Helper city discusses water concerns at public meeting
The Helper City Council opened last Thursday public to allow citizens to voice comments about issues plaguing residents. One issue involves the water restrictions in place in the city.
Business owner Bob Farrell addressed the council with a situation at his car dealership caused by the water restrictions.
"I can't sell cars if they are dirty. Without being able to hose them down at least twice a week, it is difficult to keep them clean sitting on the side of the highway," explained Farrell.
A similar problem has arose at Swifts Stop & Shop convenience store. Thestaff has found that it is difficult to keep sidewalks clean and free of debris without using a hose. The problem was addressed at the last council meeting and the decision favored alternate ways of cleaning the sidewalks like using melted ice or dirty mop water.
"We recognize that there are trouble spots in the city which need to be treated accordingly. We don't want to make the businesses mad, but we do need to watch the water situation also," explained Councilman Kirk Mascaro.
"If we could wash the cars twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, we would be able to keep the cars clean before and after the weekend when most of the dirt accumulates on the vehicles, we would be satisfied," said Farrell.
"We would be willing to clean the cars between 7 and 9 a.m., which are acceptable watering hours in the city. The water which we use while cleaning the vehicles is well below the minimal water allowance. I'm sure that we won't use as much water as is used while watering a lawn," continued Farrell.
The council agreed to allow Farrell to wash vehicles during the specified times only. The council also decided to allow Swifts to clean the walkways once a week.
"So far, Helper has done a good job of conserving water. If the water situation worsens, we will have to cut off the agreement," explained Councilmen Bob Welch.
The council voted to allow the usage only if conservation practices take place.
"Don't let the water run while the cars are being scrubbed. We trust that the water will be used responsibly," indicated Mayor Joe Bonacci.
The council also discussed the fact that current water usage is down 100,000 gallons a day because of the conservation efforts the city has participated in.
Another water issue in the spotlight recently is the opening of the fishing pond.
The pond opened May 25 and is currently supplied with portable toilets. But the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wants to build a permanent structure filled with flushable toilets.
DWR representative Daris Jones approached the council with the idea of building a $30,000 structure w paid for by the Utah Habitat Council.
"After construction has been made, we will need maintain the facility. What DWR is asking of the Helper council is whether the city would be interested in maintaining these facilities," indicated Jones.
The council has supported the pond project since the beginning, but was worried about the cost and time of maintenance. The worries were put to rest after finding that the city workers will only spend possibly a half an hour at most cleaning the facilities daily.
The fact that the city also empties the garbage at the pond added to the fact that the workers will be traveling daily to maintain the facility.
"The maintenance department has already discussed this, and we don't see that this would be a problem. The only concern which we have is what will become of the restrooms during the winter? I feel that we should winterize them in order to save on heating and water bills," explained councilmen Tony Gonzales.
The possibility of allowing the pond to be transformed into an ice skating pond in the winter is an option that the council was partial to. It was decided however, that if the facility is indeed used for ice skating, the restrooms will be closed, forcing users to walk to the nearby service station which will be opened soon.
"We encourage that the pond stays open as long as possible, but we will close it when Helper City is ready for us to," explained Jones.
The council agreed to assist DWR in the restroom project by cleaning and maintaining the facilities. The only stipulation was that all ties between DWR and Helper city will be broken if the wildlife agency gives up sponsorship of the pond. The terms were agreed upon by both parties and the construction of the restroom facility should begin in August.
Along with the construction of the restroom will also be the addition of new sewer lines running to the facilities. The lines have been agreed upon by Price River Water Improvement District to be installed free of charge, thus making the pond a community effort.
"The pond is only bound to be a boom for Helper," commented Bonacci.
A concern voiced by Helper resident Erna Ganser at the meeting regarded garbage trains parked near her home during the night.
According to Ganser, the trains enter the railway in the night and remain until the following morning. The cars are loaded with waste for the landfill located in East Carbon.
"The odor is so bad from the unsanitary garbage, that we can't sit outside at night or leave the windows open. Ravens and seagulls continuously pull trash out of the cars and scatter the waste across the surrounding area. I don't want to have to live near this," stated Ganser.
Ganser handed out a petition which was signed by more than 100 residents who would like to see the trains settle elsewhere while awaiting further transportation to the dump.
According to Ganser, local railroad officials have explained that the situation is out of their hands.
"They have told us to contact someone with authority such as the superintendent for the railroad. They also told us to have our council members contact state leaders to have them lobby for us," explained Ganser.
The council reassured Ganser that the option was probably the only solution to the problem.
According to city attorney Gene Strate, the railroad company has been issued nuisance violations in the past because of similar situations, but the violations did not lead anywhere.
Strate also explained that the city council does not have much say in the matter, because the decision to move these trains lies in the hands of the railroad.
Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis also explained that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has also been contacted in the past regarding the situation.
Zamantakis informed the council that the agency did not seem to care about the matter.
"The trains come in late at night and sit until morning. I don't know why the trains can't be moved continuously. All that needs to be done is have a crew awaiting the arrival of the full trains, and then take them to East Carbon. The other option is to have the trains park east of Wellington where no residential areas are located," Zamantakis concluded.
The issue of a contract also came up during the council meeting.
According to many in attendance, a contract purportedly exists which states that the trains are not to stop in the Helper area during the route to the dump.
The main focus of the council now is to find the alleged contract and determine whether the stipulation is indeed in existence.
The council has vowed to research the matter to find out what can be done about moving the garbage trains.
"I'm afraid that we're strapped with what we can do legally about the situation. What we will do is research the matter and pressure the legislature to aid is in resolving the problem with the railroad," concluded Bonacci.
After listening to the concerns of citizens, the council moved on to discuss and approve the following:
The purchase of a new backhoe was authorized. After looking into several companies, the city found that the machine which would best fit the needs of the city both physically and financially would be a Caterpillar.
The machine will cost the city $59,100.
"We've bled all that we can out of the current machine," stated Bonacci.
The police department has updated its procedures which now include racial profiling. The update was made after the state required that all police departments in the state have a racial profiling policy.
The Helper department adopted the official state policy and was approved by the council to use the newly updated procedures.
The council granted a recreational beer license to the American Legion baseball club. The license will allow beer sales at games from the hours of 7 a.m until 11 p.m. and close monitoring of the sales are required to ensure that the alcoholic beverage does not enter the hands of underage subjects.