East Carbon council conducts public hearing, delays sewer rate decision
A public hearing regarding the city's proposal to raise sewer rates was the main topic of the East Carbon council meeting on Feb. 8.
Mayor Orlando LaFontaine along with councilmembers Darlene Kuhns and David Maggio reported that they had met with state water board officials a second time regarding payment of the city's debt.
East Carbon borrowed heavily in the early 1990s to upgrade the city's sewer and water systems.
The city was counting on a pledge from the East Carbon Development Corporation that tippage fees from the landfill would be more than sufficient to repay the loans.
But hard times have fallen on ECDC and the trickle down economic effect has put East Carbon City in a tight spot. The money isn't there to repay the loans.
The mayor and city councilmembers said the meeting with state officials went well and the problems are being addressed. The water board representatives were understanding and willing to work with the city.
However, the water board is insisting that the city raise the sewer rate by a minimum of $5.50 per month.
Maggio said the mayor and councilmembers had done their best job of negotiating and he was reasonably satisfied with the results.
All tippage fees collected from ECDC have been pledged to pay the debt and the city has until December 2006 before an annual loan payment is due, indicated Maggio.
By then, the city, state and ECDC should have a better idea of what the future holds regarding the possibilities of repaying the $6 million debt.
To help state officials understand the situation in East Carbon, Maggio presented a profile of one street in the city, detailing who lived there and what their income status was.
A study has shown that 81 percent of the residents of East Carbon are senior citizens, most are on fixed incomes and only 19 percent are working class families.
Maggio said the city has a large population of widows and families who qualify for low-income assistance.
State officials were told that citizens of the community could not absorb a $6 million debt through utility rates or taxes
Raising the sewer fee by $5.50 will still leave the city with one of the lowest rates in Carbon County, pointed out Kuhns.
She said the state officials had originally asked the city to raise rates by at least $26.
Everything is in the process of being worked out and citizens of East Carbon should not be overly concerned, explained LaFontaine.
The mayor said the rate hike would not go into effect for at least one month since the council has not approved the increase.
After answering a few questions from East Carbon residents, the mayor closed the public hearing.
A motion was then made and passed to table the issue until the next council meeting when the rate increase will be voted on by city officials,
East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard then appeared before the council and presented them with a formal letter asking that patrolman Philip Holt be promoted to the rank of sergeant within the department. Leonard said that Holt had been with the department for 11 years and had earned the promotion and pay raise. He also said that having a sergeant on the force would meet the requirements of the table of organization of the city police department.
The council unanimously passed a resolution granting Holt the promotion, pay raise, and title. The council also agreed to buy new defibrillator batteries for units carried in city patrol cars.
Leonard then told the council that the city police had been able to acquire 3 laptop computers for use in police cars through a grant from the homeland security agency.
In other business, the council discussed creating a campground and facilities for the ATV trail being constructed through the city. Possible locations and means of funding were discussed. The council also agreed to send councilwoman Darma Lopez to a bureau of criminal investigation conference in Cedar City.
The focus of the meeting then turned to state highway U123 from the East Carbon junction on highway 6 to East Carbon city. The mayor introduced Hugh Kirkham, a district engineer for UDOT, who made a presentation about planned updates to the road. Kirkham gave the council a copy of a proposed work plan for U123 that covers the next several years. He answered questions from both the city council and concerned citizens.
A major issue with East Carbon residents has been the lack of lights, reflectors, and properly painted lines at the highway 6 intersection. Councilwoman Kuhns told Kirkham that not having reflectors at the intersection was a critical safety concern.
Kirkham addressed the issue and promised to have something done immediately. He agreed that reflectors could be installed now while the issue of permanent lighting is being considered. He also agreed that the painted lines on the road are confusing, but told residents that state paint crews could not work in freezing temperatures since the paint freezes before it bonds to the highway surface. He said he would have paint crews on the project as soon as the weather allows.
In other matters, LaFontaine told those assembled that the BLM would be burning brush north of the city in the next few days and citizens should not be concerned by the smoke. He also said that Westridge is mining quite close to the city reservoir now and the situation is being monitored closely. He said that he had recently met with ECDC officials about the two barrels of arsenic that were inadvertently placed in the landfill and then recovered. He said he had asked ECDC officials if they had a long range forecast of future business at the landfill, but they had no information to give him.
In a final matter of business, the council voted to hire Jeremiah Humes as the new city attorney.