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Front Page » June 21, 2005 » Local News » Helper council vote split 3-2 on funding city swimming pool
Published 3,763 days ago

Helper council vote split 3-2 on funding city swimming pool

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Sun Advocate reporter

Rusted ladders, mildew ridden hoses and weeds growing through the deck serve as reminders of the fact that Helper was forced to close the city's swimming pool when the outdoor recreational facility fell into disrepair. As Helper officials look to build a replacement pool, members of the community are faced with the difficulty of funding a new facility in a community with a high number of residents living on fixed incomes.

Residents of Helper turned out in large numbers to a council meeting on June 16 to voice support and disapproval concerning a proposal to fund the construction of a new pool in the city.

The Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board is expected to approve funding for the pool in third trimester 2005, which begins Aug. 1.

Helper's original application had requested a $500,000 loan and a $492,000 grant.

The CIB has added Helper's request to the board's list for approval in August and is expected to award a grant in the amount of $300,000 and a loan for $692,000 for the project.

While the amount of the loan has increased, Helper will be given 30 years rather than the standard 20 years to repay the loan.

In response to the CIB's decision to consider Helper's funding request, the council needed to decide whether the city would accept the increased loan.

Councilmember Chuck Buchanan explained that the CIB has reduced the amounts the board will be giving in grants and Helper was fortunate to be considered for the grant.

"This is a sweet deal for Helper," said Buchanan.

In determining costs for the project, the pool committee contacted a pool company based in Sandy, for a preliminary estimate on costs before applying for the grant and loan.

The pool would be five lanes wide and 75 feet long with a depth ranging from 3.5 feet to 11.5 feet, making it suitable for lap swimming and diving.

The estimate included two diving boards along with all lifeguard chairs and safety rails at the swimming pool.

In addition to the pool, the committee wants to build a zero entry play area. Zero entry areas have no ladders or stairs.

Instead, the shallow area for smaller children has sloping sides that allow users to enter and exit the pool more easily.

The play area would include equipment for users of the pool to play on.

The pool and zero entry area are estimated at $557,676. The play equipment for the zero entry area is estimated to cost $97,047.

Demolition of the tennis courts and construction of the new facility is estimated for $215,500. Deck, drainage, lighting and fencing are expected to cost $75,200.

The total cost, including 5 percent for errors and omissions, is set at $992,694.

Mayor Joe Bonacci pointed out that Helper already has two loans.

One zero percent loan is for the Rio Theatre, with roughly $130,000 remaining for the city to pay.

The second 3 percent loan is for the city's fire station, with roughly $548,000 remaining.

Bonacci also pointed out that the city has some enterprise loan obligations.

However, enterprise loans fall into the business activities of the city and are financially separate from the theater, fire station or pool.

While the expected CIB loan for the pool is larger than what was originally requested, the annual payments will be reduced.

The city's original request would have required an annual payment of $25,000 for 20 years.

If approved, Helper's payments on the loan for the pool will be slightly more than $23,000 for 30 years.

Whatever the amount the CIB approves, Helper will need to repay the loan. In order to do so, the pool committee suggested that the city assess a $3 fee to each water user in the city.

Helper has approximately 1,000 water users and the fee would generate $36,000 annually for the pool.

Councilmember Tony Gonzales amended the original motion for a $5 fee. The amended fee increased the amount by $2, with $1 going toward benefits and wages for city employees and $1 going toward the Rio Theatre.

"The citizens are going to be the ones paying for this," said Councilmember Robert Welch, who opposed the motion.

Welch and Councilmember Kirt Marasco suggested that the city conduct a survey of Helper residents to determine whether the community would support the proposed fee increase.

The most prominent argument against the fee increase was the fact that many residents in Helper are on fixed incomes, many of whom consider the $60 annual increase a burden.

"You can't keep taking money from me I haven't got it," said Harold Nielsen.

Nielsen and other residents who opposed the fee explained that they are only opposed to the fee increase. Many said that they supported the pool, but not the fee.

"We can't spend ourselves rich," said Nielsen.

Other members of the community supported the pool and the fee. Dean Armstrong said he sympathized with those on fixed incomes.

"This situation is real, and our situation with our kids is very real," said Armstrong, suggesting that the city needs to put some money into recreation for kids.

Armstrong pointed out that over the 30-year life of the loan, its value will decrease. By the end of the 30 years, the loan will seem much smaller than it does now.

"It's a financial investment in our future," said Armstrong.

In the end, the council was split on the motion to increase the rates and accept the loan. Robert Farrell, Buchanan and Gonzales voted in favor of the motion, while Welch and Marasco opposed.

Jona Skerl, who works as the city's recorder and manages water billing said the fee is expected to take effect in the August billing cycle.

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