Resident accepts Helper challenge
During a previous Helper council meeting, Mayor Joe Bonacci said officials would be interested in residents' recommendations to resolve the financial dilemma faced by the city.
At the April 15 council meeting, Helper resident Ron Mutz took up the challenge and offered ideas for remedying the city's fiscal worries.
"On March 25, the council threw out figures about how they want to raise the rates on just about everything," stated Mutz. "I don't feel this city administration has done enough in the last two years to save money. I have a list of some ways I think you can save dollars."
Mutz presented nine points he believes could solve some of the city's money problems.
Stop all overtime for city employees, except in emergencies.
Freeze all present wages and stop hiring personnel.
Sell two police cars the public safety department presently has.
Sell one of the street depart-ment's pickup trucks.
Sell the old backhoe at the cemetery.
Change one position in the water department to a part-time job.
Sell the street sweeper.
Stop doing work the county should be doing.
The list was accepted by the council for review, but officials disputed one of the points.
"What is this issue with the city doing county work?" asked the mayor.
Mutz explained he had talked to the commissioners and reportedly found out that the city is spending money on things the county should be doing.
"First of all, there is the Spring Canyon Trail," said Mutz. "We take care of that, but that should be a county function. We also pay for a detective/investigator in our own police force, but the county has one we could use."
The Spring Canyon Trail was paid for by Helper and the city has responsibility to maintain it, indicated Bonacci.
"As for the detective, that position is paid for by a grant, not through regular city revenues," stated the mayor.
Councilman Tony Gonzales asked Mutz how much money he felt the suggestions would save the city. The citizen thought the recommendations could save up to $40,000 per year.
The city may need to discuss what Mutz was talking about with the county, noted Councilman Chuck Buchanan. But the mayor pointed out that, if the city does things for the county, the reverse is also true.
"The county does more for Helper city than we do for the county," said Bonacci. "For instance, any time we need some surveying done, Evan Hansen, the county engineer, does it for us at no cost. This summer, the labor for paving some of our streets is being done by county personnel. The county commission has been very helpful."
But Mutz maintained that it did not make a difference because "we are still paying for it through our taxes."
The council took the residents' list under advisement and will study the suggestions.
The council also heard from Albert Spensko on the pressurization of the Bryner Plouz ditch system.
"When we applied for the money to do this, we included only the main ditch," explained Spensko. "What we have money for won't cover the entire system. We couldn't get money that was available for salinity control so we had to go with other funding. This is not for a secondary water system for all residents in that area, but only for the shareholders."
The pipe would run from Martin to farm land on the other end of the line, said Spensko. At that point, it would be opened up into the traditional ditches.
"Altogether, there will be 63 people on the system, those that have ownership in shares," pointed out Spensko.
The ditch company representative said no money is presently available to put in lateral lines. He also said he had checked with Councilman Gonzales to find where lines that may have to cross streets would make the least impact.
Gonzales suggested that the ditch company may want to consider putting stubs along the line to supply future needs if the system were to be turned into a secondary system for all residents.
A unrelated issue led to the council having a discussion with some residents and business people in town about economic development.
The exchange began with talk about increasing taxes to pay for city services.
"How many property tax increases can and will property owners in this town support?" asked John Jones, a local business and property owner. "I am supportive of the community 100 percent, but we need to promote business in this town so we can expand our tax rate."
Ruth Metzger, a local real estate agent also told the commission that she is concerned about the low sales volume for property in the town and that the city needs to come up with some ways to expand the business base.
"We need to do things that will build businesses here; things that should have been done five or 10 years ago," she told the council. "Rather than take the dollars to Price, we need things here that will keep money here and bring others into those businesses to help the city to survive."
Jones indicated that he had seen a number of towns that put rest stops inside business districts to get people off local highways. Many people supported the idea.
"We have already put in for a Utah Community Impact Board grant to turn the pavilion (the small park near the post office) into a rest stop," said Buchanan. "We are also looking at the possibility of putting in a nine hole golf course, in addition to an overnight campground."
The council said they will continue to look at these and other ideas to help build a stronger business base in Helper.