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Helper youth approach city council with concerns

Staff writer

The Helper City Council met last Thursday to discuss items of concern. The regularly scheduled meeting started off with two Helper Junior High students addressing the council with matters pertaining to local youth.

The first matter of concern raised by brothers Derrick and Jacob Keller involved the graffiti lining the tunnels in Helper.

The youth asked the council if there was anything that could be done to discourage vandalism to the structures.

The junior high students suggested the possibility of applying dark paint to the walls which may resist graffiti.

The council members replied that various techniques have been administered regarding vandalism of the tunnels to no avail and the destruction of the walls continues.

"Maybe what we need to do is have our people check the tunnels more and try to clean them up as best as they can. It is difficult to have the police patrol these structures all the time. If we see graffiti, we try to cover it up, but it's difficult," explained council member Tony Gonzales.

"Maybe what would work best is if the students at the junior high participate in a project to keep these tunnels clean. This project would help us quite a bit and maybe we can stay on top of things," suggested Mayor Joe Bonacci.

The second issue which the Keller brothers are concerned about is the fights that take place at the junior high school. They stressed that fights often break out in the hallways and outside of the school and that something needs to be done to discourage students from participating in physical contact.

The students suggested that stiffer punishments should be made for youth who participate in fights.

The council members agreed, but the problem which the city faces is that the officials have no control over what punishments are administered at the school.

"I think that this is a serious problem, but there's not much that the council can do about it. What I suggest, is that this issue be brought up to principal Montoya and possibly to the school board. This is a school district matter and our hands are tied," explained the mayor.

The youth vowed to seek additional input in connection with the matter and the council members moved on to discuss scheduled meeting topics.

The council discussed the fact that the Helper City Library recently received a grant which will enable the facility to provide computer service to its clients.

In order to set up the electronic work stations, the city must install breaker boxes and electrical outlets. The cost to do so would be about $1,500 and would be the responsibility of the city.

The council members were also informed that $500 was available from the original grant which could be used for the electrical work.

The council members agreed that the remaining funds will be provided by the city in order to get the library ready for the new computers.

The computers are expected to be up and running by Dec. 9 when library employees will receive training on the system.

Addressing an unrelated agenda item at last week's public meeting, the mayor and council members discuss next year's meeting agenda.

Because the municipality hosts less than 3,000 residents, Helper is considered a third class city. Therefore, the established guidelines require that Helper city conduct only one monthly public meeting.

Currently, the Helper City Council conducts a public meeting every two weeks. Often times, the agendas are short and many of the items that are discussed can be conducted outside of the public meeting.

With these factors in mind, the council members decided to reduce next year's Helper city public meeting schedule to only one per month.

"The main reason that we meet bi-weekly is because of business licenses," explained council member Bob Welch. "Isn't this something that can be taken care of at the city recorder's office?"

The council members discussed the matter and Helper officials concluded that business licenses can be awarded at the city recorder's office. The action not only will eliminate the need to conduct two public meetings a month, but it will reduce the wait which is placed upon hopeful business owners while applying for a license.

If there are any questions regarding the approval of a business license or an appeal, the council will schedule additional meetings when necessary.

The conclusion was made that a monthly meeting be held every third Thursday of the month. The council will discuss this again in an upcoming meeting and will draw out the final public meeting schedule.

Considering another business matter, the council discussed the option of hiring a Helper city building inspector.

According to the Helper council members, a local business has offered to become state certified and licensed to perform building inspections.

If the city is willing to use the services of EIS, the company will arrange to participate in the necessary training.

Currently, Helper residents have filed for numerous building permits due to the structure damage caused by the enormous hale storm which hit the city several months ago. Because so many permits have been issued, the county building inspector is backed up.

"The county is so backed up right now, that we have been checking for building permits and calling in violations to their office," explained George Zamantakis, Helper city police chief.

"If we allow the company to obtain their license, we must be willing to back them up. The service will assist the Helper residents and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't go through with it," commented Bonacci.

The council members agreed to work with the Helper business after the permits are issued. The officials will come up with a building permit fee for the city that will be comparable to what the county currently requires.

The council members also stated concern for Helper residents who are making repairs to private properties without a obtaining a building permit.

According to Utah state law, homeowners are required to purchase a building permit prior to making repairs to private residents. The requirement applies even if a contractor is making the repairs.

With the extensive damage that Helper city roofs sustained during the recent hale storm, local residents are rushing to make repairs before the winter weather sets in. Residents must remember, however, that a permit is needed to make these roofing repairs, emphasized the Helper mayor and city council members.

"The citizens have to be aware that there is a fine for not having a permit while making roof repairs. Some citizens do have them and others do not. This is a problem and Helper residents must be aware of it," explained Bonacci.

The council discussed the possibility of preparing handouts which explain the process of obtaining a building permit and what guidelines surround the process.

"Citizens have to understand that permits are for the protection of the homeowner. Resale value of the home will increase if repairs have been made under a permit," stated Gonzales.

"We have been checking homes to ensure they have permits if repairs are taking place. If there is no permit, the homeowner can be charged with a class B misdemeanor or the home can be red tagged by the building inspector," explained Zamantakis.

During last Thursday's public meeting, the Helper officials discussed the following:

•The council approved the appointment of Sue Ann Martell as the new Helper Mining and Railroad Museum director.

Helen Tonc was also appointed as the assistant director.

•The council agreed that the city needs to begin charging fees for documents which are copied and released to the public.

The fees in question will be determined by the city recorder's office.

•The council approved funding for a fence to be constructed around the Helper police department's wireless tower near the gun club road.

The officials feel that the fence will help keep trespassers out of the area and protect the tower.

Zamantakis also suggested posting the area to ensure that trespassers will stay out of the area. If posted, law enforcement officers will have more authority to punish violators.

The council members also discussed the possibility of a wireless Internet tower being placed in the same area.

In the December city council meeting, Helper officials will discuss the plan with John Milano, the local citizen who intends to start the operation.

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