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Park City and Summit County are in a transit transition as county readies to put ‘real dollars’ into $75M project

Lines of red taillights receding into the distance on S.R. 224, gridlock coming from the east on S.R. 248 as the snow accumulates and the clock ticks on a powder day: These are not the images local elected officials want residents and tourists to encounter when driving in the Park City area.

Mass transit has been posited as the solution for years. The hope is that more riders on more buses would lead to fewer cars on the roads.

In recent years, officials have seen bus rapid transit as the fix, a system of buses running in dedicated lanes on major routes that shuttle riders from one node to another with minimal stops, possibly avoiding intersections by going above or below roads or coordinating with traffic lights. One Summit County transit official described it as having the benefit of trains and the cost of buses.

That cost, though, is still significant, with an estimated $75 million price tag, the bulk of which would be to buy land. And while federal funds could defray some of it, those grants are capped this year at $25 million per project, leaving a significant funding gap.

As Summit County readies to put what County Manager Tom Fisher called “real dollars” into an effort that would presumably require regional support, tensions between the county and Park City have risen.

There have been allegations of incompetence by elected officials and suggestions that the two entities sever ties after decades of a Park City-led transit system.

The ostensible flash point has been the location for the Park City node of the bus rapid transit system.

Applications for federal grants must include the end points of the system, transit officials have said. Kimball Junction appears to be one settled terminus, but the other end is still up for debate.

Park City sees it as part of the Bonanza Park arts and culture district, which is planned to include housing and businesses on 5.25 acres of land between Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive. Park City officials envision aerial transit like gondolas eventually connecting passengers to Old Town and the resorts, and micro-transit solutions like on-demand buses shuttling passengers in the interim.

Summit County officials, though, have questioned the wisdom of stopping bus rapid transit short of many riders’ ultimate goal: Main Street.

When the topic came up at a December meeting of a transit board that has representatives from both the city and county, for example, one Park City councilor questioned the level of trust between the two sides and suggested the county should pay more attention to providing service to places like Pinebrook and Jeremy Ranch and allow Park City to determine what happens within its boundaries.

That councilor, Tim Henney, further suggested severing ties between the two entities to allow more flexibility for a regional transit authority.

County officials said an environmental assessment will include both Bonanza Park and the Old Town transit center as potential ending points of the bus rapid transit system.

Park City’s transit district recently had its 40th anniversary, and it’s only in the last two decades that Summit County has joined as a sort of junior partner. Park City had functioned for years as the leader and sole service provider, but the county’s role is expanding rapidly. It’s spending more on transit than it ever has and there are routes going to Kamas, Summit Park and Trailside.

At a Park City Council meeting last week, Park City’s elected officials heard from the city’s transportation manager that the transit system is at capacity. One councilor suggested that, even if the city could find the funding for salaries for 30 more bus drivers, it’s not clear the city would be able to hire them because of the area’s housing situation.

But expanding the transit system is seen as the solution to the region’s traffic problem, something the County Council listed as its No. 1 strategic priority.

During a transit visioning session at the City Council meeting, Henney and Mayor Andy Beerman suggested it might be appropriate to rethink how transit governance is organized. Rather than Park City leading the way, they suggested it might be a better fit for the city to act as one partner in a regional authority.

County officials have said Wasatch County and the Military Installation Development Authority should participate in a regional authority, as well. MIDA controls thousands of acres around the Jordanelle Reservoir, including the site of the proposed Mayflower Mountain Resort.

The current transit arrangement between Park City and Summit County is governed under a 2006 interlocal agreement that was updated in 2009. It was written at a time when Park City had vastly more staff experience and capacity than the county did, Fisher said. County officials have said they want more influence and control in the next version of the agreement, which is expected to be renegotiated this year.

The county anticipates spending $11.1 million on transit in 2020, which Fisher said is at least double what was spent when he first arrived in 2014.

The two councils are set to meet in a joint transportation meeting on Feb. 5 to hash out the future of the system and the role each will play.

The cost of bus rapid transit appears to be too much for either government to take on alone, with a roughly $50 million gap between preliminary cost estimates and federal funding.

County councilors and County Manager Fisher suggest that the relatively heated discussions that have taken place to date have been about conducting due diligence before undertaking a project of this magnitude.

“These are large projects, larger than these two communities have ever done before,” Fisher said. “At the end of the day if a system costs $30 or $40 million or more after it’s all built and operating, that’s — we need to have a full understanding.”

Tom Kelly: Life lessons through sport

Two snowboarders and a skier fist bumped on the King Con chairlift after a great run. It was a busy Saturday at the resort but the trio was happy to be back together on snow again.

It was a day of riding, arcing turns down Liberty and flinging off the lip of Sundog in McConkeys. More than the riding, though, it was about camaraderie and friendship.

I had just met Bryan, 16, and Alexis, 18, along with their mentor, Alex, a dental student at the University of Utah. As I rode up the chairlift with my three new friends, I was reminded of the opportunity we have in our community and the important playground we enjoy at our resorts.

Alexis, a Park City High School senior, might not have had the opportunity to enjoy the sport had it not been for the Youth Sports Alliance’s Get Out and Play program. Bryan was just six when he had a chance to try skiing with the Niños on Skis program pioneered by then St. Mary’s Catholic Church pastor Father Bob Bussen. Both are also students in the innovative Bright Futures high school program for first-generation college candidates. Alex, a former National Ability Center volunteer, met the two when he signed on as a mentor with SOS Outreach to help a friend who ran the new program.

Our day began a few hours earlier, gathered in a small room deep in the underground of Park City Mountain. Nearly a hundred kids and mentors were gathered, anxious for a day of fun and education. It was Industry Day, a partnership between SOS Outreach and Park City Mountain to teach kids about job opportunities and finding a career path.

Kids of all ages had a look of excitement on their faces. The young ones were about to head out to have fun in a new sport, some for the first time. The high school kids would travel from station to station around the mountain, learning what goes on behind the scenes at the resort.

Volunteer Ernest Oriente stood in front of the group like an orchestra conductor, capturing the attention of the kids and engaging them to pay attention.

It was 22 years ago – 1998 – when Father Bob sought to bring Hispanic youth to the ski slopes through a new program, Niños on Skis. Oriente was his right hand man, a pied piper for the Hispanic community. And they put kids on skis! Today, Park City Mountain continues to support kids, now bridging it to the SOS Outreach program, which came to town in 2016.

“I was just six years old when I got involved with Niños,” said Bryan. “Especially living here – this is Park City – everybody here should be able to ski.

“I feel blessed to grow up in an area surrounded by mountains,” chimed in Alexis. “In school they talked about how awesome it was to ski. I felt left out. I was interested in getting involved and now snowboarding is my favorite hobby.”

The late 90s was a time when Park City needed a program like Niños on Skis to help our rapidly growing Hispanic community. About that same time, I got to know another program in Colorado called SOS Outreach, reaching out to underserved kids with sport as a life tool. What I most liked about that program is that it was not just about sport. It was about using sport as a conduit to talk about life – especially life values.

In just four years here in Park City, SOS Outreach has provided ski or snowboard opportunities for over 1,100 youth. This year it will bring 400 more youth to snow, plus facilitating youth community service and leadership workshops.

As the day began, the kids learned about ski school and what it takes to become an instructor. Justin talked about his own lifelong passion for teaching others to ski. Then it was on to Legacy Lodge where Ted and Janelle spoke about careers in retail sales.

Anxious to get on snow, the boys clicked into their boards and slid down to First Time for their next station where Jessie talked about pass scanning while Darren spoke on the operations of ski lifts. Jessie spoke about her motivation to leave a legal job to move into something that took her outdoors.

Along the sidelines watching the group was Rebeca Gonzalez. When she was six, she got her start in Niños. Her older sister was in the first class 22 years ago. Today, she’s a college graduate and oversees Bright Futures. She reminisced about her mentors from years earlier. Not only did they get her on skis, but they helped her get through college – a lifetime of connectivity that started on snow.

Reflecting back on the day, I kept coming back to SOS Outreach coordinator Abbey Eddy’s talk about values. Each month the program day is dedicated to one of SOS Outreach’s six values.

“Last month’s value was courage,” she said. With a sweatshirt in hand, she told the story of Emma, who had the courage to conquer her own fears, skiing a run that had been challenging for her. Emma’s eyes got bit as Abbey presented the sweatshirt to her.

Most of us measure our ski days by vertical feet, number of runs or max speed. That Saturday, I learned there’s a lot more to it for these kids. It’s about values and friendships, and just being up on the mountain with a buddy.

Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). A recently inducted member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This will be his 50th season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.

Volunteers, both old and new, are critical to Sundance Film Festival’s success

This year’s Sundance Film Festival, which will run from Thursday through Feb. 2, boasts multiple screenings of more than 118 feature films in various venues, the weeklong ASCAP Music Cafe, the BMI Snowball music showcase and dozens of panel discussions with filmmakers, actors and other film-industry insiders.

To ensure things run smoothly for the more than 122,000 people who are expected to attend the festival, the Sundance Institute relies on more than 2,200 volunteers each year, according to media relations senior manager Jason Berger.

Volunteers, including 104 from 24 foreign countries, help with all aspects of the festival, including but not limited to managing lines at the box office and theaters, assisting new and returning filmmakers, chauffeuring jury members, running venues and even snow removal, Berger said.

“(They help) with almost anything at the festival,” he said.

To understand what entices a volunteer to participate, and what the experience is like on the ground in Park City, The Park Record spoke with two of this year’s volunteers, one a first-timer and the other a returning Sundance veteran.

Lucie Guillemot, a first-time volunteer

Lucie Guillemot comes to the festival from Paris.

“I’ve always wanted to work with the Sundance Film Festival, and so you can say I’m very excited, to say the least,” Guillemot said during a phone call two weeks ago. “I’ve never event attended the festival before, so this is one of my dreams that is coming true.”

Guillemot’s job will be as a Sundance Industry Office theater operations representative. She will serve as an onsite liaison at film screenings. Her duties will be to provide support for sales agents at theaters, and ensure that theater operations run smoothly and fairly.

Guillemot will also work with theater teams to find solutions to problems such as viewers arriving late to screenings and coordinate car and driving schedules for important guests when needed.

The new volunteer, whose childhood prize possession is a poster of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival comedy/drama “Little Miss Sunshine,” was surprised to be selected as a volunteer this year.

“I sent in my request in September, and then I received a couple of emails telling me not to give up even though they had received many applications,” she said. “I didn’t think it would ever workout, but someone from the festival contacted me directly to say there was a position open. They told me if I answered right away, I would get it. So I did.”

Guillemot learned about volunteering while working as a curator for the New York City Independent Film Festival. The job requires her to watch films in Paris, then fly to New York every May when the festival is held.

“One of our volunteers told me he also volunteers at the Sundance Film Festival, and that I should apply,” she said. “I wasn’t aware that I could just send in a volunteer request in French, but he told me I could. So I decided to try.”

The film festival bug bit Guillemot in 2013, when she volunteered at the Seattle International Film Festival as part of a study-abroad program.

“I was studying political science, which in French means more than just politics,” she said. “In my third year, a student can do either an internship or attend a university for the study abroad. I wanted to have a professional experience. So I applied to the film festival and it was amazing.”

Guillemot, who is also a filmmaker, has been interested in film since she was a child.

“When I was 8 I took theater classes, and realized how fun it was to act, but more fun to direct,” she said. “I saw what my teacher did and realized I wanted to do that.”

Guillemot got her first camera when she was 11, and would film anything she could.

“I wanted to work in cinema, and I can say that my whole life surrounds around film,” she said. ‘So I’m looking forward to this new adventure.”

Jeri Smith, veteran volunteer

Smith, who lives in Houston, has been a Sundance Institute summer labs volunteer for more than 30 years, and a Sundance Film Festival volunteer for 15.

Throughout her volunteer career she has worked in various stations, including the festival box office, theater venues and as a jury assistant.

For the past few years, she has worked at the alumni desk, which serves the festival’s returning filmmakers.

“People are automatically assigned to you to help you maneuver through the festival if you are a first-time director,” she said. “So when you come back the next year, the alumni desk fills in that duty.”

Smith, an actress and acting coach who taught theater and acting in film, ventured into volunteering while on summer vacation at the Sundance Resort.

“I happened to be there for a reading during the directors lab, and I’ve been going there ever since,” she said.

Smith began volunteering at the film festival after gentle prodding from her lab colleagues.

“They kept telling me I should come back during the winter, but I was always teaching or doing a show,” she said. “Once I retired from fulltime teaching I was able to finally do it.”

While Sundance offers training and a mentorship program for new volunteers, most of the training during the festival is done on the job, Smith said.

“You learn how to do things as you go along,” she said. “At the alumni desk, we usually have two volunteers who know what to do, and during the busy times there is a third volunteer we usually get to teach.”

Smith enjoys working at the alumni desk, because she runs into old friends from the summer labs who happen to be filmmakers.

“I also get to see the films they have made,” she said. “Since I work in casting at the labs, I can also get reacquainted with the actors.”

Through the festival, Smith has made strong friends from all around the country over the years.

“While we keep in touch through social media, the best thing is being able to sit around a fire and catch up with a glass of wine every year,” she said.

The biggest challenge for being a volunteer is dealing with lack of sleep.

“We work long hours that start at 8 in the morning,” she said. “When our shifts are done, we’ll get to go see some films and get together afterwards for a glass of wine. Then we’ll have to be back at our posts at 8 a.m. again the next morning. So I, like many of my fellow volunteers, end up going home and sleeping after the 10 days are over.”

Still, Smith said there isn’t anything better than helping people from all over the world learn to appreciate independent film.

“We have the opportunity to have these conversations about the films people have seen or the actors they have met,” she said. “It’s a remarkable atmosphere.”

Sundance doc ‘Church and the Fourth Estate’ takes Boy Scouts, LDS church to task over child sex abuse

This week, while the spotlights shine brightly on red carpets in Park City and Salt Lake City, one filmmaker is anticipating attention of a darker sort. During the Sundance Film Festival, Brian Knappenberger’s documentary “Church and the Fourth Estate” will screen just 3 miles from the epicenter of his searing expose about the Boy Scouts’ decades-long failure to address child sex abuse among its ranks and allegations that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was complicit in covering up thousands of victim reports.

The Sundance selection will screen at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City on Feb. 1, just a few blocks from the church’s global headquarters at Temple Square. But Knappenberger says he is prepared to handle the fallout. The director is a Sundance and Slamdance veteran whose self-defined specialty is speaking truth to power — especially when conflicts involve powerful billionaires trying to intimidate investigative reporters.

Knappenberger first displayed his keen ability to explore the ragged boundaries of social change and new technology in his Slamdance documentary “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists.”

He reappeared on the Sundance slate in 2014 with “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” about the controversial computer programmer’s efforts to defy attempts to limit public access to the internet, his arrest and eventual suicide.

In 2016, Knappenberger’s film “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” began as a tale about the incendiary trial, financed by arch-conservative Peter Thiel, that silenced the website Gawker. But as attacks on the media engulfed the presidential election that year, he enlarged the project to include several examples of well-financed blitzes on the free press.

When casting that net, Knappenberger came across an example in Idaho that fit the mold perfectly. An Idaho billionaire had purchased a series of full-page newspaper ads to discredit one of its reporters. But due to the roller coaster ride that ended in Donald Trump’s victory, and its timing just as Knappenberger was wrapping his film for Sundance, he set those notes aside.

The Idaho ads, however, kept nagging at Knappenberger. And, when he dug a little deeper, he decided the story merited its own documentary, one that has become more timely than he could have imagined.

In 2005, The Post Register in Idaho Falls published a series of articles about a local Boy Scout who had been sexually abused by a troop leader. The 14-year-old was told by his church leaders not to report the matter, that the perpetrator, who was also a church member, would be handled internally. But when the man was not removed from his post at the Scout camp, the victim went to the police. A subsequent investigation revealed the man had a decade-long rap sheet of multiple child molestation charges — and the church had been well aware of his background.

The Post Register’s series unleashed a wave of similar reports from other victims, some involving the same offender. In fact, as the reporter and his editor began to follow up on the issue they discovered an even bigger problem: The Boy Scouts organization and the closely connected Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had gone to great lengths to cover up the abuse.

Many in the community were incensed that the newspaper had made the case public. The local magnate who placed the ads that had captured Knappenberger’s attention claimed the articles were part of a personal agenda to smear both the Scouts and the church.

“Church and the Fourth Estate” is director Brian Knappenberger’s third Sundance documentary all of which have highlighted media efforts to expose attempts at censorship by powerful forces.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Tyler Curtis

According to Knappenberger, the victim’s “strong moral compass” evidenced by his reporting of the abuse made the story even more compelling.

“I am so inspired by his courage. … It was amazing how much he told us and how forthcoming he was with these very painful experiences. I knew he captured the central part of the film.”

Knappenberger’s documentary focuses on the victim and on the reporter, both of whom experienced a vicious backlash in a town where the Boy Scouts and the church are considered pillars in the community.

In the meantime, while Knappenberger’s crew was busy filming the rugged Idaho landscape where the abuse took place, other abused Scouts across the country had begun coming out of the shadows.

A common theme ran through many of those cases: Victims claim they were told to keep their allegations quiet and say officials from both the Scouts and the church told them the cases would be handled internally.

Nevertheless, according to Knappenberger, “As we made this film, the number of cases now at 12,000 victims of sexual misconduct, 8,000 perpetrators (all involving Scout leaders), just kept going up. That is what is so alarming.” It’s unclear how many of those cases are also tied to the church.

According to Knappenberger’s research, the figures are significantly higher than the number of abuse cases reported within the Catholic Church. That, he says, is because Scout activities often take place outdoors, overnight, in remote places where there is little other adult supervision.

“It has been a problem, a big problem, since the beginning of the Boy Scouts, which has been around since 1910,” he said.

But, Knappenberger, a former Boy Scout himself, believes the organization may not be around much longer.

“I don’t think the Boy Scouts are an organization that deserves to be teaching any kind of moral leadership to kids,” he said. “It comes down to making the right choice, the moral choice, and when you fail that badly, you give up your right to be an arbiter of moral leadership.”

The church needs to take responsibility, too, Knappenberger contends.

“The Boy Scouts and the Mormon church are deeply connected historically,” he said. “What typically happened was that an abuser in the Boy Scouts would go to the bishop, the bishop would determine if that person had repented. If so, then they could go back into the position they were in and there was no need to go to the law or even to inform people around them about what the person had done.”

The film, which debuts in Sundance’s documentary shorts program, comes as the church and the Boy Scouts are unwinding their 110-year relationship. The divorce became official on Dec. 31, and the church plans to launch its own youth program this year. According to a joint statement from both organizations, it is an amicable separation. The statement, however, does not mention the nationwide allegations of child abuse or debates between the two organizations about the Boy Scouts’ recent decision to allow gay leaders.

In a separate but related issue, Knappenberger’s film may add some gravitas to a bill being introduced in the current session of Utah Legislature. H.B. 90 would require members of the clergy to report confessions of child abuse, even in the context of a religious setting. Currently, state law allows bishops and priests to claim clergy privilege as an exemption from the mandatory reporting required of educators and doctors.

With a critical eye, “Church and the Fourth Estate” takes viewers to the center of an unfolding controversy and underscores the media’s role in shedding light on the truth. 

Documentary ‘Spaceship Earth’ reappraises an ambitious project in a new light

Documentary filmmaker Matt Wolf was in search of a new project when he stumbled upon a striking image. Eight people, wearing identical reddish-orange jumpsuits, standing within a glass pyramid.

“I assumed it was a still from a science fiction movie,” he said.

As he delved further, though, he found it was a real structure, a real experiment: Biosphere 2, an attempt in the late 1980s to recreate Earth’s biomes in a hermetically sealed, self-sustaining structure. Those eight people were ‘Biospherians,’ the men and women who would live inside for two years, collecting data and learning all they could about living in greater harmony with one’s ecosystem.

“Once I realized that, and that it’s participants are still alive, I was determined to tell their story,” Wolf said. “I had no idea how epic and unexpected their journey had been.”

Wolf will debut his film, “Spaceship Earth,” on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the MARC Theatre during the Sundance Film Festival. The film uses archival footage and new interviews with the participants to not only cover the Biosphere 2 project itself but also the decades of work leading up to it.

“I was struck by the ambition of these people to literally reimagine the world, particularly in the context of catastrophic climate change today,” he said. “But it’s also a human story of the possibilities and limitations of that ambition.”

Wolf said he was compelled to reexamine Biosphere 2 in part because of its reception at the time.

“The project was in many ways rebuked by the media. From my point of view, it was sort of flattened in its depiction,” he said.

For that reason, Wolf said, he wanted to look at Biosphere 2 with the benefit of hindsight, both his as a researcher and that of the participants’ themselves. It took some effort, he said, to convince the Biospherians to speak with him.

“I think because of the reception at the time, there was some concern among those who were a part of it whether we were going to tell a more nuanced, complex version of their story. So I had to really do my homework to convince them this was a worthwhile project,” he said.

Wolf said he was excited to find that not only were they willing to talk, they had also carefully documented their own experiences, which provided him with a wealth of material to sift through.

Wolf said he is eager to share “Spaceship Earth,” a story about an ambitious project as relevant today as it ever was.

“This conversation is incredibly relevant to the political and ecological crises of the current moment,” he said. “But also, the idea that small groups can be engines of change is just really powerful.”

Letters: There’s a place for e-bikes on Park City’s trails

There’s a place for e-bikes on the trails

I’ve never been part of a town more passionate about more things than Park City. We’re passionate about our art, music, culture, environment, pets and, most importantly, our mountains. Trial etiquette has always been a heated topic, but it’s become more so as people move to Utah in droves and trails become more crowded. I get it, change is hard.

With the arrival of e-bikes on the scene, it’s made people in Park City nervous, and we’re taking a cautious approach. Which is OK. But here’s an impassioned plea from an e-bike enthusiast:

I’m your friend, not your foe.

I’m not overstating it when I say e-bikes have changed my life. What was once something my husband did alone, we can now do together. He generally rides his analog bike while I ride my e-bike. My mental health is better, my heart health has improved, my relationship has never been stronger, and my joints — ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis — are much happier in a pedal-assisted environment.

My husband is a very strong rider — with or without pedal assist — and uses his e-bike as a way to decompress and stay motivated to go out and ride after a long 12-hour shift as a nurse.

I want to high-five the old timers I see out on trails sweating and riding e-bikes. I nearly yell, “We’re doing it, guys! Great to see you out here!”

As to the argument I’m somehow not “earning it” because I ride an e-bike, I’d be happy to share my Apple Watch data that consistently reports otherwise.

Those against e-bikes on Park City’s trails just seem mean or elitist (or both) and I’ll never understand it. There will always be inconsiderate riders, just like there will always be inconsiderate skiers and snowboarders, and drivers, and dance fighters. But if you’re willing to ban a 40-year-old arthritic mother of two, I think that says more about Park City’s values and less about whether e-bikes are good or bad for trails.

Jeni Jones

Heber City

Trump will walk away from the rubble

I am stunned that few seem to care about Trump’s next assault on our planet. Significant changes are being made to the National Environmental Policy Act, allowing federal agencies to approve certain infrastructure projects without considering climate change consequences! This will stop federal environmental reviews of projects that lack government funding. This will endanger wildlife and lead to more carbon dioxide emissions being released into the atmosphere. Of course Trump’s person in charge was a former lobbyist for Big Oil.

Greed for short financial gains to big polluters and our corrupt president are prioritized. Even national parks and monuments, our world-wide envied treasures, are being assaulted. Our public health and environment are at grave risk from the growing climate crisis and our own president. Trump has cut regulations put in place by prior administrations to protect our environment and will continue doing this. He is corrupt to the core. While he and his cronies are stuffing their pockets, our planet is dying. His staunch followers will reelect him again for our “booming economy” that cannot last. Our huge, growing debt will bring us to bankruptcy, something Trump is familiar with. As before, he will just walk away from the rubble.

Maria Roberts

Park City

Summit County officials prepare for the Sundance crowds

As the film world descends on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival this week, county officials are preparing for increased demand for services, from a huge swell of Health Department inspections to an increase in calls to the Sheriff’s Office.

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said that Park City incurs about 99% of the film festival’s government planning demands but that Sundance remains the largest event held in the county annually and the impacts are felt in the county’s courts and jails, roads and hotels.

“Sundance has a huge effect on the whole community,” Fisher said. “From a county government perspective, we don’t dread it at all. It’s a wonderful event in the community that certainly causes some impacts that our residents have either expressed opinions about, or deal with or stay away. Sundance brings a lot of good to our community as well, not just tax revenue.”

Nate Brooks, the county’s environmental health director, said the Health Department spends more time in the run-up to the event to prevent “a storm of inspections” in just a few days. The department is responsible for inspecting the temporary “mass gathering sites” and places that will offer food.

“It is all hands on deck and our staff is great (at) pitching in and working with people to ensure safe food consumption,” Brooks said. “We only have four licensed environmental health scientists … and that requires that we team up to attempt to knock out all the inspections early in Sundance and then spot check and handle complaints throughout the events.”

Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said the office is ramping up for the busiest event of the year. He said the volume of calls increases, which affects dispatchers, and jailers are kept busy with an increase in the number of bookings.

The office also does a lot of planning before Sundance, Wright said, coordinating security plans with all the venues and discussing films that may draw protesters to ensure an adequate law enforcement presence.

He added that the Park City Police Department bears the brunt of the event and that sheriff’s deputies supplement their efforts as much as they can, including providing extra staffing at venues and for traffic control.

For the Public Works Department, there are compounded challenges for snow removal if a storm hits while there are more vehicles on the road.

“The added traffic can slow us down a bit,” Public Works Director Derrick Radke said.

The Transportation Department does what it can through signage and messaging to direct people to mass transit and park-and-ride options.

Fisher said that, even though many residents are vocal about the event’s inconveniences, some see the positives.

“We get a lot of exposure out of this as well,” he said. “There are a certain percentage of our residents who enjoy the event.”

‘Bad Hair’ kicks off Sundance with a do-or-die satire

It’s 1989.

As Janet Jackson burns up the airwaves and Public Enemy makes a name for itself, Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) hopes to take advantage of a pivotal moment for African Americans in pop culture by becoming the new face of entertainment television. There’s just one requirement: She’s got to get a weave.

But the weave wants blood.

“Bad Hair,” which helps kick off the Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight category, is a satirical psychothriller written and directed by Justin Simien, who last made a splash at the festival in 2014 with his feature “Dear White People.” Since then, Simien has adapted that film into a critically acclaimed Netflix series with a fourth season on the way, and he hopes his sophomore outing will expand upon the themes of identity both inside and out of marginalized groups that he’s explored in his past work.

The journey of Williams’ character in the film is a satire of the personal sacrifices that black Americans — black women, especially — find themselves making in a society with norms and expectations set by white people. And Simien says that the horror at the core of the film is a universal, existential one that nonetheless affects everyone unequally.

“Everybody, no matter your race, creed or religion, we all have to cut off parts of ourselves and subdue parts of ourselves in order to survive, and when you’re part of a marginalized group of people those parts of yourself are larger and varied,” Simien said. “You start to go through life ashamed of what you are naturally.”

Bludso, who wears her hair naturally after a relaxer perm scarred her scalp, begins to see success after she adopts the weave at the behest of her new boss, a former supermodel by the name of Zora (Vanessa Williams). But soon, the new, artificial ‘do reveals its malign intentions.

“(The weave) is not ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ where you hear it talk or anything like that, but it really is a blending of a bunch of different things,” Simien said of his influences. “It’s more in the vein of a ‘Body Snatchers’ and ‘Stepford Wives’ … the evil is not so much on the hair itself as the circumstances that she finds herself in.”

It was important to set the script in 1989, Simien said, both because period horror pieces are effective at grounding the audience and because that era represents a crucial turning point for African Americans in pop culture and thus provides fertile ground to cover the story’s themes.

“For the first time in a really long time, black artists are being played on pop stations and being assimilated into the mainstream culture. … Urban, everyday black culture started to become pop culture,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever really looked at that time period from a cultural standpoint and thinking about the prices that might have been paid for that sudden surge of popularity of black culture.”

Simien has explored the racial politics of fashion and personal aesthetics before in “Dear White People,” and “Bad Hair” zeros in on a pain point for black women in the real world. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who stood out on Capitol Hill by wearing her hair in braids, recently made waves when she revealed her struggle with alopecia. And studies have shown that black women spend more time and money on hair care, feel that they have fewer options with their hair and encounter more workplace pressure to straighten their hair, which all present financial, cultural and career obstacles.

“It goes so much further than appearance,” Simien said. “If you are not the mainstream ideal of beauty, you sort of are automatically having to inherit all of these self-worth issues that are incredibly debilitating. There are all these assumptions about what you can’t do and what places and spaces you can’t be in because you don’t look a certain way.”

Simien said he’s looking forward to opening the festival with his second visit to Park City.

“It really shows an evolution of what I can do as a filmmaker, and I’m excited to start a whole new conversation.”

Park City police blotter: Vehicle idles for longer than an hour

On Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2:52 p.m., a truck was seen, apparently on a surveillance camera, in a driveway on Oak Wood Court. The Police Department said the circumstances were suspicious.

A possible hit-and-run traffic accident was reported on Snow Creek Drive at 1:30 p.m. Public police logs did not provide details.

The Police Department at 10:29 a.m. received a complaint that a vehicle was left with the engine running for longer than an hour on Snow Creek Drive. Public police logs indicated the case involved a suspected violation of City Hall’s rules against idling.

The police at 7:25 a.m. received a call from someone on King Road regarding trash pickup. The person who contacted the Police Department indicated they were told a week ago a snowplow would be dispatched to the street since a garbage truck refused to pick up the trash due to the road conditions, according to department logs. It had “become an emergency” and the person wanted police assistance, according to the logs.

A person suspected to be homeless was seen sleeping in a restroom at the Old Town transit center at 5:45 a.m.

People were reportedly seen jumping out of a hot tub and into the snow on Ledger Way at 12:12 a.m. They were loud, the police were told.

On Saturday, Jan. 18 at 6:12 p.m., someone on Kearns Boulevard reported seeing a bright light flashing, apparently on a hillside close to the Park City Cemetery. The Police Department described the circumstances as suspicious.

A car was seen on a surveillance camera in a driveway on Aerie Drive at 1:54 p.m. There were people inside the vehicle, the police were told. The Police Department indicated the circumstances were suspicious.

A vehicle was left in a crosswalk at the intersection of Swede Alley and 5th Street at 12:41 a.m. The driver moved the vehicle.

On Friday, Jan. 17 at 8:34 p.m., a driver reportedly stopped in traffic for longer than two minutes, dropping people off and picking them up. A police officer pulled the driver over to inform the person of City Hall’s drop-and-load rules.

On Thursday, Jan. 16 at 2:54 p.m., two cars were reported to be parked in front of a house on Woodside Avenue. The police were told snowplows could not get through.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 5:58 p.m., skis were reportedly taken from an unlocked vehicle on Lowell Avenue. The Police Department logged the case as a suspected vehicle burglary.

On Monday, Jan. 13 at 1:40 p.m., a ski pole was seen in the road at or close to the intersection of Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard. The Police Department said the pole was a traffic hazard.

A vehicle slid off the road at or close to the intersection of Deer Valley Drive and Aerie Drive at 7:17 a.m. The vehicle slid into a snow bank, the police were told.

‘Dinner in America’ serves up a human experience at the Sundance Film Festival

Filmmaker Adam Rehmeier’s “Dinner in America,” a feature in Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition, is a funny and dramatic serving about a fugitive punk rocker named Simon, played by Kyle Gallner, who meets an eccentric fan named Patty, portrayed by Emily Skeggs.

The story follows the connection that develops between the two as they make their way through Midwestern suburbs.

Rehmeier, a musician who wanted to shoot a film that had a punk-rock theme, cooked up the story by combining the ideas of some scripts he had been cultivating over the past six years.

“I had a script years ago that I was dinking around with that had the Simon character selling his body as a guinea pig for clinical testing for drugs to get money so he can record his records,” Rehmeier said. “But it was was a sketch that didn’t work and just lingered around for many years. So I put it away in my idea garden, and began sketching out something else.”

The new script was called “Dinner in America,” and it was originally about a girl and a new boy that moved into her life.

“It was very high school, but nothing was sticking to it, even though I did like the family that was in it,” Rehmeier said. “But it was just a collection of scenes and ideas about people having dinner and talking.”

Rehmeier tucked that idea away for awhile and began writing a third story, but “Dinner in America” kept popping into his head.

“Then the Simon character came to mind, and he hijacked the script,” he said. “I thought it might be interesting if ‘Dinner in America’ took place a few years after high school, and then I thought about Simon coming into the story and disrupting the life of the family. So I integrated the two together.”

Rehmeier had tried to start making the film a few times over the past six years, but nothing got off the ground until he cast Gallner and Skeggs.

“This film originally looks like a cartoon on a page, because it’s loud and wacky,” he said. “What happens when you have the honor of working with Emily and Kyle is that they humanize the story in a way you can’t see on the page.”

Gallner was on Rehmeier’s original list of actors he wanted for the film

“I had an inside connection and had someone email him a screenplay, and he didn’t read it for three-and-a-half years,” Rehemeir said.

Gallner only read it because of Rehemeir’s director of photography, Jean-Philippe Bernier.

“JP was working with Kyle in Romania, and he told Kyle about an exciting film he was going to start shooting,” Rehmeier said. “Kyle asked what the film was, and asked if we had cast the lead.”

After hearing the story, Gallner said, “I know that script,” and dug through his emails.

“He then called his agent and said he wanted to do this film,” Rehemer said. “I’ve never stopped teasing him about that.”

Skeggs got the role in a more traditional way, via video auditions.

“Emily really got the character, and her aesthetic choice for her outfit was 100 percent correct,” Rehmeier said. “I was immediately drawn to her mannerisms and ticks from the tape.”

Skeggs even added her own flair to the character by purchasing $10 reading glasses from Walgreens.

During a production meeting with costume designers Anais Castaldi and Hannah Greenblat, production designer Francesca Palombo, Skeggs and Rehemeir tried to come up with an iconic look for the character.

“The glasses kept coming up, and I kept, gravitating to was the glasses Emily wore during the audition,” Rehmeier said. “The only thing we had to do was to put some anti-glare lenses in, so we only needed to spend a couple hundred bucks for hero glasses.”

With all of the ingredients in place, Rehmeier began filming, and finished a rough cut a little more than a year ago, and that was when he knew he had the right cast and crew.

“I’ve been surprised by what they all have done, even down to the actors’ nuanced performances,” Rehmeier said. “I’ve cried more in the last year working on this film than I have my entire adult life, because it all just resonates with me.”