Helper rescinds blue stakes decision, accepts park donation
The Helper council met last Thursday and considered a number of issues, including rescinding the blues stakes back charge decision and accepting the donation of Railroad Park to the city.
The blue stakes decision has created a controversial issue. The council decided last year to charge citizens and companies calling blue stakes before digging on private property for any fees assessed to the city for the service.
The city provides the service for its water system and doesn't charge for marking the lines. Also, Questar and Carbon/Emery Telcom do not charge for the services because the companies own the systems they locate and mark. However, the electrical system is different. It is owned by Helper city, but the system is maintained by Utah Power & Light.
Under the contract with the utility, UP&L charges for providing blue stake services. The city is billed when citizens call for the service.
Late last year, the council discussed the matter and decided the costs were too high for the city to absorb, especially since many of the calls were from contractors putting in fences, sprinkling systems and improvements. The officials decided to back charge the callers.
"We have received a letter from the Blue Stakes Association of Utah asking us to reconsider the action taken last year," pointed out Mayor Joe Bonacci at the Thursday meeting. "They are concerned about the fact that the new charges might deter some people from calling when they should and that major problems or injuries could result in such a case."
The main concern cited by the previous council involved the purported high costs on some of the bills. But Bonacci indicated that, as he looked over the actual bills, the fees averaged $25 to $35 per call.
"I am concerned that, if we try to back charge these costs, someone might decide not to call to save the money and something bad could happen," said the mayor.
As the discussion wore on, one council member asked how many lines in the city were actually buried. As far as anyone knew very few were. Then the question was asked if the city could provide the service at the same time the water system was traced.
"I think by the city doing the tracing itself it would be contrary to the maintenance contract Helper has with Utah Power," city attorney Gene Strate told the council.
The problem of potential liability if the city marked out the power lines was also raised during the discussion.
Finally, the council decided that the charges the city was facing from UP&L were not enough for the problems back charging might cause. The officials subsequently repealed the action of the former council.
A second item on the agenda was the donation of Railroad Park to the city from the Helper Development Corporation.
"We have wanted this park to go to the city ever since we bought the property," said Mel Coonrod of HDC. "We would like it to remain a public park once the donation has been made."
The park borders the post office in downtown Helper and has a gazebo from Standardville placed on it. It has been part of a controversy ever since it and other properties on the east side of Main Street were purchased by the HDC more than a year ago. At the time of the purchase, Helper officials indicated that the city did not want the park, but things have changed.
According to the corporation, a grant for $6,500 is in the works for doing improvements on the park.
"We think a railroad theme would fit into this park very well since that is what its name is," pointed out HDC representative Nan Coonrod. "The money could be used for an information center as well as possible construction a viewing area to watch the trains go by on the historic rails that run through town."
The group in attendance discussed the parameters of the park and problems that might arise due to the improvements proposed.
"How far do we have to stay back from the railroad property if these improvements are made?" inquired Helper Councilman Tony Gonzales.
"I am not sure what it would be, but I know there has to be a 35-foot buffer from the closest railroad tie and the edge of the property," replied Mel Coonrod.
Other discussion concerned the future of the park and what may happen to it years down the line.
"We want it to remain a public park, but we want the city to manage it any way they see fit," stated Mel Coonrod.
Other concerns included safety and parking, but despite the concerns about it's future the council voted to accept the donation.
One item that did arise during the discussion that will require further study is the proximity of the park to the state liquor store across the street. By law public parks are not supposed to be within 1000 feet of the parks boundaries. The park has been privately owned in the past so this could become a problem with the city owning it. The mayor asked the city attorney to look into the situation.
In other business the following topics were discussed:
They turned down an application for a business license from J.M. Archuletta because of zoning restrictions on his property.
The council decided to relax enforcement on the Main Street sign ordinance until the ordinance can be reworked. The intention is to make the ordinance more business friendly than it is now. The rework will be done by the cities historical commission whose members include Madge Tomsic, Francis Cunningham, Kay Dimick, Dave Steed and as a member from the city council Jim Robinson.
The council approved $20,000 from the class C road funds the city has to purchase jersey barriers that are being sold by Salt Lake City as a result of the Olympics. These barriers were used for various purposes during the games and are being sold to communities for $2 to $4 per foot. This is a fifth of what the price is on the open market. The barriers will be used in various places around town where they are needed.
The city decided to set up it's own towing rotation at the county dispatch center, rather than use the general towing rotation that the county uses as was discussed and approved at the last council meeting. The city wants to help the local businesses, where the county list would substantially cut into those local revenues.
Another item pertaining to this was the issue of whether Hamilton Towing should be included on that rotation. For the past couple of years that company has not been on the list because of dispute that resulted from the impoundment of a trailer involved in a drug bust and an alleged overcharge that resulted. At the time the council took Hamilton off the list. Since then the only company on the list has been Helper Auto and Helper Towing, both of which have state licenses to tow and are considered separate even though they are owned by the same person.
"I believe it is not right Hamilton is not on the list for rotation," said Bob Farrell, the owner of the other two services. "I think he should be included. I am often so busy I have to turn business over to him anyway. He just should be on it."
The council voted to begin the new rotation with Hamilton Towing included.
Police Chief George Zamantakis reported that a grant for a $1000 to purchase car seats for those that can't afford them has been secured. His department offers these to those in need to protect their children.
Councilman Gonzales stated that the city cemetery will have it's gates open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily beginning immediately. He also stated that the city will be having it's annual cleanup campaign in April.
In another matter Gonzales is concerned about the cities attempt to abandon alleyways in the city. Some residents want the extra property, other do not.
He is worried about how these areas will be maintained if they are cut off by private owners who exercise the right to take their section of the property.
In addition many of the people who are taking on the property are asking for some type of written agreement or a deed to the property. The city attorney will look into some of the problems and what can be done.
Councilman Bob Welch reported that the city will no longer be able to provide the service of thawing out private water lines that are frozen. The machine they have been using to do so is broken and it will not be repaired because of the high repair costs.