Helper ditch rescue may get funds from city, IF...
The Helper City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to invest up to $50,000 in piping the endangered Bryner-Ploutz ditch, but there are strings attached.
The city has been looking for some way to mitigate the impact its infrastructure rebuilding will have on the ditch. As reported earlier, the ditch company relies on street gutters to deliver irrigation water to customers in town. That water would disappear down storm drains once the project is finished, impairing delivery of long-standing water rights.
Research and negotiations with the company led to Tuesday's tentative offer.
City funding is contingent on company shareholders agreeing to fund the balance of the $136,000 project. The company will also have to sign a contract with the city that creates iron-clad agreements on such things as future liabilities and maintenance easements.
Those stipulations were adopted on the recommendation of City Attorney Gene Strate. Strate has been in contact with attorneys and staff of the state's Community Impact Board. This is the agency that issued a funding package of about $19 million in grants and loans to the city last year for improvements to its water, sewer and storm drainage systems.
Although the CIB is not happy about applying money from the city's loans to finance improvements to a private system, the agency recognizes that Helper is in a unique situation. It would not oppose applying a small amount of the overall project cost to mitigate the project's impact on delivery of water rights. That small amount is no more than $50,000, Strate said.
Bryner-Ploutz board member Erica Kardelis told the council that the state's Division of Water Resources could provide up to 85 percent of the company's share as a loan at 3 percent interest. That would leave about $13,000 in out-of-pocket, up-front expense for the shareholders.
She added that if water users opt out of the agreement, it could save some money on labor and materials installing the pipe, but it would also reduce the number of customers available to pay off the loan.
Board president Steve Giacoletto said the company would have wanted more help from the city because it was the city's project causing the problem. But if that is the best the city can do, "We'll live with it, then," Giacoletto said.
The ditch users affected are residents of Helper and they understand the infrastructure project is vital to the city, he explained.
If the company shareholders accept the deal, the city would not write a check to Bryner-Ploutz. The $50,000 would be allocated as part of the infrastructure project, with the city's contractor doing the work and buying materials.