Water may not be on the minds of Carbon County residents enjoying the pleasant spring temperatures.
But water was a key topic at the Helper City Council meeting on April 11.
"This whole thing as to what to do about the short supply we are experiencing has been a tough decision," pointed out Councilman Robert Welch, who is in charge of the water department. "This year, we only have 41 percent of our normal water, yet people are already watering all day as well as watering their driveways. To encourage conservation, however, my proposal is not to increase water rates but to change the gallonage related to those rates."
The proposal, which changes the unit from $12 for 10,000 gallons to $12 for 6,000 gallons met with a warm reception from the council and the mayor.
All of the residents appeared to understand the water problems the city and, in fact, all of Carbon County are facing this year.
"Actually our rate is already lower than Price city's," said Welch. "For 10,000, they charge $15.44. We just need to do something to get people to realize how serious this problem is."
Welch asked the council to consider increasing the overage fees as well. Overage fees are calculated by every 1,000 gallons an individual goes over the base amount. He proposed that the fees be raised from $1.89 per 1,000 gallons to $2.
Welch also asked that city residents restrict watering to certain times of the day. Watering should be done early in the morning or late at night. He asked Helper citizens to refrain from watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
"I really don't want to create any kind of enforcement situation at this time," said Welch. "If people will just follow what we ask, we won't have to do that."
Helper City Attorney Gene Strate indicated that the present water ordinances would have to be changed by resolution or by a proclamation from the mayor.
Police Chief George Zaman-takis brought up the fact that there is no formal way to cite people for watering violations at the present point.
The law enforcement measures would have to be enacted by the council.
In addition, the council discussed the problem of not only individual users, but the city and other large land water consumers as well.
"What about the parks, the cemetery and such?" asked Mayor Joe Bonacci. "If the public needs to cut back their water use, we should, too."
Councilman Tony Gonzales explained that all of the city's parks, the ballpark and the cemetery are on canal water.
But even the operations in question will be doing all they can to conserve water.
"The only places we use any culinary water for outside use is here at the city hall, the museum and a couple of the small parks," said Gonzales. "And those are all on timers so that the water will only be on during the hours that watering is allowed."
The discussion also turned to the schools in town and it was decided that the city will contact Sally Mauro and Helper Junior High to talk about water conservation.
"Are we in jeopardy even this early in the spring?" asked Councilman Kirk Mascaro.
Gary Harwood from the water department was present and stated that all the flows from both the springs and streams the city uses are low.
The council decided to consider Welch's proposal and vote on it at the city's next regular public meeting on April 25.
Addressing an unrelated agenda item, the city council approved the purchase of a wood chipper for $12,000.
The equipment will make it so that branches people have can be chopped up for use as mulch and ground cover.
"Once we get that going, those chips will be available to residents," said Gonzales. "They will be able to pick them up by the cemetery."
The council also approved the purchase of a four-wheeler for the city to use to pick up garbage around town. That will replace using the backhoe to do that as has been done in the past.
However, Helper some of the officials worried that a four-wheeler running around town may make residents think they can ride personal vehicles on city streets.
"The four wheeler is actually a road ranger that seats two and has a dump bed," explained Gonzales. "It isn't like a regular ATV."
Zamantakis recommended that the city do what it has to make the four-wheel vehicle street legal. That way, the police chief pointed there will be no confusion in connection with the matter.
In unrelated actions at last week's public meeting:
The council approved a bid of $7454.55 from Kevin's Carpets to install new carpet at the museum.
Other bids for the carpet came from Mortensen's Quality Floor Coverings for $11,942.78 and from Main Street Carpet for $7,482.30.
The money for the project came from the restaurant tax committee.
Approved three zoning requests.
Two zoning changes were for garages that Roy Jeffs and Paul Giacoletto want to build within the city limits.
The third zoning request was for a bathroom addition to a home owned by Earl Cullum.
Approved a request by Jona Skerl, city recorder, to raise the existing inventory rate for fixed assets from $500 to $1,000.