The question of whether to allow dogs on the Price River Parkway was decided, at least temporarily, at the last meeting of the Helper City Council.
In the past, dogs have not been allowed on the parkway because it was considered part of the ordinance on parks and cemeteries. The guideline forbids dogs, even on a leash, in the areas. Citizens have voiced varying opinions about the issue, but at the last meeting of the council people who want to be able to walk their dogs on the parkway were there in numbers.
"We went through this with the council some time ago," said one citizen. "We can walk our dogs on Main Street or on other city streets. Staying on the trails in the parkway is not much different. There was a time when the previous council even considered the swinging bridge over the river off limits. We would just like a chance to walk them off the city streets."
The discussion turned to safety and the risks of dogs biting. But the citizens pointed out that walking pets on Main Street with people passing by is no different than walking dogs on the parkway.
The issue of messes caused by dogs also surfaced. Citizens felt that an education program was needed to get people to realize they are not only responsible for the safe handling of dogs on public walkways, but should take care of all messes as well.
"Actually, loose dogs are a much bigger problem in making messes than dogs on leashes," stated one audience member.
The council discussed the problem of loose dogs. Police Chief George Zamantakis indicated that, while his department is responsible to handle the situation, he has little money or manpower to put much time into it.
"We need help from the citizens on this issue," commented the chief. "We only have part time animal control and it is hard to get people to comply with the laws."
One concern raised by the council was about the city's liability in the event a dog bites someone. The mayor assured the council that the only way the city could be sued is if a dog is known to be vicious and local government does nothing about it.
"This has been an ongoing problem," said Joe Bonacci. "Obviously, the rules are made for people that are irresponsible. We need assistance from the community to help police the violation of rules concerning animals. We just don't have the manpower."
The citizens pledged to make an effort to educate Helper citizens on the rules of owning animals. They were also willing to clean up any messes left by pets or stray dogs on the parkway.
On the advice of the city attorney, the council addressed the issue by changing the parkway's classification as a park rather than abandoning the ordinance. The officials decided to allow dogs on the parkway for the next three months. The city will gather and evaluate information before making the decision permanent.
The motion passed by a split vote. One council member was absent. To break the two to two tie, the mayor had to vote. He elected to go with the trial period.
In other business, the officials:
Decided to relax enforcement on the Main Street sign ordinance until the city guideline can be reworked. The intent is to make the ordinance more business friendly.
The rework will be done by historical commission representatives Madge Tomsic, Francis Cunningham, Kay Dimick, Dave Steed and Helper Councilman Jim Robinson.
Approved spending $20,000 in class C road funds to purchase jersey barriers from Salt Lake City. The barriers were used during Olympics and are being sold to communities for $2 to $4 per foot, one- fifth of the open market price.
Decided to set up a separate towing rotation for Helper at the public dispatch center rather than use the county schedule. The city's goal focuses on helping local businesses.
The council discussed whether Hamilton Towing should be included on the rotation. For several years, the company has not been listed due to a dispute about the impoundment of a trailer in a drug case. At the time, the council removed Hamilton from the rotation.
The only companies on the list have been Helper Auto and Helper Towing. Both have state licenses to tow and are considered separate even though the companies are owned by one person.
"I believe it is not that right Hamilton is not on the list for rotation," said Bob Farrell, owner of the other services. "I think he should be included. I am often so busy I have to turn business over to him anyway. He just should be on it."
The council voted to begin the new rotation with Hamilton Towing included.
Police Chief Zamantakis reported that the police department has secured a $1,000 grant to purchase car seats for people who can't afford the safety devices.
The city will open the gates at Mountain View Cemetery from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily beginning immediately. Helper's annual city cleanup campaign is planned in April.
Councilman Tony Gonzales voiced concern about Helper's attempt to abandon alleyways in the city. Some residents want the extra property, but others do not. He was worried about maintaining the sites if the areas are cut off by citizens who exercise the right to take sections of the property.
In addition, many residents taking sections are asking for a written agreement or a deed to the property. The city attorney will determine what can be done.
Councilman Bob Welch reported that the city will no longer be able to thaw out private water lines that are frozen.
The machine city crews have been using for the service is broken and will not be repaired because of high costs.