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Front Page » December 7, 2006 » Local News » PRWID Revisits Helper Payments
Published 2,911 days ago

PRWID Revisits Helper Payments


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By LES BOWEN
Sun Advocate reporter

The Price River Water Improvement District's board of directors reaffirmed PRWID's commitment on Tuesday to resolve concerns regarding outstanding water payments from Helper. At the Dec. 5 meeting, the panel also reaffirmed the district's intent to establish a policy regarding fees for future emergency water service to the city.

"Are we as a board going to solicit for that money?" questioned panel member Keith Cox, adding that if the board is not going to pursue any action, the issue should be dropped from future discussion.

Two separate but interrelated items are still before board members.

The first rmatter elated to an unpaid balance owed by Helper for water it used in 2005 when the city had problems with its delivery system.

In order to supply the city residents' culinary needs, Helper purchased water from the district.

However, the rate at which the water was originally billed was lower than what it should have been, a discovery made by board member Karl Houskeeper, who is also mayor of Wellington.

At the time the matter was brought up, Wellington and the district were in discussions regarding unpaid bills from the city.

Houskeeper determined that Helper had been billed at a rate which was lower than the rate charged to Wellington.

The district's contract with Wellington, Houskeeper said, prohibited PRWID from selling water to another public entity at a lower rate.

As a result, Helper was informed that the city's rate had been incorrectly calculated and the district requested a payment to correct the situation.

Various alternatives to payment have been discussed, including a water share transaction to offset the outstanding balance.

However, Helper's city council has not agreed to any of the terms and the matter has remained unresolved.

A second concern stemmed from the outstanding balance owed by Helper.

In order to avoid an incorrect billing in the future, the district and Helper have discussed the possibility of establishing a rate for water service to water companies which do not have an ongoing contract with PRWID.

Helper is the only water provider in PRWID's service area which does not have a contract with the improvement district.

Other cities and water companies in the area purchase at least a portion of their supplies from the district and have service agreements in place.

Helper is in a unique situation, where the city generally meets the needs of residents. The only time Helper has needed to purchase water have been when there were failures with its delivery lines.

The two items regarding past and future water service in Helper have remained on the board's agenda with little discussion in recent months. The last action taken by the board was earlier this year when a letter was sent to Helper requesting that the city state its position and take actions toward resolving an unpaid balance with the district.

Board member Mike Dalpiaz, who is also the mayor of Helper stated that the city had discussed the matter and instructed the city attorney to respond with a letter indicating the city's position. District staff confirmed that they have not seen a letter from the city.

At the end of 2005, discussions regarding the matter came to a standstill when outgoing elected officials in Helper requested that the issue be left to the newly elected administration. Since city officials took office in January, Dalpiaz said there have been discussions involving himself, Helper attorney Gene Strate and PRWID attorney Nick Sampinos. Still, the water district board has not been presented with a possible resolution.

Board member Tom Matthews offered the opinion that the board should be involved in discussions, as the district's position regarding the matter will be ultimately decided by board members. He added that the discussion regarding future water rates for Helper would ultimately benefit Helper, so the city would know in advance the rate at which water would be billed.

Dalpiaz said that while the board has the ability to set that rate where it sees fit, he added that Helper may or may not agree to purchase water at an inflated rate.

"If you want to bill Helper some astronomical amount of money for water, then that's this board's decision," said Dalpiaz. "And then Helper will do whatever Helper has to do. If we have to go fetch it in buckets out of the river and go water people's lawns, then that's what we'll do."

Considering the fact that the matter has been pending for some time, board member Richard Tatton requested that staff prepare a brief overview of the history of the Helper water situation. He further requested that the matter remain on the agenda so the board can establish a rate for possible future water purchases by Helper and to take action regarding the city's outstanding balance.

The board is expected to address the two issues involving Helper rates in January, when Tatton suggested the board come to a resolution and take action on the matter.



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