Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Carey tackles infrastructure needs

City leaders embrace cooperative efforts for improvements

Express Staff Writer

In an exercise of cooperation and consensus building, the Carey City Council gathered members of the planning and zoning commission, Carey Rural Fire District and Carey Water and Sewer District Thursday, Jan. 6 to discuss water supply and fire prevention problems confronting the burgeoning city.

"We realize with the influx to this valley how far behind we are," said Richard Mecham, a member of the planning and zoning commission, who raised the question about how the city can pursue a master plan for streets and other infrastructure needs to accommodate growth. "We've got to do a lot of catching up and keep things moving along."

The plan could include two parallel avenues on either side of U.S. Highway 93, which is Main Street in Carey. The council asked the commission to move ahead and work with planners John Gaeddert and Sarah Mecham to put the wheels in motion for the city's master plan.

In addition to other long term planning, the main issues raised at the joint meeting were how to improve water mains, how to set fire flow standards in the city in the interim, and whether to adopt the International Fire Code.

Mayor Rick Baird said the city council was struggling with developing an ordinance governing fire flow requirements without a recommendation from the fire district. The fire district has been struggling with the guidelines of the International Fire Code, which recommends that subdivisions be served with 1,000 gallons of water per minute as the adequate flow for fighting fires.

Current infrastructure, including small six-inch water mains and wells in place, provide only half that flow. The problem is compounded by limited city well water that has stymied development proposals. Nevertheless, Richard Kimball, chairman of the board of commissioners for the fire district, said the city is concerned about not making mistakes as it tries to accommodate growth.

"We can learn from the other cities (in the county)," Kimball said.

Baird said the city could no longer ignore the problem that its fire-fighting infrastructure is insufficient. He requested that as the city faces subdivision applications that the fire district refine its requirements and move toward a policy.

Kimball said the district would present a final draft of a policy that will combine the International Fire Code with the district's actual fire flow capacity at a meeting Feb. 3.

"I'd like you to take these notes and drop off suggestions," Kimball said. "We do want to know (your thoughts)."

In addition to questions about fire flows, Vonnie Olsen, chairwoman of the water and sewer district, raised another water-related issue that faces developers seeking to link into services that serve the city.

Before a developer can approach the city with a subdivision application, according to city ordinance the developer must have approval for annexation into the Carey Water and Sewer District.

Olsen asked the mayor if that approval could be conditional.

"Are you trying to put me on the spot?" Baird asked, jokingly. He said if the water and sewer district could put a certain date on when a developer's project could be brought on line in terms of water, then the city could support conditional approval.

The water and sewer district successfully tapped a new well last year after two previous attempts had come up dry. Permits for the water rights, which are quite recent, should be completed in February, which will enable the district to provide more water to new developments. The water rights come with the condition that the water is not to be used for irrigation.

City Councilman Bob Simpson, who is also the Little Wood River Irrigation District water master, said a proposed gravity pressured irrigation system stemming from the Little Wood River would be designed to accommodate irrigation needs.

A private well associated with a project by Blaine County Housing Authority consultant Dick Duncan, called the Lakes at Waterford, is also waiting in the wings as the city sorts out its more pressing problems.

As the city works through the kinks of providing the rural community with urban infrastructure, a question has been raised about how to transfer water and sewer district responsibilities to the city, making the services part of a municipal system. Carey Water and Sewer District Attorney Thomas Campion and Carey City Attorney Jim Phillips have been working through the issue and discovered that Idaho law does not provide for dissolving a water and sewer district. The attorneys are looking into getting a representative to bring the issue forward as a matter for the state Legislature to decide this year.

Overall the meeting was deemed a success as the city moves into a new year.

"This is a great community," Baird said. "I think we made some headway in a big way."

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