepare for a potential Alpine School District (ASD) split.

The agreements were supported by each other and submitted to the Utah County Clerk at the same time as a statement of alliance with each other. The first agreement, if supported by voters, would create a western district with Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain, Cedar Fort and Fairfield. The second agreement would create a central district with Lehi, Highland, Alpine, Cedar Hills and American Fork.

On Tuesday night, the southern part of the district, which includes Orem, Vineyard, Lindon and Pleasant Grove, held a meeting to discuss their options and plan how to move forward. The discussion included 21 city council members and mayors, ASD Superintendent Shane Farnsworth, ASD board member Ada Wilson and ASD board member Julie King. Molly Wheeler with the Utah League of Cities and Towns moderated the meeting.

ASD Superintendent Farnsworth was the first speaker. He gave a brief background on the current situation and attempted to answer questions but was cautious not to speak on behalf of the ASD Board of Education.

“You ought to start engaging in the conversation because just waiting to see what ASD does, it may get to a point where the interlocals preempt a school district from taking action or become competing initiatives. We don't know what the Board of Education will do in July,” said Farnsworth, who offered neither support nor opposition to any interlocal agreements.

“I recommend you do not form an interlocal agreement for four reasons. One, we must say no to a three-way split. Two, keep politics out of the process. Three, let the whole district vote. Four, we need a simple, easy-to-understand ballot,” said board member Ada Wilson.

Board member Julie King, who represents Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, has supported the interlocal agreements and spoke in favor of them during Tuesday's meeting.

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“The focus has been on what's the best thing for students, the best thing for teachers and the best thing for the community. There is no negativity toward Alpine School District,” reiterated King.

She also expressed that interlocal cities have a desire to create new districts and opportunities that better represent their residents.

“I've heard people say, ‘We can either make decisions or have a decision made for us,' and I would say there is some validity to that statement,” concluded King.

Unlike the unanimous support for an interlocal agreement in the north and west, the southern faction finds themselves split between cities and their respective city councils.

“Our council is split, but we have a majority that prefers a two-way split. If we go into an interlocal, I worry that we're creating a narrative in a direction we don't want,” said Vineyard city councilwoman Mardi Sifuentes. 

Sifuentes also expressed concern that creating an Orem, Vineyard, Lindon and Pleasant Grove interlocal agreement would show support for a three-way split when they prefer a two-way split or no split at all.

“There is something to be said in a statement that we're not going to form an interlocal agreement because we do believe that ASD has good research, and what they put forth on the ballot, we can stand behind,” said Lindon city councilman Lincoln Jacobs. He also expressed opposition to a three-way split and would prefer a district that includes all of the eastern cities, including Lehi. 

“We're for option three, which is a two-way split because we were handed something we had to make a choice on. Otherwise, we probably wouldn't have even gotten involved, and we would be out golfing at this point,” said Pleasant Grove city councilman Todd Williams, who would prefer the district status quo.   

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While each city during Tuesday's meeting had a council member who opposed forming a southern interlocal, some expressed support for taking action and forming an agreement.

“I love the idea of letting our citizens make this decision. What's the problem with allowing them the decision?” said Vineyard city councilman Jake Holdaway, who wants to form an interlocal to guarantee his residents a vote in the November General Election. 

“When we have ten city councils unanimously vote to go a different direction than the route we're talking about going right now, that's concerning. They have done research and been talking about this for a while. I don't think we should just give it up and let everyone else figure it out for us... Do we want to just stand on the sideline and hope they fail so we can force them to stay together with us? These ten cities proactively determined their future,” added Orem Mayor Dave Young, who expressed support for an interlocal agreement between the southern group. 

“Eagle Mountain shouldn't be voting on what happens in Orem, and Orem shouldn't be voting on what happens in Eagle Mountain,” said Orem city councilwoman LaNae Millett in support of an interlocal agreement. 

“We don't need an interlocal, and we won't be a part of one,” said Pleasant Grove Mayor Guy Fugal to conclude the discussion.

With the southern group divided on how to move forward, a decision to form an interlocal agreement is unlikely, especially with the pending deadline of May 17 to formally begin the process to meet the state code timeline. That would leave Orem, Vineyard, Lindon and Pleasant Grove residents with whatever ballot option the Alpine School District decides to put on the ballot in July, if any option at all. The district is anticipated to put forward the two-way split option on a divided 4-3 vote.

Orem City Attorney Steve Earl also noted that, in the event that their respective voters pass the west and central district interlocal, the four remaining cities would become a new, reorganized district, essentially by default.

The cities that have entered interlocal agreements will hold two public comment meetings each in the next 45 days to solicit resident feedback. They will then vote on whether to put the new district options on the ballot for voters to decide.

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