County Council approves funding for UFOC with 6-1 vote

With a 6-1 vote, the Cache County Council agreed to give the Utah Festival Opera Company $150,000 it requested to meet up a funding shortfall. Michael Ballam, general director of the UFOC, said he was grateful the council granted the request. “Thank you for your generosity,” Ballam told the council. “This is so much help and I apologize for becoming a public issue. I tried not to speak to the press, not because I was against the press, but because I did not want to sound negative.” Before a near-capacity council chambers, Ballam told the councilmembers that he didn’t realize how deep the resentment was for him in the community, referring to a variety of opinions that had been expressed in previous weeks suggesting the opera company should not be granted additional money from the Restaurant or Recreation, Arts, Parks, Zoos Tax funds, as the UFOC was already recipient of two of the three largest allocations of those tax dollars. Still, most people speaking at a public hearing prior to the council’s vote spoke in support of the opera company, saying the organization helps financially bridge the summer gap when Utah State University students aren’t in town. Justin Hamilton, owner of Cafe Sabor and Hamilton’s, said he represented all the restaurants of the valley in saying the UFOC was a boon to business during the summer. Others who spoke in favor of the allocation were Joe Needham, Presidet of the Logan Downtown Alliance, Paul Riley, member of the board for the Cache Valley Center for the Arts, Fred Berkencamper, Chief Ambassador for the Summer Citizens, and David Coppin, Chairman of the UFOC Board of Directors. In approving the funding one councilmember, Gordon Zilles, said he’s never been to an opera and has no interest in going to the opera but he still feels the UFOC is one of the crown jewels of Cache Valley. Kathy Robison said she considered the $150,000 a “compromise, not a gift.” Craig Peterson said the UFOC provides an important cultural experience for residents of Cache Valley, for students and the schools and also for the promotion of tourism. The only dissenting vote in appropriating the funding, which comes from a “rainy day” tax fund and won’t result in any other organizations losing already-promised money, was from Cory Yeates. Yeates said that everyone who had called him regarding the funding request said they were opposed to it and he said he thought the County Council had already been “incredibly generous” to the UFOC. As the council’s vote was to go along with a recommendation from a special committee that recommended the $150,000 in funding last week, it included several stipulations that UFOC officials said they would definitely abide by. The hope for the UFOC is that it can become more self-sufficient and continue operating well into the future.

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