Citizen questions Helper budget allocations
Criticism on the allocation of the city budget was directed at the Helper council during a March 18 meeting.
Helper resident Ronald Mutz approached the council with concerns about two issues of city management. He asked the mayor what percentage of the city's budget went toward the police department.
Mayor Joe Bonacci did not know the exact figure, but estimated that an average of 20 percent of the city's budget went to the police department.
Mutz questioned the need for a police department the size of Helper's.
"In a town of 1,800 people, which we have in Helper right now, why do we need six police officers and five police cars in this small town?" asked Mutz.
Bonacci responded by posing a question to Mutz.
The mayor asked the resident if he felt unsafe in the area or had an incident when an officer was not available.
Safety can be attributed to the size of the police department and the availability of officers to respond to calls, noted the mayor.
"Our lifestyles are changing and there is a lot of criminal activity. Helper is not immune to that," pointed out Bonnaci.
When Helper's population was 4,000 to 5,000, the town was safe and there were only three police officers, responded Mutz.
But even with all the officers now, the resident said he never sees police patrolling in his neighborhood.
Mutz also mentioned concerns regarding overtime for police officers and the purported misuse of city partol cars for personal business.
Mutz maintained that he frequently sees Helper police vehicles at shopping locations in Price or parked at the homes of officers.
Officers are allowed to get food in Price and police business often takes them out of Helper, responded Police Chief George Zamantakis.
"We travel all over the state of Utah transporting prisoners, which we have to do by law," indicated Zamantakis. "That's your right as a citizen to know what we're doing, but come and ask so you give us a chance to explain."
Citizens suspecting police department abuses should report the situations to him, added the chief.
The purchase of a new truck by the council was also a point of disagreement for Mutz.
The resident said the council could have repaired the vehicle and did not need to purchase a new truck.
Councilman Robert Welch said that estimates for repair on the diesel truck were $12,000 and the purchase of a new truck was $21,000.
"It wasn't cost effective to fix,"stated Welch.
Mutz said there are constant complaints about how the city has no money and yet money is spent for things he viewed as excessive.
In the end, Bonacci invited Mutz to sit down with him to look over the budget and make recommendations for the council.
In unrelated matters, the council addressed several changes or approvals of ordinances.
Because Helper recently acquired a new drug dog, an ordinance had to be created to allow the animal's use.
The ordinance, which established policy on issues such as training, feeding and grooming and narcotic searches, was approved.
The council also approved a modification to the police policies manual, allowing for citizens to access their criminal history directly from Helper City rather than having to apply through the state.
Requesters are required to have two forms of identification and pay a fee.
In regard to recent discussion of a sexually-oriented business coming to Helper, an ordinance regulating such a business was approved by the council.
The purpose of the ordinance is "to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent the concentration of sexually-oriented businesses or their location in areas deleterious to the City, regulate the signage of such businesses, control the adverse affects of such signage and prevent inappropriate exposure of such businesses to the community."
Finally, the council denied an amendment to an ordinance which would prevent those with a criminal record from purchasing surveillance cameras or police scanners.