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Citizens hear Helper's case for massive system rebuild

David Ariotti addresses the audience as Helper Mayor Dean Armstrong listens.

Sun Advocate associate editor

It was not something to talk about at the dinner table, but for a presentation on the current state of Helper's underground pipes, it was an image that got the point across.

Water and sewer pipes run parallel and close together in many parts of Helper. If both should break at the same time and place, two flows of water that should never mix would do just that.

David Ariotti, district manager for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, explained the situation to about 50 citizens who came to Civic Auditorium to hear why Helper City plans to invest about $20 million to rebuild its aging water, sewer and storm drainage systems.

Ariotti joined Mayor Dean Armstrong and engineer Eric Franson in the presentation.

Poster pictures of the situation surrounded the audience. Some of the snapshots showed the patchwork on city streets, where holes had been dug to repair busted pipes and refilled.

Armstrong estimated that the city is repairing breaks in the lead-jointed pipes one to three times a week, at a cost of $2,000 to $5,000 per repair.

The mayor added that a $1 million fix of the city's springs near Scofield is underway. This has saved half of the city's water system from being condemned, he stated.

In addition to needed maintenance on well structures, the city has to install fence around the springs. "We have cows around our springs," he said.

One photo showed contamination of one well by iron-eating bacteria. An orange scum was floating on the water. "There is a lot of deferred maintenance," Armstrong commented. After about two years of analyzing all the systems, he stated, the city decided that "Doing nothing is not a viable option."

So the city council, backed by engineering studies by Franson Civil Engineers, is going to try to fix it all.

It will not happen all at once, explained Eric Franson. Engineers have divided the city into seven sections based on geologic and human-made features such as the Price River, the railroad tracks, Highway 6 and natural drainage.

The reason for dividing the project into smaller segments was so that local contractors would be competitive in bidding for the work, Franson said. "That was a conscious decision," the mayor seconded.

Franson's firm will provide on-site supervision and inspection of the contractors.

Work should take at least three years, provided the financing is available. It could be extended beyond that if the money is slow in coming.

The mayor explained that the city will be applying for a mix of grants, zero interest loans and low-interest loans.

The fixes have not been designed only to accommodate Helper's population as it stands now. Franson said the designs have factored growth into the plan.

As to what happens to the streets after the work is done, the estimate includes repaving. It was decided that it would be much more efficient to replace water and sewer at once, and handle grading and storm drainage. That way, the streets would not have to be torn up, repaved, torn up and repaved for each system improvement.

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