Helper hikes city's sewer rate, passes dog ban ordinance
Helper's parks are officially off limits to pooches and residents' sewer bills will rise by $2 after the city council passed two ordinances at the April 3 meeting.
Dogs and, more specifically, the animals' droppings became a hot topic in February, when members of the town's beautification committee requested that there be some way to keep the canines off the parkway.
Members said the planned efforts to spruce up the area would be compromised by animals doing their business. The council agreed.
"It's just not fair to the committee to allow dogs on the parkway, " said Councilmember Larry Ganser at a March 6 meeting.
Pet owners and people supporting a ban filled the council chambers to share concerns and offer alternatives, including providing plastic bags to haul away the offending material.
But Helper Mayor Mike Dalpiaz said promises made by residents to clean up after their animals just didn't surface.
"Everybody said they were going to clean it up but they don't," he said at the March meeting.
The public works director backed up the mayor, telling the crowd that not only were there piles in parks but the town's sidewalks were often targets for pups.
However, putting the law on the books took an extra month due to logistical issues concerning the ordinance that had to be hammered out by Helper City Attorney Gene Strate.
The first hurdle was determining whether there was an existing law that could be reinstated.
Dalpiaz said there was an ordinance against animals in the parks that had been rescinded about five or six years earlier.
The search for the older law was futile and a new one had to be written. Strate brought the draft to the March 20 meeting.
The language concerning service dogs needed a little tweaking and the final draft was passed April 3, with Councilmember John Jones casting the only no vote.
Helper Ordinance 2008-2 reads:
"It shall be unlawful for any owner or any person in charge of any dog or other animal to permit said animal to be upon or about grassed area or playground area in any public park, cemetery or any part of the city parkway within Helper city, provided, however, that this section shall not apply to person who is upon any such area with a seeing-eye dog or any other disability service dog.
"Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person with a dog or other animal from accessing a bridge or tunnel within a park or parkway in order to traverse from one side of the city to the other."
The violation is a class B misdemeanor as defined by Utah's criminal codes.
Before taking the final vote, councilmembers took a stroll on the parkway to see for themselves what the fuss was about.
Dalpiaz said he didn't see all that much, but his colleagues reported spotting the piles.
Beautification committee members in the audience suggested that perhaps another of the five senses would be a better judge of the situation.
"Just go there in the summertime, close your eyes and you can smell it," Lois Giordano said.
The second ordinance of the night was sparked by the recent sewer and rate increases instituted by the Price River Water Improvement District that went into effect April 1.
Facing more than $12 million in bond debt, PRWID's board voted to raise water fees by $3 and sewer fees by $4.
The ordinance passed by the Helper council increases residents sewer rates from $22 to $24 a month to offset additional costs the city will incur from the water district.
While Helper is responsible for maintenance of the sewer lines, the councilmembers decided not to attach an ongoing percentage hike to help cover inflating costs for the infrastructure upkeep.
"We are maintaining a flat revenue base," said Councilmember Dean Armstrong.
However, the consensus was that the residents shouldn't be hit with additional expenses at the present time.
"They need time to absorb the new rate," said Dalpiaz.
The Helper City Council meets the first and third Thursday of the month. The next meeting is April 17 at 6 p.m. at the civic auditorium.
For more information, local residents may call City Recorder Jona Skerl at 472-5391.