A question from a Carbon County resident during public comment period at the Price River Water Improvement District board meeting last week sparked adiscussion explaining PRWID's practices.
"I came late to the last meeting, during one of the public hearings," said Barbara Wilson. "I heard someone talking about the fact that the people who live in the county are getting an increase in their sewer fees while those in incorporated areas are not."
"I have looked at the statistics and it seems that, while the county has 24 percent of the people on the system, the other 76 percent live in the incorporated areas," continued Wilson. "I just need to ask these questions. Are the cities paying for the use of the treatment plant? If the cities expand do they pay more?"
Keith Cox, who presently serves as the PRWID board chair, replied to the questions with direct answers.
"First, improvement to the plants is a direct increase for all customers across the board," stated Cox. "For improvements in the unincorporated areas, only the county residents pay. We had a study of this done in 1988 and it was determined then that, in fairness, the cities should maintain their lines and PRWID should maintain theirs and that both should share in the costs of main lines."
Wilson, however, had some more questions.
"I just know that when we hooked on to the sewer we had to pay for the lateral ourselves,"noted the resident. "Do we have to pay for all these new houses to be connected as was explained during the public hearing at the last meeting?"
Cox and Kathy Dahl, PRWID treasurer, explained that subdividers must pay and make improvements to PRWID's specifications and then the lines are turned over at no cost to the district.
"People still have to pay for their laterals," pointed out Dahl.
Following the discussion, the board addressed the first item on the agenda - a request from the East Carbon Water Company to be able to contract for a certified operator that presently works for PRWID for its water system for a few months.
"The problem is that, with the new regulations, we have to have a certified operator controlling our system or we could be fined," noted Jay Andrus, representing the small 55 user system. "We are in the middle of getting this money to revamp our system and then disband the company and turn the system over the PRWID. But we are concerned if we don't get the operator we will be heavily fined before it is finished. We are just asking your indulgence to utilize one of your employees on their own time to help us."
Discussion turned to whether an operator with certification obtained with PRWID funds could contract the services out whileemployed at the district.
Some members of the board thought that employees could not, based on a decision made several years ago. Other PRWID officials did not believe contracting the services would be a problem long as the employees were doing the work on their own time.
However, another idea surfaced at the meeting that could resolve similar dilemmas faced by East Carbon and a few other small water companies that exist in the county.
"Last week at meetings in St. George, the money to improve these systems and turn them over to us was approved," indicated PRWID manager Phil Palmer. "We helped the five water systems (East Carbon, Carbonville Water, East Wellington Water, Jewkes Water and Thayne Water Company) apply for the funds with the goal of upgrading their systems to our specifications and then all of them disbanding and turning their systems over to us. They got a $940,000 loan at 1.27 percent over 20 years and a $141,000 grant to take care of the situation. Depending on the water company each resident will have to pay up to an additional $16 per month for the next 20 years to pay for these upgrades. The construction on this should start this fall and soon after that the systems will be part of PRWID."
The explanation led the board to think that maybe the small water companies could avoid having to hire a certified operator for short periods of time.
"Maybe we could petition the state, showing what these companies are doing and they would waive that requirement for the short term," stated Cox.
Guido Rachiele suggested that the district have their attorney write the letter on behalf of the small companies. The board approved the move.
Reports on two ongoing and upcoming construction projects were also presented. The first was on the relocation project that is being done for the Utah Department of Transportation.
"The project between Wellington and Price is going fairly well," Palmer told the board. "It's moving ahead. The crews had to spend a lot of time in Hayes, Wash. but are through that now."
The board approved an $8,789.75 change order to pay the contractor for some extenuating circumstances on part of the project.
"There was not enough clarification on the plans for the east end of the projects depth so the contractor had to do more than anticipated," said Palmer. He also pointed out that the money wouldn't be paid until the state department approved the money.
The board also approved a partial payment of $81.851.37 for the contractor's work.
Palmer also reported that contracts with UDOT on the Helper overpass project were ready with some changes that the district's attorney had made.
Another item that was discussed at the meeting was the latest Snowtel report. As of March 4, Mammoth-Cottonwood area (the watershed that feeds Scofield Reservoir) total precipitation since Oct. 1 is 10.8 inches. The average for that area by this time of the water year is usually 13.7 inches. Consequently that watershed is 79 percent of normal.
The White River, which provides only runoff, primary water, but has no storage is at 77 percent of normal moisture.
While both these are better than much of the state has fared, it is still very low, particularly considering the area has been in a drought for the last four years.
Another important factor is how much water is presently in Scofield Reservoir. According to reports the present level is 16,730 acre feet of water. That compares to 28,220 acre feet that was in the reservoir at this time last year. Overall it is estimated the overall use out of the reservoir last year was 52,770 acre feet of water.
Skyline Mine continues to pump water out of the company's underground facility. But the maximum amount of the water that Muddy Creek can legally handle is 8,000 gallons per minute, due to environmental concerns along the bed. Last year, about one-third of the water that was put into Scofield was from the mine pumping.