SANTAQUIN — City employees have had their hours trimmed and their wages cut to meet budget shortfalls, but the Santaquin City Council has refused to dip into consultant Stuart Reid's $2,500 monthly paycheck.

Mayor Jim DeGraffenreid defended the expense during a recent City Council meeting, saying Reid's work will build a better tax base for the city and possibly help avoid future budget shortfalls. While acknowledging that the city hasn't yet seen many of the benefits of the consultant's work, DeGraffenried said terminating them could set city progress back years.

"I don't know how to build a city," he said.

A majority of the City Council decided not to press the issue, but Councilman Brent Vincent was hesitant to do so. Councilman Fil Askerlund sided with the majority of the council, though he complained that negotiations went on without him being informed.

"We need to be as transparent as possible," Askerlund said.

Reid and fellow consultants Bill Wright and Kelly Gilmore have been working with the city since 2006. They were initially tasked with updating the city's general plan that hadn't been revised since 2000, according to a city planning report obtained by the Deseret News.

The update included new subdivisions Summit Ridge, which encompasses 2,000 acres, and North Orchard.

Reid also helped staff conduct economic surveys to learn regional marketing conditions between Provo and Nephi. City officials credit his efforts for the planning awards Santaquin has received from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the Utah Legislature and Mountainland Association of Governments — all of which touted the city's ability to handle growth.

As for the massive Summit Ridge development, Reid worked to eliminate a planned golf course and instead negotiated for a donation of 35 acres from the developer. The potential value to the city was $7.5 million, DeGraffenreid said.

The negotiations included 48 acres of parks, instead on the golf course, worth about $2.4 million to the city, as well as a payment to the city of $700,000 over time from Summit Ridge in lieu of the golf course.

Reid is also credited in bringing in The Boyer Co., which is considering development of a grocery store in the city's gateway area, the mayor said. Santaquin doesn't have a grocery store.

DeGraffenreid also praised Reid and Wright for working with the Utah Transit Authority to extend the FrontRunner commuter-rail project to Santaquin, rather than ending a few miles north in Payson.

Other consultant-led projects in the works include:

The planned construction of a Maverik gas station and hotel near the Main Street/I-15 off-ramp.

Negotiations for a planned commercial center at 450 E. Orchard Lane.

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A federal grant of $360,000 for a planned water-treatment plant. (Reid introduced federal lobbyist Ken Lee to city officials.)

Plans for a Utah Heritage Farming Museum, a Native American Cultural Center and related housing and retail on the city's south end.

Plans for a business park on the city's west side around its sewer lagoons.

A nonprofit Santaquin City Foundation to solicit funds for economic, recreation, marketing and land purchases to aid the city. The foundation is not yet functioning.

A planned Political Action Committee to address state and national legislative issues.

E-MAIL: rodger@desnews.com