Letter to the Editor: is pool worth the debt?
While Helper city council members Robert Welch and Kirk Mascaro voted to try and keep Helper city out of further debt, the other members of the Helper city council voted to put Helper city nearly three-quarters of a million dollars further into debt. This all stems from the June 16 Helper city council meeting where a motion was passed to accept a $692,000 CIB loan for a new swimming pool that will be paid back over 30 years, or until the year 2035, by all the citizens of Helper. This motion will add a new $5 surcharge to all utility bills which will pay for this loan, as well as the loan on the Rio Theater, and a cost of living increase for Helper city employees which they greatly deserve. However, we have a few questions regarding the approval of this CIB loan.
First and foremost, how can a government that is "by the people, of the people, and for the people" make a financial decision of this magnitude without serious input from these same people. From what I understand, the CIB offered this loan to Helper city on June 2. Most citizens in Helper that we have spoken with did not even know that such a loan offer existed. Council member Tony Gonzales suggested a survey of the people before the council approved the loan. However, the majority of the council, including Mr. Gonzales, voted to approve this financial burden without this survey. One citizen stood up and asked about the survey, but was basically ignored by the council. How can the Helper city council, in good conscience, decide to let the city go into debt this far, and charge its citizens arbitrarily, without the consent of the general public?
Secondly, we question the timing of this entire project. We agree that the children of Helper city need recreational activities, but right now wouldn't our time and money be better spent on economic development and upgrades to Helper's infrastructure? In this same meeting, Councilman Welch stated that Helper has absolutely no room to grow, as far as water is concerned. Why then, is so much money being put toward a project that will only be a drain on Helper city's resources? The city will need to budget for operating and maintenance costs of the pool. The citizens of Helper will have to pay on this loan for the next 30 years. And, the pool will use a great deal of water that we really don't have in the first place. We recognize that many people have put a great deal of time and effort into this pool project, including members of the Helper city council. It boggles the mind to think of what could happen if this kind of effort were to be placed into economic development and infrastructure improvement. To be honest, we believe that these items should be a higher priority than the pool project right now.
Furthermore, if Helper city should need funding for infrastructure or economic development, this loan could easily hinder financial progress in the future. Any person or institution, has a limit on how much money can be borrowed. In fact we wonder it Helper city can actually bond for that much money, and without the consent of the majority of its citizens? In any event, is it a good idea to place such financial limitations on Helper city? Would it not be a better idea to invest our spending power on projects that will provide for the city instead of draining its resources?
Councilman Bob Farrell stated that the pool committee has obtained $575,000 in grants. Why can't this money be used to construct a new, less "frilly" pool that would still serve the public interest, without putting Helper city further into debt. Also, we must remember that the pool will only be open for less than 100 days per year, only one third of the year. The rest of the year, the pool will sit unused. And what about in years that there is a drought? We will still have to pay for this project if we use it or not. Is that good economics?
We are no financial experts, but we would not buy a luxury car, for example, that we could only drive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays yet still have to pay for it year-round. This is exactly what the Helper city council has decided to do and the citizens of Helper have to pay for this mistake for the next 30 years. We fear that we are looking at the beginning of another "Rio Theater project."
In closing, we would like to ask the Helper city council to reconsider the approval of this hefty loan without speaking to the general population of Helper first. We strongly encourage all residents of Helper to personally contact all of the Helper city council members and voice your opinion on this matter, particularly those council members that support such a debt. From what we understand, this loan will not be funded until August. If the people of Helper do not want this financial burden, we need to let our representatives know now. There is still time to correct this mistake.
Also, our council members need to remember that they represent all the citizens of Helper, not just a select few. We hope that this council will look at what the future could bring to Helper, and strive toward that future. This loan could easily "tie our hands" and prevent future growth and development. We do not want our children, nor our children's children, to bear any more responsibility for our mistakes than they already have to bear. They deserve better than this.