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Helper looks at restoring its board of health

The abandoned Birch Street house is one of 75 hazards Helper is trying to address.

Sun Advocate associate editor

There's no one home to harvest the peaches ripening on the tree in front of the burnt-out, boarded-up shell on Helper's Birch Street near 300 West.

That's not to say the abandoned house has been completely unoccupied since it was gutted by fire. Transients have found temporary shelter there, as have smaller, unwholesome mammals.

Mayor Dean Armstrong mentioned the Birch Street house as one of about 75 properties around town that would qualify as health hazards.

So at last Thursday's council meeting, the mayor introduced the idea of bringing the city's board of health back into business.

The city has been using police to enforce the city laws on public nuisance, but, as Armstrong said, "Using an on-duty officer to do this takes away from primary duties."

The board of health, as its name implies, has only one responsibility.

A health board might also be more efficient in getting tenants, landlords and absentee landloards to comply with the city ordinances. As things now stand, the city is processing only one to three citations a week.

A board, by doing the necessary leg work and research, could streamline the process. Police Chief Trent Anderson said he does not want board members running around writing up citation after citation, but as a body of citizens helping police, he'd welcome it.

City Attorney Gene Strate advised the council that there is no vote required to bring about a board of health. It is already authorized in the city's code, so all that is necessary is finding people to serve on it.

One of the things that will have to be done before putting the board back in action will be to have a comprehensive set of marching orders for members. An issue brought up during the council discussion was, in so many words, that the city does not want a band of vigilantes roaming the town. The town also does not want to be accused of haphazard or arbitrary enforcement.

Helper is getting ready to embark on the most massive rebuild of infrastructure in the city's history - a complete remake of its water, sewer and strorm water systems, along with a repaving of the streets when the job is done in two or three years.

While most of the work is going to be underground and invisible, the city has been getting serious about appearances above ground as well. In addition to the issue of vacant, untended buildings, the city has also been looking for ways to control weeds on municipal property.

Armstrong said the city has been getting advice from Utah State University Extension on controlling the plants, and has found that a regular, twice-a-year assault should fix the problem.

"We've got to get control as a city before we can expect to go after home owners," he stated.

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