Helper implements city utility ordinance
The Helper council voted on Aug. 2 to require residents who occupy homes or buildings to have all city utility services connected to the structures.
"We have residents who are picking and choosing the services they want connected and it is causing some problems," pointed out Helper Mayor Mike Dalpiaz. "One resident decided he would have power and garbage pickup at his place, but he didn't want water or sewer hooked up. I just don't think it's a good situation allowing people to do this."
The mayor said he checked with the health department and the action doesn't violate the codes.
But Dalpiaz thought that the situation could result in unsanitary conditions inside or outside of the buildings in town.
Most of the councilmembers agreed that people should hook up all city utilities when they occupy a building.
However, some elected officials serving on the council were concerned that requiring everyone to have all utilities in place at all times might be a little strong.
"There are areas and times when it is smart for people not to have all their utilities turned on," commented Councilmember Johnny Jones. "For instance, look at rental units. An owner may not have anyone occupying them for an extended period of time and having all the utilities on might just create more cost for the owners. I think that we need to think about how this might affect non-occupied buildings."
Another issue that arose during the meeting was the fact that some people in town might own two or three buildings, but are using only one. Some of the people are business owners who have two or three buildings downtown, but only have one business operating in a single building.
The question came up about whether the business owners would have to have a garbage can for each address, despite the fact they only need one.
Defining what occupancy is was also an issue that was raised at the meeting.
"How do we define occupancy?" asked Helper Police chief George Zamantakis, whose department would have to enforce any regulations on utilitiy services. "Is it one day out of thirty or a week in a month? We need to know that before we can enforce these kinds of laws."
City attorney Gene Strate said that he would have to do some work on that issue, seeing what has tradtionally been defined as occupancy of a residence or building.
In the end the council decided that they would require all occupied buildings to have full city utility services including electricity, water, sewer and garbage collection. The city does not provide telephone or cable service to residents and businesses, so those are not included in the ordinance that was approved. The council also left the door open for people who have unique situations to come to the council and get a variance from the ordinance as well.
"We don't want anyone to feel trapped by this ordinance that may have a legitimate reason for not having all or some utilities supplied to them," said Dalpiaz. "They can come to the council and we will grant exceptions as needed based on the situation."