DUCHESNE, Utah — Duchesne is isolated, and, sure, it could use a bowling alley. The people of this rural ranching community say they are not bowled over, however, by the idea of getting one as a thank-you for free municipal services provided resident federal workers for two decades.
"We thought we would call it Pork Barrel Lanes," City Manager Alan Grindstaff said, adding that the $500,000 being spent on the project might have been a more appropriate gift to the city.
The six-lane alley, scheduled to open Oct. 16, is the government's response to a Duchesne request for assistance to make up for a drain on the local economy.
For 20 years, about 200 Bureau of Reclamation employees, working on a Central Utah Project to divert water bound for the Colorado River, have lived in trailer parks that are exempt from property taxes estimated at $26,000 a year. Services such as police and animal control come from the $350,000 municipal budget, although the government pays support to local schools.
"We have a lot of people there taking a lot of city services," and they likely will continue to do so for another four to six years, said Ed Fowler, the bureau's regional director.
Because the bureau was barred by law from paying for services, this eastern Utah community of 2,000 people, 30 miles from the nearest lanes, is getting the $450,000 alley.
If that isn't odd enough, $375,000 of the money will come from Central Utah Project funds that eventually must be repaid by Utah water users. Moreover, the city must shell out the $75,000 balance of the cost and pay for any cost overruns.
Duchesne, halfway between the Salt Lake City and the Colorado state line, will own the brick building and operate the lanes, so the city could suffer if it does not make a profit.
"It's a benefit to our community, and it's something we'll all use," said Mayor RoJean Addley. "But the situation isn't just a bowling alley; it's a whole big issue."
The issue, she said, is that the bureau is bleeding off water resources and spoiling opportunities for local economic growth. The bowling alley project, she said, has been used as a smoke screen.
Residents long have been miffed because the water project's expected benefits--water for cities, industry and irrigation--will be available everywhere in Utah except in Duchesne County, which is bearing the brunt of construction.
Rep. Howard Nielson (R-Utah), who in 1983 urged a House subcommittee to allocate money for the bowling alley, said he never intended to see Central Utah Project funds used to build it. He called the bowling lanes "very adequate compensation" for the bureau's presence in the community, however. "In fact," he added, "I think it's generous."
City Councilman Terry Heaps has a different view. He said that there are other ways for the government to repay Duchesne.
"Something positive should be left, something besides two dusty fields where their trailer parks were," he said. "Had that money been put into houses, I wouldn't have complained one bit. That would have been a tax base the community could inherit down the road."
Still, there is little disagreement that Duchesne residents need a place to have fun--to see a movie, residents must travel 30 or 40 miles east, to Roosevelt, or more than two hours west, to Salt Lake City. And registrations of new bowling leagues have been brisk.