PRWID Acquires Helper City's Sewer Line in Three-two Split Vote
The Price River Water Improvement District voted last week to accept the transfer of less than one-half of a mile of sewer line between the Helper city limits and the connection to PRWID's main sewer line.
The PRWID board voted in a three-two split decision on Aug. 1 that the district would take over the line, which Helper officials admit is prone to problems.
In presenting the proposal to take over the line, Mike Dalpiaz, who is a PRWID board member and the mayor of Helper, told the panel that the line leaves the Helper city limits west of Utah Highway 157. The highway extends south from Main Street in Helper to Spring Glen.
The sewer line leaves city limits in a field and runs parallel to Utah Highway 157 before turning toward the Price River, where it connects the PRWID main line.
After leaving the city limits, there are no connections to the line.
Prior to the installation of PRWID sewer lines, Helper used the same corridor to pipe sewage to a septic system south of the city.
Once PRWID's sewer line went in, a connection was made at what was likely the closest point between the district's and Helper's line.
Prior to that time, building owners outside of Helper but along the line were allowed to connect to the city sewer line.
Since the installation of the PRWID sewer line, the buildings have been converted and connects directly to the district system.
At the PRWID board meeting, Dalpiaz reported that the line was repaired in an area where it crosses agricultural land. In that area, sink holes developed as a result of line failures.
The line has been repaired and Dalpiaz indicated that the new portion of the line has seen no problems. He said the problems with the line are farther down the pipe, well outside of city limits.
Helper city should not be responsible for maintaining a line outside of the city limits, pointed out Dalpiaz. One of the problems with the line is that it appears to have been breeched by tree roots.
Dalpiaz explained that city crews have pulled eight-inch balls of roots from the 12-inch line.
The Helper mayor recognized that the line is susceptible to problems and said city crews work on the line a couple of times each year.
Following the presentation, PRWID's two at-large board members, Tom Matthews and Keith Cox, voted against the proposal. Those voting for the proposal included Dalpiaz; Karl Houskeeper, who is also mayor of Wellington; and Richard Tatton, a member of the Price city council.
Matthews said after the meeting that his objection was based largely on the unknown financial burden the district will incur. He pointed to the acquisition of lines in other areas of the county, where lines were inspected and a plan was made to bring the lines up to current code before the water improvement district would complete the acquisition. In Carbonville and Spring Glen, residents pay $20 more per month to cover the cost of the upgrades.
In the proposal from Helper, the extent of negotiations took place in a single evening within the walls of the PRWID board room. Even the question of easements was not addressed until after the vote, when Dalpiaz told district staff that the city would provide the legal documentation and Helper's attorney would work out any details with PRWID's attorney.
Matthews said he has objections to a decision which takes a line that serves only Helper and places the financial responsibility for it on the backs of the rest of the county. He added that Helper already pays less into PRWID than property owners in unincorporated areas of the county.
To illustrate the point, Matthews compared the line to the sewer main connecting to every residence or business. Private property owners are responsible for their sewer lines until they reach sewer mains in the street. Other customers are not charged when there is a problem with an individual sewer connection. Instead, the property owner where a problem occurs is responsible. Matthews explained that for the same reasons for which Price or Helper will not take over the sewer line from a residence to the main line, the district should not have taken over the line from Helper.
Another concern regarding the district's acquisition related to whether Helper had approved the takeover. While Helper's staff and city council had discussed the matter at a council meeting, no formal motion can be found in the city's minutes of council meetings and the item has not appeared on a Helper agenda.
Although the matter was not brought before the council in Helper prior to the PRWID vote, the decision may not be contrary to the wishes of the council. Two days after the approval, Dalpiaz reported to councilmembers in Helper the outcome of the vote, where councilmembers showed informal support of the action.
However, lacking the official approval of Helper, questions still exist as to whether the acquisition followed the legal steps necessary.
Even if the acquisition is legal, the decision of the board breaks from a similar circumstance elsewhere in PRWID's sewer system. Tatton told PRWID board members last week that his city maintains the sewer line all the way to the district main.