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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — April 9, 2004


Hailey to install more water meters vaults

Express Staff Writer

Digging to install water meter vaults in Hailey will recommence this spring. Last summer vaults were installed in the alleys of Old Hailey where most water lines run.

This year the city will start in Northridge, complete Hiawatha, parts of Deerfield, Woodside and finish in Della View and China Gardens when the groundwater by the river has subsided enough to make digging possible. The work will be staggered through the summer.

Just as the city contended with crooked alleys, landscaping creeping into the city right of way and assorted vehicles and possessions blocking the job last year, challenges on street fronts could present problems for installation contractors and the city this summer.

The problem is most citizens have amenities that reach beyond city setbacks. Over the years, sprinkler heads, flowers, grass, trees, railroad ties and gravel parking areas have all taken over city property.

In very few cases, homeowners have applied for and received encroachment permits, said City Engineer Tom Hellen.

Permits are granted if requests to excavate, dig, plant or otherwise obstruct the easement do not jeopardize the health, welfare and safety of citizens and do not adversely affect drainage.

At the Hailey City Council meeting Monday, April 12, Hellen will ask the council for guidance about how to approach citizens who have encroachments, especially where water valves are obstructed up to ten feet on either side.

Currently city workers are tagging problem areas with pink ribbon around the city.

The excavation and installation work will include reseeding in places where city water lines run under residents’ property.

"If we’re digging up your lawn the contractor will put in seed and return it to the proper condition," Hellen said. "We’re not going to leave a mess out there."

In cases where meter vaults contend for space with heirloom trees, for example, the city will not simply cut them down. However, the city is not going to make other taxpayers foot the whole bill for moving water lines. There will be some negotiation with the property owner on a case by case basis, Hellen said.

The intent of the project is to promote water conservation, said Hailey Public Works Manager Ray Hyde.

The meters themselves will be installed before spring 2005. Currently only commercial accounts receive a meter reading.

"Next spring we will be showing people their rate of use," Hellen said. "They will still be charged a flat rate."

During the initial phase, residents will get a bill that charges the current flat rate of $11.35 a month per hook-up. The bill will also show actual use and what the resident would pay when, in the future, the rate is based on use.

Currently the water department is within budget and does not need more funds to operate. By summer 2005, water users will be charged based on their actual use.

City ordinances calculate one connection as being equivalent to 20,000 gallons per month. At that rate of water use water users can expect to pay the same bill they receive today, Hyde said.

As residents use more water for irrigation they will be charged at a higher rate for their use. More conservative users can expect to pay less.

"More water is not always good for the grass," Hyde said, clarifying a phenomenon that he learned himself recently. "The only time heavy watering makes a bit of difference is in the spring when grass is developing its root structure."

Hyde said grass with deeper roots is more drought tolerant during the hotter months of July and August.

When temperatures rise over 90 degrees Fahrenheit "grass won’t do anything anyway," Hyde said.

The city with the help of the Hailey Parks and Lands Board is going to set up a demonstration experiment in one or two of the city parks to prove the point using moisture sensors incorporated in an irrigation system.

Sometimes people water even if it has just rained, Hyde said. The sensors will help prevent over watering when the soil is already saturated.


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