Eagle Mountain looks for other ways to honor Pony Express
By Donald W. Meyers
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 12/30/2009 08:17:10 PM MST
Courtesy photo Eagle Mountain City Council rejected a plan to buy this larger-than-life statue to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Pony Express. The city is now looking for another statue or an artist who is willing to work with the city on a monument.
Eagle Mountain officials are going back to the drawing board to decide how to honor the Pony Express at a city park.
The City Council initially approved buying a $215,000 larger-than-life bronze statue for Mid-Valley Park, but when the contract came back to the council Dec. 16 with changes, members voted 3-2 against it over concerns about the price tag.
Now the city is looking either for another statue or a local artist who can donate -- or provide at cost -- a monument for the Pony Express' sesquicentennial next year, said city spokeswoman Linda Peterson.
"The intent of the city is not to pay for it out of general city funds," Peterson said.
The Pony Express started in 1860 as a way to quickly move mail across the American West. Express riders carried mail between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif., changing horses at way stations located along the trail. It ended in 1861 with the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line.
Part of the Pony Express trail passes through Eagle Mountain, and the northwestern Utah County city is one of the planned stops for the sesquicentennial Pony Express ride that will take place in June 2010. Peterson said the city wanted to put a monument in the park to commemorate the Pony Express, and the statue by artist Doug Van Howd became available from a California family. The council initially voted 2-2 to purchase the statue on Dec. 1, with Mayor Heather Jackson casting the tie-breaking vote.
But when the sellers sent back the contract with changes, Councilman Nathan Ochsenhirt, who was absent from the first meeting, joined Council members Donna Burnham and Ryan Ireland to reject the contract.
Burnham said the city had only raised $60,000 of the purchase price, and half of that was coming from the city's share of the restaurant sales tax, which can also be used for park improvements. Burnham feared that if the council agreed to buy the statue, it might discourage fund-raising efforts because people would see it as a done deal, forcing the city to pull money from a tight budget.
"I don't want to use tax dollars for something we don't need but we want," Burnham said.
Councilman David Lifferth said he initially had the same thought, but when he heard Jackson's plan to use grants and donations to pay for the monument, he supported it.
He said Jackson has shown the city can raise private funds for public projects, and he was confident it could be done again.
"I think it is a good idea. We have a historic location on our land," Lifferth said.
Burnham said she would support a statue, but only if it will not involve tax money.