Improvement district proposes resolution to Helper water issues
Officials at Price River Water Improvement District's board meeting on Jan. 16 proposed a series of options in an effort to resolve three separate issues impacting the city of Helper.
If Helper's council agrees, the city and the water district could resolve concerns about both the outstanding water payment from 2004 and the sewer outfall line near Spring Glen Road which PRWID acquired in 2006.
The outstanding water payment issue developed after Helper purchased water from the district between March and December 2004.
Helper paid more than $70,000 as the city received invoices from the water improvement district.
However, after Helper had paid its bill, the board learned that it had charged the city at a lower rate than what residents of Wellington were paying.
PRWID's agreement with Wellington stipulated that the district cannot sell water at a lower rate than the city.
As a result, the water improvement board took the position that Helper should pay an additional payment to cover the difference.
Originally, the board suggested that Helper may owe more than $100,000.
Over time, Helper officials and PRWID board members found a more equitable method of calculating the city's outstanding balance.
In 2005, a committee of representatives of both agencies proposed that Helper city should pay the water improvement district $18,738.
At that time, Helper officials rejected a proposal to turn over some of the city's water shares to the district to pay down the balance.
PRWID board member Richard Tatton proposed a similar proposal for Helper to consider.
Tatton proposed that Helper turn over 200 water shares which the city owns at Scofield Reservoir.
Helper's primary source of water is at Fish Creek, and the city has not needed to exercise its water rights at Scofield in recent years.
Tatton proposed that Helper lease 200 shares to the district for a five year period.
District manager Phil Palmer told the board that water shares at Scofield are currently valued at about $12 per year.
At that price, over a five year period, Helper's 200 water shares would have an approximate value of $12,000 -- roughly one third of the outstanding dollar amount.
"My thought is to make things as easy as possible. Even at $18,000, that's a pretty substantial amount of money on budgets. That would make it a non-cash transaction," pointed out Tatton.
Tatton's motion passed 4-1, with board member Mike Dalpiaz, the mayor of Helper, voting nay.
Regarding future water purchases, the board has previously suggested that it may be necessary to have an agreement in place with Helper so that the city can purchase water at an established rate.
Helper and Price are the only developed areas in PRWID's service area which do not rely on PRWID for water.
Price has an agreement to take water as the city needs it from PRWID on an exchange basis.
The exchange basis is accomplished by transferring water between the district and the city at various points where Price's culinary system connects to PRWID's transmission lines.
Helper's is, in many ways, a unique entity in that the city does not have an agreement in place to exchange or receive water from the improvement district.
PRWID board members expressed the opinion at Tuesday's meeting that an agreement may not be necessary.
Instead, PRWID can establish the district's rate and Helper would need to pay whatever PRWID charges.
"For Helper's sake, we need resolve try and figure out a rate so if Helper - or somebody else - ever need water, they can call , and we'll know per 1,000, what it's going to cost," said board member Tom Matthews.
The matter will be included on the agenda for a board meeting in February.
Concerning the sewer line near Spring Glen Road, the board passed a motion to replace the line which the water improvement district took over from the city last year.
Studies on the line by district staff have determined that a large portion of the line needs to be replaced.
Staff proposed a shorter route from the north end of the line, near Birch Street in Helper to PRWID's main sewer line near the Price River.
The shorter route would reduce the total length of the line and would be easier to install.
The shorter route would also eliminate a shallow portion of the line - a depth of about four feet - where the line crosses a plowed field at its north end.
However, two weeks ago, the board learned that 700 feet of the proposed line extend into Helper.
On Tuesday, the board passed a motion to construct and pay for the line in the proposed location if Helper's council will agree that any revenue from new connections to the sewer line line will go to PRWID.
That means that all impact fees and sewer payments for any future development south of Birch Street would be paid to the water district.
The board also requested that Helper release any easements on the older line and requested that the city officially relinquish any interests in the existing line.
Matthews abstained from the vote because the PRWID board member leases the plowed field where the sewer line currently runs and stands to benefit if the line is removed from the field entirely.