Stadler just won some contracts for rail cars in California "and they have to start building trains," Shepherd said. "They are under the gun like they have never been before" and "are going to start looking at other sites just in case this doesn't happen."
So, the UTA board declared 37 acres as surplus out of 70 it owns around the station. That allows Clearfield to buy it and resell it at a discount to Stadler.
Until Stadler entered the picture, UTA aimed to build a "transit oriented development" there with retail, offices and apartments to increase ridership. It was part of plans to handle population growth through a string of town centers at rail stations where development would move skyward instead of sprawling outward.
Steps leading to the deal involved players from several past UTA scandals.
For example, several UTA board members and former board Chairman Greg Hughes — now speaker of the Utah House — created controversy by traveling to Switzerland and Stadler headquarters in 2015.
That visit forced UTA to discard bids at the time by Stadler and others seeking to lease a portion of a UTA maintenance facility because of the appearance of favoritism.
Several UTA board members resigned in the wake of the trip and controversy it stirred. One of them, former Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, is the contractor who Stadler wants to build its new plant.
Also, UTA earlier this year gave away a parcel at the station, valued at $1.5 million, to its former partner there — Thackeray Garn Co. — essentially to walk away from the rest of the site to clear the way for the Stadler proposal. UTA said it tried to cut ties with that firm because it had invited UTA board members to invest in some projects. Former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn is a partner in Thackeray Garn.
UTA Board member Brent Taylor, who is also mayor of North Ogden, blasted the final vote Wednesday as premature.
"Here we are again about to approve a contract with massive pieces of information missing," including the price and other terms about zoning on other UTA land there. "I just can't believe it," he said, noting state audits previously criticized UTA for similar actions.
He complained the board was given, during its meeting, a preliminary summary of an appraisal that is not binding — valuing the land at $3.87 million. An earlier UTA appraisal said it was worth $4.93 million, while Clearfield said it was worth $1.47 million.
"We have no ability to review what is the information behind this," Taylor said.
"I feel like we are transferring our responsibility for oversight to the executive, which is not right," he said.
On top of that, "To be able to do this, we gave away a piece of property [to Thackeray Garn] that had tremendous value," he said, calling it "a major loss to taxpayers." He urged moving slower and resolving all issues before approval.
Sherrie Hall Everett, vice-chairwoman of the board, said it has given robust review to the proposal for months, and the board has set general parameters of what the final sale must include — and is leaving it to administrators to finish. She said the board also clearly supports the sale to Stadler to attract jobs.