Utah County Proposal to Balance Authoritarian Control with Liberty for New Subdivisions

Letter to various Utah County Employees, September 21, 2017, by Robert John Stevens

Hi Craig (Bostock), Brandon (Larsen), Jay (Montgomery), Bill (Lee), Brian (Voeks), and Glen (Tanner),

Please consider this proposal to balance the authoritarian control that Utah County demands and enforces with personal liberty and private property rights:

Rather than delay subdivision approval, by default impose the worst-case, most expensive remedies, and immediately grant subdivision approval. I call this the guilty until innocent approach.

Then while citizens are making other improvements, preparing to build, and building their homes they can pay for tests and implement lower cost remedies as needed.

This way, no county department delays progress.

For example, by default, assume the groundwater table is high. Then, rather than delay subdivision approval, citizens may choose an expensive wastewater treatment system, that in today’s dollars may cost $25k, and may require hauling in a great deal of soil that perks.

Then as citizens work through other issues they can pay to have traditional underground water monitoring performed, perhaps using piezometers, hoping the tests will reveal lower groundwater, so they may implement a lesser expensive solution.

If it is realized that the underground water table is too close to the surface, then the property owner may immediately begin working on other remedies such as digging drainage ditches, installing lateral drains to manholes or building French drains powered by solar or electrical energy (just as Provo City may require electrical-powered sump pumps in residential basements).

Another example is water quality. By default, the Utah County Health Department may impose a costly water quality treatment remedy. Using this guilty until proven innocent approach, citizens are not delayed.

If the property owner buys and transfers water rights to the property, has a well dug and the water quality is tested and proven to be acceptable, the costly imposition will be removed or reduced.

In a free society, private property rights are honored and respected and citizens may immediately move onto their property and begin improvements. In a socialistic society, citizens must always seek permission and it is very difficult for them to navigate government regulations, especially if multiple government agencies or departments are involved.

In a socialistic society, the government may choose the remedies, products, and services, thus picking winners and losers. In such a condition, innovation stalls.

I believe what we have now leans too far towards socialism.

My proposal takes a middle ground and offers the following benefits:
1. No government holdups for subdivision approval after surveying and title work is completed.

2. By default, the most expensive remedies are required until tests prove otherwise (the guilty until proven innocent approach).

This approach may be applied to many county and state requirements for subdivision approval, across several departments, and would help open the door to free-market solution providers and innovative solutions.

I hope this all makes sense. Feel free to ask questions or schedule me for roundtable discussions.

Sincerely,

Robert Stevens

How does Utah County Determine Water Depth?

by Robert John Stevens, September 20, 2017. Letter to Craig Bostock at the Utah County Health Department, Provo, Utah.

Hi Craig,

Please respond promptly to this email by detailing the process of determining water depth on a parcel. This is a fair, sincere request and deserves a reply. Here’s a draft for you to correct based upon my experiences with the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) since 2008:

The old way:

1. Dig one or more holes deeper than six feet. If the water depth is six feet deep or deeper, no more monitoring is required.

2. If the water depth is less than six feet then UCHD will monitor it QUARTERLY for a year using piezometers (perforated 6″ PVC pipe encased in gravel).

The new way.

1. Dig one or more holes deeper than six feet. If the water depth is six feet deep or deeper, no more monitoring is required. Or is it?

2. If the water depth is less than six feet then UCHD will monitor it MONTHLY for a year using piezometers (perforated 6″ PVC pipe encased in gravel). These tests are good for only five years.

3. Despite monitoring, at the Health Department’s discretion, the top of a black/gray line seen in the soil will determine water depth.

4. If at any time water is seen on the property, that will determine water depth and will override all previous methods.

5. Tests are invalid after subdivision approval. A new hole must be dug before a waste-water treatment system is installed for the Utah Health Department to make any last-minute adjustments.

Are these correct? Please help us all understand.

Sincerely,

Robert Stevens
CC: Bill Lee, Brandon Larsen, and Brian Voeks (Please get involved because there are no market pressures for Craig to reply nor document UCHD’s rules for determining water depth).

How Did Humans Survive Without Modern Waste Water Treatment?

by Robert John Stevens, September 8, 2017

I was denied an appeal on Wednesday from a board of four Utah County residents, one was Larry Ellertson a former Utah County Commissioner. I hope my follow-up email, also posted below, offers insight.

Dear Craig (Bostock), Jason (Garrett), Ralph (Clegg) and Carl (Hollan),

Congratulations again on denying my appeal on Wednesday.

At the taxpayers expense, at least six county employees were paid to be at Wednesday’s meeting plus a county lawyer to represent you. I had no representation.

A woman was there recording the event. I give no authorization for that to be used.

You managed to uphold Jason’s water depth reading of 18″ that Craig then required to be written on my subdivision plat, which reading was observed from a 3′ hole, even though you know there is no precedent in Utah County or Utah State Code that justifies that approach as accurate science.

Within days, the water drained and the hole was empty.

An 18″ water depth will require a $24k waste water treatment system vs one half that cost.

You convinced the appeal board that a gray/black line in the soil represents the water table at some time even though you know the material was never analyzed in a lab, nor do you know if it formed from the Lake Bonneville shoreline 14,500 years ago.

You ignored that confirmation by Hugh Hurlow, Senior Scientist at Utah Geological Survey:

2. When an excavator digs a six-foot trench, I see one or more layers of gray-black sediment in the trench walls. What are those layers and do they help determine previous groundwater levels?

If they are dense clay, they may be previous deposits of lake mud (higher levels of Utah lake or, if much older, Lake Bonneville); or if they are more coarse-grained and contain organic material they may be old soil horizons. They probably do not provide information on past groundwater levels.

You ignored the fact that the gray/black matter is found at difference depths. What possible explanation could there be for that? Another of Hugh Hurlow’s answers:

4. Why does the depth of those layers differ in nearby trenches? For example, the layers in two holes dug 280 feet apart differ by 10 inches.

That is not a huge difference geologically, but reasons for the difference may include variation in the land surface during the time the layers were deposited (for example, a slight hill/depression that was submerged beneath an older, larger version of Utah lake), or differential subsidence of the land surface after the layers were deposited, or they are not exactly the same layer.

You convinced the appeal board that water depth can be higher for a lot in the middle of two others of lower depth even though you know that water depth follows the slope of the land and my three lots are relatively flat.

You used fear and told the elderly appeal board that using the same waste water treatment you approved for both neighboring lots would be insufficient and may contaminate the underground water when you know if waste water ever reached the underground well depth of 140 feet deep, it would be filtered.

Craig then used more fear and said waste water may reach Utah Lake and contaminate that water when you know that treated and untreated human waste has been dumped into Utah Lake for decades and that animal and farm waste contaminates our streams.

You also know that until recently, probably all of your ancestors back to Adam dumped waste on their own property but somehow they survived long enough to reproduce and you exist; however you would probably not exist if government regulations made it impossible for them to immediately move onto their land.

You tossed out the entire year of official water depth testing on my lot using pedometers by claiming tests are only good for five years.

Jason claimed the ground was dry when he observed water in a 3′ hole even though he knew it was the wettest winter snow melt off since 1983, and even if there wasn’t mud on his boots the ground underneath was soaked and draining.

I had hoped that the discussion would have revolved around possible lower-cost remedies such as:
A. Till the ground so the dirt soaks up future moisture
B. Install an underground lateral pipe back to the manhole for gravity-fed draining
C. Install a sump pump at the lowest point and pump water uphill to the manhole
D. How to convince UDOT to cover the pipe under 7300 South that conveys flood water across the street to my lot

I had hoped that new, innovative remedies would have been proposed by you.

Installing an alternative waste-water system was never the issue–stamping my plat with an 18″ reading, upholding phony science and unscientific water depth testing was.

You read Utah State Code saying water depth can be determined by a black line without giving me a copy to read and cross examine.

Two of the four board members upheld you even though one had trouble keeping awake during the meeting.

By default, you were right and I had to prove you wrong, not the other way around as it should be.

If you must comply with one-size-fits all state code then why do you have 290 pages of county land-use ordinances?

Did the Founding Fathers establish a system of government to create top-down laws on all issues? Or should lower levels of government be given the freedom to override upper levels wherever the U.S. and state Constitutions not apply?

Or are constitutions dead? Unalienable rights certainly are or you would have recognized and defended my property rights.

Because property rights are basically dead, the state giveth and the state taketh away.

Isn’t one of the purposes of smaller governments to welcome innovation and function as incubators? How can that be one with crippling regulations at every level?

Again, congratulations on your victory. You ignored previous water depths and chose the one you wanted at the expense of plausibility, sound reasoning and liberty.

I’ve concluded my reasoning isn’t enough and that I need basic legal and presentation skills or a good lawyer.

No waste water treatment system is perfect. None can protect against mother nature or biblical events like the recent two trillion gallons of water that rained upon Houston.

Good government recognizes there is a tradeoff between protecting health and protecting private property which allows people to live on their land and make improvements without government interference.

God intended us to live our lives by the sweat of our brow and by living on our own property.

Utah County’s massive regulations have kept us from living on our own land for fourteen years. All I can do is fight, make serial improvements and sell parcels to pay for the development costs.

Sometimes an old man parks his car on our land. His family farmed it and lived there before government interference. They had no waste water treatment system and drank from a shallow well.

Five of our seven kids are now grownups and never learned the meaning of hard work that comes from living on one’s farm.

How will you defend your actions and the corrupt regulations you uphold at Judgment Day?

I have included Hugh’s email response in its entirely below for your review.

Sincerely,

Robert Stevens


Responses from Hugh Hurlow, April 10, 2017 to my questions below:

1. How may I best determine the groundwater table at any given location?
The U.S. Geological Survey publishes groundwater levels at https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/. Select Utah from the Search by State/Territory pulldown menu, then zoom to your area. In the lower-left part of the screen, select Groundwater Sites, and under that select both Active and Inactive Sites, and you will see quite a lot of sites in your area. You can view and download the data for any given well by clicking on the teardrop, then on Access Data in the window that appears. The Active sites are good because they show historical trends and include the most recent data.

2. When an excavator digs a six-foot trench, I see one or more layers of gray-black sediment in the trench walls. What are those layers and do they help determine previous groundwater levels?
If they are dense clay, they may be previous deposits of lake mud (higher levels of Utah lake or, if much older, Lake Bonneville); or if they are more coarse-grained and contain organic material they may be old soil horizons. They probably do not provide information on past groundwater levels.

3. If those layers do provide evidence of historic groundwater levels, how can I determine the age and duration of those levels?
Layers like that can sometimes be dated by small fossils (bivalves) called ostracodes, either by paleontology or the chemical composition of their shells, or by radiocarbon dating of woody material if preserved. These are pretty specialized and expensive techniques, so you would need to get in touch with someone from one of the local Universities that are interested in dating the layers. You could call the geololgy departments to see if anyone works on lake history and see if they want to look at the trench. The ages would more likely relate to the history of Holocene (younger than about 10,000 years) or Pleistocene lakes than groundwater.

4. Why does the depth of those layers differ in nearby trenches? For example, the layers in two holes dug 280 feet apart differ by 10 inches.
That is not a huge difference geologically, but reasons for the difference may include variation in the land surface during the time the layers were deposited (for example, a slight hill/depression that was submerged beneath an older, larger version of Utah lake), or differential subsidence of the land surface after the layers were deposited, or they are not exactly the same layer.

5. What other evidences may I use to determine current and historic groundwater depths because digging trenches present many variables to consider such as the pressure of the incoming water, the saturation of the dirt and the dirt’s ability to transport the water out versus up?
Search the Active Sites in the U.S. Geological Survey NWIS cited above, and find the well(s) with the longest time record. Some of them could go back to the late 1930s. Alternatively, if you are interested in pre-historic groundwater levels, I think that one or two of the professors at BYU has been interested in using old thermal spring deposits to look at past lake level, groundwater, and climate history. Try Greg Carling or Steve Nelson in the Geology Department.

Homestead Land for $10k Down?

by Robert John Stevens June 11, 2017

This ad appeared in KSL.com Classifieds on June 9, 2017. I emailed Sarah, told her I forwarded it to Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, sent her two articles I wrote, and asked if she would let me know if she gets a response from her ad.

Family with $10K to put down on Agricultural Acreage to start a homestead. The problem is work is in Provo so the land has to be within 30 miles of Provo. We’d really appreciate any consideration. Thank you. Contact Sarah 801-494-9189

Related Articles

Rediscovering the Proper Role of Government

by Robert John Stevens, May 8, 2017

Friday afternoon I hand-delivered to Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee and his assistant Brian Voeks new copies of Ezra Taft Benson’s immortal, “The Proper Role of Government” in hopes Bill will give up central planning and endorse the founding principles of liberty that made America great.

Every American should read and rediscover its concepts at least once a year. I read it again on Friday.

Absurdities of Dealing with a Tyrannical Government in Utah County

by Robert John Stevens, April 25, 2017

My wife picked up a feasibility letter today signed by Craig Bostock, Water Quality Program Manager, at the Utah County Health Department (UCHD). My response below should help the reader see the absurdities of dealing with a tyrannical government, their unaccountable employees and their obsession to torment citizens.

Hi Craig,

Attached is a scanned version of your letter dated April 25, 2017 which states, Groundwater was observed on Lot 8 at 18″ from the surface and R317-4 requires that an appropriate alternative on-site wastewater system be installed.

Your 18″ measurement is very alarming because it contradicts all previous and adjacent-parcel readings.

We’re not looking for the worst measurement at the wettest time since the 1983 flood, just the best place on 5.25-acres to install a wastewater treatment system.

When the ground is this wet, water may be observed in any depth hole because water finds the path of least resistance and is a function of the draining land versus the rate the water can evaporate and percolate through the hole.

For example, a puddle in the street or in your front yard is not necessarily the groundwater level.

Just weeks ago, excavator Brian Sorensen dug a deep trench on the NE side of parcel #8. Jason Garrett from UCHD came and measured from the surface to the top of the gray/black line and said that was a previous water level, perhaps from the 1983 flood.

Jason measured the top of the gray/black line at 22″ from the surface but the water was at 28″. Brian Sorensen, potential buyer Ben McKinnon and I were all witnesses.

From those findings, I’d expect your letter to say, “We recommend you install your wastewater system at the NE location where water was observed 28″ below the surface.”

I wasn’t there to witness the 18″ surface-to-water level observation. Who reported it? Who were the witnesses? From which hole was it taken?

As Hugh Hurlow the Senior Scientist at Utah Geological Survey wrote on April 7, 2017, “If they are dense clay, they may be previous deposits of lake mud (higher levels of Utah lake or, if much older, Lake Bonneville); or if they are more coarse-grained and contain organic material they may be old soil horizons. They probably do not provide information on past groundwater levels.”

From 2008 thru 2010 the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) measurements for groundwater on parcel #8 (then numbered 5) were 54″, 44″, 32″, 4′ 11″ and 4′ 3″.

The 32″ level was an anomaly. UCHD officials told me to dig a trench deeper than 6′, place a perforated PVC pipe and backfill. Groundwater experts today recommend the perforated PVC pipe be encased in course-grain sand.

In June of 2010, parcel #8 was flood irrigated, mud clogged the pipe’s holes and then UCHD came and measured the water at 32″ from the surface.

To prove the water level was much lower, I had a 7′ trench dug next to the clogged pipe but UCHD ignored that measurement and it was conveniently not recorded in their log.

Your new 18″ reading contradicts the measurements taken from both adjacent parcels. Groundwater experts know groundwater levels from adjacent parcels will not vary much.

After Jason Garrett left, I had Brian Sorensen dig a shallow, 3′ hole on the NW to see where the black line was. It was inches lower so we left the hole open and later emailed Jason to invite him to come see it.

If the 18″ was taken from the shallow NW hole, note the inconsistencies to measure the groundwater level:

1. For the NE hole, the top of the gray/black line was used.

2. For the NW hole, the water level was used.

Instead, you wrote, “Groundwater was observed on Lot 8 at 18″ from the surface…”

Average and all previous measurements were once again ignored.

To lower groundwater levels, a future homeowner can easily install an underground pipe to channel water to the Benjamin drainage canal as was done in the 1920s for adjacent parcel #6.

Excavator Brian Sorensen rebuilt that pipe and connected it to the nearby manhole.

Absent the Benjamin Drainage System and underground pipes, few if any parcels would survive your scrutiny.

That too may a better solution than to penalize and require a more expensive, alternative onsite wastewater treatment system.

If the possibility of wastewater backup exists, homeowners are more likely to choose a system where that is less likely to occur, and state code already exists, so why then is UCHD involved in this endeavor when it can be easily handled by the private sector?

Please adjust your letter to accurately reflect the cumulative data.

Best Regards,

Robert Stevens
P.S. See also the attached UCHD measurements from 2008-2010.


Emails received April 26, 2017

Mr. Stevens –

As discussed yesterday and previously, it is inappropriate for you to demand that the Health Department to adjust a letter by these sorts of methods. You may inquire as to whether the determination was deemed to be final, and if it is a final determination by the Health Department, you may appeal the determination pursuant to Utah County Health Regulation 17-01..

Carl Hollan
Deputy Utah County Attorney
100 East Center Street, Suite 2400
Provo, Utah 84606
Tel: (801) 851-8005


Hi Carl,

I left you a phone message. Now that I’ve caught your attention, may we set up a time we can speak in person and offline? Please schedule a time today or next week and I’ll come. Or may I take you to lunch?

–Robert


Robert –

Thank you, but I must decline. I do not have any authority to order Craig to take any action and it would be inappropriate to meet for that purpose. You have an avenue for recourse through Utah County Health Regulation 17-01 and I would ask that you please use the legal processes already established.

If you decide to request a hearing on this determination I will review all of the pertinent details with the Health Department so I am prepared to respond. However, until you follow the procedures outlined in Utah County Health Regulation 17-01 there is no legal avenue for anyone except for Craig and his supervisors in the Health Department to alter his determination.

Finally, while I appreciate that this process has been frustrating for you, I must request that you please refrain from personal attacks against County employees. County employees are happy and willing to assist you through these processes, but personal attacks will not be tolerated.

Thank you,

Carl Hollan
Deputy Utah County Attorney
100 East Center Street, Suite 2400
Provo, Utah 84606
Tel: (801) 851-8005


Good Morning Carl,

I am sure you’re doing your best as a county attorney and are defending your beliefs and understandings.

Google defines a personal attack as, “Making of an abusive remark on or relating to one’s person instead of providing evidence when examining another person’s claims or comments.”

If that is not your definition of personal attack, then please send me yours.

By Google’s definition, I’ve clearly outlined evidence of abuses I’ve received and have provided supporting documentation. In a normal business, such documented complaints would be taken seriously. Other engineers have received similar abuses from Craig and are ready to testify.

Email is a poor way to communicate. I just want to meet with you so I can understand all the avenues I have to right wrongs and to learn more about the history of those who have been in similar situations. When we meet I think much good can come from it that will save us both much time.

Again, as a citizen, landowner and taxpayer of Utah County, may I meet with you personally?

–Robert Stevens

Costs and Regulations Keep New Farms From Emerging in America

by Robert John Stevens, April 25, 2017

Today I attended the 9:00 a.m. Utah County Commissioner Meeting and when public comments were requested, I walked to the guest speaker’s pulpit and read to the three commissioners1, Google’s definitions of:

liberty — “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views”

oppression — “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.”

I highlighted the words oppression and prolonged in relation to the fourteen years I’ve worked on developing my 103 acres in Utah County. I told them that before I finish I will have sold more than half of my land just to pay the utilities and government fees required to live on my remaining farmland at a cost of more than $2 million.

I reported that Commissioner Lee and I sponsored a team of BYU students this winter semester whose mission was to determine how unused county lands can be used for agriculture.

After interviewing dozens of farmers, orchard growers and residents, the students reported that the remaining farmers are elderly and their children don’t want to continue farming.

Unless an American grew up on a farm, it is highly unlikely he or she will want to become a farmer.

Today, costs and regulations have made it impossible for most citizens to buy land, build a home and start a farm.

Contrast that to the Utah pioneers who after paying $1.50 for recording and surveying fees, moved onto their property and went to work.

Pioneer families struggled. Hard work was required to get ahead. Employers today would love to hire children that grew up on farms but few can be found.

One BYU Professor friend tells me that he can’t wait to retire because students today do not know how to work.

Because excessive governmental regulations crushed competition, almost no new farms have emerged in Utah County for decades.

The students discovered that most food grown locally is exported outside of Utah County and most of the food we eat is imported. Because regulations protected farmers and halted new farms from forming, big corporations filled the growing public’s need for food. Walmart, Costco and supermarket chains have access to worldwide markets and buy our foods from farmers and distributors thousands of miles away.

Fruit is tracked to the very tree where it was grown.

Utah County won’t remove any regulations unless mandated by the state of Utah—Employees say to change or remove a single regulation would require them to conduct a study to see how that would affect all their other regulations.

A citizen may request a regulation wording change for $300 and will have the opportunity to discuss the issue publicly at a commissioner meeting. Most likely the wording change will be denied. To make matters worse, county employees will not re-word it for acceptance.

I told the commissioners that if I ever ran against them, I’d print their 292 pages of land-use ordinances, and staple them together as one long scroll so voters can see its length. Commissioner Graves laughed and said there are many more regulations than that.

He’s right of course. Add the Utah County Health Department regulations, the state regulations, and more.

Commissioner Graves said all those regulations exists because there were lawsuits.

County regulations aren’t footnoted. Many are probably out of date. Fear and uncertainty also prevent changes.

It has become obvious to me that politicians highly favor large institutions and very wealthy people. If an American wants to do good for the human race, he probably first needs to educate himself, develop a product or service and become wealthy.

As my son Andrew so wisely states, “We are a big-business society. The little guy is only cool when he stops becoming the little guy.”

Footnotes

1 Commissioners Bill Lee, Nathan Ivie, and Greg Gregs

Does anyone in America know what it is like to live in a Constitutional Republic?

by Robert John Stevens, April 18, 2017

Yesterday Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee and I attended a final presentation at BYU in Provo, Utah for an on-campus internship that we sponsored this winter semester. Our student team presented solutions for how we can increase agricultural production in residential and county lands.

After the meeting, Bill, Chris White (an owner of four local restaurants) and I met outside at the Tanner Building parking lot. Our discussion turned to Utah County regulations. I said, “If you create a two-column spreadsheet and compare the permissions required to build in Utah County versus a communist country, you’ll see no difference except that in Utah County you may own your own property versus the government owns it in communism. Well, imminent domain laws may still take your property away.”

Bill replied, “Does anyone in America know what it is like to live in a Constitutional Republic?” He said he’s asked that question to Senator Mike Lee.

The answer is no. Since the Federal Reserve coup in 1913, no American knows what it is like to live in a Constitutional Republic.

Defending a Mink Farm at the Expense of Citizen’s Rights

by Robert John Stevens, April 13, 2017

Suppose you buy land in the country to enjoy more space and fresh air but years later a farmer buys 40 acres next to you and builds a mink farm. Countless flys fill your home and barn, the air both inside and outside stinks of mink feces, you see dead minks lying in feces piles, and minks literally terrorize and attack you or your spouse.

You’re not alone—Your neighbors all experience the same horrors.

This is exactly the situation in Payson, Utah where dozens of neighbors rallied and testified at the April 11, 2017 Utah County Commissioners Hearing to consider farmer Beckstead’s petition for agricultural protection.

Farmer Beckstead knows his minks are damaging the property values of his neighbors and making their lives miserable so he applied for agricultural protection to use the force of government to protect his interests from nuisance laws.

Whose rights are violated? Clearly the neighbors were there first. If farmer Beckstead loved his neighbor as Jesus taught, would he pollute their air with the smell of mink feces?

Farmer Beckstead lives in Lehi about twenty miles to the north—Unless his families’ noses lost their ability to smell, he knows better than to live at his mink farm and suffer like his neighbors.

Minks aren’t just pets that have learned to happily co-exhist with humans—they are vicious, angry aggressors who sometimes carry rabies and other diseases. Children won’t know that so when they see one on a nearby school playground, they’ll gather around and try and touch it and pick it up.

Will agricultural protection protect Farmer Beckstead from lawsuits?

Neighbors report seeing minks all over their lands. Even if Farmer Beckstead could contain his minks, he can’t contain the smell that lures incoming minks looking for their own species and mates.

One man explained how he lost a fortune developing nearby one-acre parcels because after the mink farm was created, buyers lost their appetite.

Farmer Beckstead has the right to farm as long as he doesn’t violate the rights of his neighbors but since he obviously had and plans to continue to do so, he sought for agricultural protection. Rather than repeatedly break the Golden Rule, he could sell his mink farm today for a profit into Utah County’s strong real estate market and buy land far away from others.

The Utah County Commissioners heard but ignored the neighbors’ highly emotional complaints and ruled in favor of farmer Beckstead. After repeated, unsuccessful appeals to Payson and Utah County government, will the neighbors persist, give up and play dead or will they eventually defend their liberties and inalienable rights with violence as the Declaration of Independence authorizes?

My family and I lived in Highland Utah, about a mile from a mink farm. Driving by the farm we always noticed the putrid smell. As more residents moved in, opposition grew. Because of the united angry citizenry, the farmer was finally asked to leave.

Utah County Commissioners should have known better than to favor Farmer Beckstead who clearly violates the rights of his neighbors and grant him special agricultural protection. This issue will not go away; instead, it will just get worse as the population of Payson increases.

Citizens don’t care about Utah County’s hundreds of pages of regulations, especially when they contradict their built-in conscience that tells them to love their neighbor as themselves and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I think very highly of all three Utah County Commissioners, enjoy watching them grow in their callings, and consider Bill Lee a very good friend so I recommend that we all re-read Ezra Taft Benson’s 32-page masterpiece, The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner.


April 11, 2017 Utah County Commissioners Hearing

PUBLIC HEARING TO CONSIDER APPROVAL OF THE PROPOSED BECKSTEAD AGRICULTURE PROTECTION AREA APPLICATION, WITH THE UTAH COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS MODIFICATION REQUEST TO EXCLUDE THE ROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY WIDTHS FROM THE PROPOSAL, REDUCING ACREAGE AND REQUIRING A VARIANCE; APPROXIMATELY 40.028 ACRES LOCATED IN SECTION 7, T9S, R2E, IN THE WEST PAYSON AREA OF UNINCORPORATED UTAH COUNTY

Utah County to Spend Millions on Software When the Alternatives are Free

by Robert John Stevens, Thursday, March 23, 2017

Imagine you need a new word processor. Rather than download 30-day free trials and then compare their solutions for the tasks you use most, you delegate your decision process to paid, community leaders who invite large, for-profit vendors to pitch their solutions and then politicians decide for you.

From what I witnessed, that’s how Utah County just decided to spend more than a million dollars per year on software rather than embrace free or near-free alternatives.

Remember, taxation is theft.

Utah County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to license WorkDay software for their human resource and financial management needs once County Attorney Robert Moore completes negotiations.

Commissioner Nathan Ivie delivered an eloquent, convincing argument to support and not vote against the preferences of those county employees who testified they prefer Workday over ADP.

The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Bill Lee who made an impressive argument that after sitting through the vendor presentations, he prefers ADP, the long-time and proven leader in this category.

Attorney Robert Moore correctly testified that ADP and Workday provide liability against lawsuits for software glitches, not user input errors.

I wasn’t part of the software review process but witnessing this meeting was shocking.

How easy it is for these public servants to spend more than a million dollars a year of taxpayer’s money.

Who from Utah County explored free alternatives? I spoke twice and begged the commissioners to consider free, open source or low-cost alternatives. I asked for time to investigate and propose alternatives but they had already made up their minds.

I argued the Mormon Church has spent more than seventeen years developing FamilySearch, employing more than 200 software professionals every year at a cost of more than a billion dollars.

Dallan Quass, who was the CTO of Family Search for two years, finally had enough and resigned. He knew the optimal size of programming teams is one to six programmers, and that two hundred software professionals create a zoo environment of captivity and inefficiency. In fact, all FamilySearch programmers and every BYU Computer Science professor know that but very few with a true moral conscience have resigned in protest.

Using modern software technologies such as Angular 1.x, in just one year Dallan Quass, all by himself, programmed a competitor to FamilySearch that he launched as RootsFinder.com.

Why then does the Mormon Church still employ more than 200 software professionals to continue developing FamilySearch? Because like other technical hostage situations, their upper management yields to fear and uncertainty from techies who speak above them and will do anything to keep their jobs.

As examples of free software alternatives, I reminded the commissioners they could pay for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office or get Linux and Open Office or free.

A woman from Utah County Human Resources complained about the county’s job listing software and testified how much easier it will be to post jobs using multi-million dollar Workday software.

Considering how ugly the Utah County career website looks, I’m sure she’s right. The website’s outdated appearance demonstrates complete incompetence in the county’s ability to build or choose software.

Any freshman computer science major can create job board software. They can also create a WordPress website in just one click and then choose from a variety of great jWordPress job listing plugins including WP Job Manager.

From what I gathered, the county’s approach to choosing a software solution is to attend vendor presentations. Even the commissioners attended them. How different is that from choosing a politician? Where were the employees who would actually use the software? Did they personally learn and try the alternatives and offer their feedback? Why wasn’t data presented at the commissioner meeting that proved time and cost savings?

I argued that although ADP and Workday offer thousands of features, most users will probably use just 2-3 dozen. I explained in software development we now adhere to the 80/20 rule to focus on and provide simple, elegant solutions for the 80%.

I explained that in the 21st century, software developers have evolved past opinions and personal bias and provide test results to determine our decisions.

Rather than trust the decisions of opinionated bureaucrats and managers, a better way to choose software is to simply list the top tasks, devise tests for each, and perform those tests with those who will actually use the software.

In other words, rather than hear Amway-like testimonies of personal bias, I wanted to see summary test results but none was offered at the commissioner meeting.

One gentleman wisely testified that there are many software subsystems that will need to be integrated or replaced with the new software. He insightfully warned of unforeseen costs and consequences but his testimony was completely ignored.

After all, how could politicians estimate the costs of unforeseen integration problems?

I asked that if they must spend money, that they keep it in Utah. Just think of how many programmers can be hired for a million dollars a year to program solutions for whatever open source solutions do not provide!

I asked for a chance to find free or low-cost solutions that satisfy the majority needs but my offer was ignored.

I wondered how many of Utah County’s tasks can be accomplished using Quickbooks and WordPress plugins.

No accountable private or public company with as few employees as Utah County would spend more than a million dollars annually on human resource and financial software when free or near-free alternatives exist, but because Utah County government isn’t accountable to the taxpayers from whom they steal, money isn’t an issue.


Robert Stevens is an expert in computer software development and has been programming since 1981. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and also completed his course work for his M.S. in Computer Science at BYU. Since 2004 he has researched dozens of web technologies and studied how large web applications can be built inexpensively by very small teams on low budgets.