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Fix-it lists across county come to $58 million

Sun Advocate Reporter

Beware of any dollar figures you'll see in these articles. The numbers are the tentative, temporary, good-faith estimates of the capital improvements local cities and county government would like to begin next year.

The tab for everything comes to $58,306,000.

That includes all the above- and below-ground projects and big-ticket equipment for which the governments of Carbon County will be asking the Community Impact Board to help fund. It does not include other projects that may be funded by other federal or state agencies.

Attaching specific dollar figures to each project on the wish list at this early stage would be inaccurate because, as Helper Mayor Dean Armstrong stated, things could change as planning becomes more refined. When the time comes to apply formally for grants and loans from the CIB, that will be the time when every "i" has to be dotted and every "t" crossed.

Right now, for example, his town knows it will have to replace water and sewer lines, upgrade its springs and do something about storm water drainage. Those items are on the list. However, Helper has to have engineering help to study the whole system before it has a clear idea of the extent of the improvements needed. "We need to have the guys with the clean hardhats go to work first," Armstrong explained. "I don't want to have to pave a street and then dig it up again for another pipe."

Aside from pipes and drains, the city will also probably have to repair a water tank and an underground tank.

There's another item on the list, this one above-ground: "City Hall/Public Works Building." Armstrong said that's on there because the city has to do something with the Justice Court now in the city hall. "It's not in compliance with state code for courts," he explained. As long as something has to be done with the court, it should fit into some larger, long-term picture, Armstrong added. Perhaps there is some way to work city hall, the court and the existing public safety building into some sort of central community center.

As for "Public Works Building," that means the city really should have a place to store its equipment indoors. The mayor added that where and what the extra building will be has yet to be planned and decided.

The early, not-cast-in-concrete figures on the county's CIB list show Helper's projects tally up to $5.8 million, or about a tenth of the county-wide total. Of this, the mayor estimates that a likely overall mix of funding would a one-third in grants, another third in zero- or no-interest loans, with the balance coming out of city coffers.

Armstrong thinks his town is in a better position to qualify for grants and loans these days because the city is demonstrating its willingness and ability to carry its share of the funding load. "We were never insolvent, but we're better off now. We're getting ship-shape financially," he stated.

As reported earlier in the Sun Advocate, the city has increased its property tax and water rates as part of a long-term plan to rejuvenate its aging public works.

That's not going to be a quick fix, the mayor advised. "Everybody likes to see dirt being turned," he concluded, but he cautioned that the work won't begin until everyone is sure that it will only have to be done once and will last a long time after that. "Next month is not the role of government."

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