Water issues have Helper residents up in arms

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Curb and gutter improvements have some Helper residents up in arms. Although the new system will benefit Helper residents, water right owners of the Bryner Ploutz Ditch Company are not thrilled about the project.

There is no doubt that Helper’s current curb and gutter system is aged and in need of major repair. That’s why the city secured a Community Impact Board grant to fund repairs, which are currently in the works. Residents seemed happy over the upgrade until recently when a group of Helper citizens approached the council asking for financial assistance to repair and upgrade their non-culinary water system.

Water right owners of Bryner Ploutz Ditch Company are facing over $4,000 in repairs to ready the delivery method of their water if the city does not assist in the cost. According to ditch company representative Erica Kardelis, there are 26 shareholders and 31 hookups affected by this matter. Kardelis explained to Helper council members that of the 26 shareholders, only five committed to funding the project at $1,500 each, and possibly more would commit if this cost was lowered with assistance from Helper City.

Council members agreed that the price tag is high for repairs, but are not able to assist residents with funding through the same CIB grant being used for the curb and gutter project. According to Helper City Attorney Gene Strate, CIB will not fund non-culinary water projects. These funds could only be used if owned by a public utility, not by a private owner such as the ditch company and it’s shareholders.

Helper residents and council members alike pondered what to do about funding this project. It was clear, however, that the answer is not black and white.

“We have to complete the current project,” stated council member Chris Pugliese. “We don’t want to deny help to these (ditch) users but we have to complete this. We can’t take the chance of losing funds to help 26 users and lose the project for all residents.”

Pugliese continued to explain that the city’s current water system is in such bad shape that if a line were to break, a boiling order would be issued throughout the city.

Helper resident and water shareholder, Steve Giacoletto feels that the city did not do enough research before beginning the curb and gutter project. He feels that if the city had planned ahead, ditch repairs could be made at the same time as the current project, thus costing less for everyone involved.

“We had an open ditch in the 1940’s,” explained¬†Giacoletto. “Then the city covered and moved the ditch. Therefore, the city gained responsibility of the ditch. The city can’t deny us the use of water. Its the law.”

After some discussion it was decided that though the city moved the ditch over 70 years ago, the responsibility to maintain the ditch is that of the private owners. Also during this discussion it was mentioned that Bryner Ploutz shareholders were faced with the same upgrade situation in the past. At that time, the owners decided not to make changes and are now facing a higher repair bill. This made some residents upset.

“I feel any tax payer should pay for their own goof of not paying for this fix before,” stated Helper resident Ron Mutz. “We fixed our problem before without asking the city for help.”

Mutz referred to a water line break several years ago for which nearby residents incurred the repair bill. To many Helper residents, the ditch repair issue is similar and should not be funded by the city.

A solution to the water problem was not decided upon during the special public meeting last Thursday night. Therefore, the council decided to research funding and was scheduled to meet on May 13 for a work meeting. Mayor Ed Chavez promised to update residents with the outcome of this meeting.

In the meantime, curb and gutter repairs and upgrades will continue in Helper.

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