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For the week of July 30 - August 5, 2003


Water works become source of contention

Express Staff Writer

New watering holes are springing up in Hailey’s alleys, and city government is responsible for the trend. As crews dig up alleyways to make room for water meter vaults by day, by suppertime residents can be seen standing around the latest excavation site discussing the pros and cons of the project designed to help the city monitor water use and eventually charge accordingly.

Any unfinished holes left open for completion the next day have become the latest place to meet and shoot the breeze. Much like employees gathering at the water cooler, conversation bounces from the benefits of galvanized pipe versus copper pipe versus PVC, to the impact of the project on sprinkler systems, and guesses about what utility rates might become once the water meters are finally installed and bills are submitted.

Mayor Susan McBryant opened Monday’s regular city council meeting to address complaints some residents have voiced about the project.

"Water pressure issues are related to growth and consumption," she said, expressing concern about complaints from a "small group of citizens" who blame the meter vault project for the apparent drop in water pressure.

Bryant said the city had followed "prescribed means" for notifying the public about the possible problems related to the project at innumerable public meetings.

The plan is that a new water tank to be installed next summer, which will be the second storage tank in the city, will help mitigate the drop in pressure happening now.

Residents must learn to conserve and observe the "odd and even" day watering restrictions the city has already implemented, said McBryant.

Complaints about water pressure may be a short-term issue as the city works to change the water system. However, even with a new storage tank, it may be that sprinkler systems designed for a particular flow rate may not function as they were designed. Some sprinkler systems on property with new vaults appear not to be functioning as intended.

In related business, Tom Hellen recommended that the council consider a 7 percent sewer rate hike of $1.61 from $22.95 per month to $24.56 per month as a component of next year’s city budget. A formal public hearing on the proposed city budget is scheduled at the regular city council meeting Aug. 18. The suggested increase beginning in fiscal year 2003-2004 would help reduce the sticker shock of big jumps in utility fees later, said Hellen.

The city acknowledges the wastewater budget must increase three percent per year in any case to cover current obligations.

"We were not collecting adequately for our costs," said McBryant.

In other business, the council is considering repealing the ordinance governing vendors’ off site business licenses, with the exception of special events already scheduled on city property. The goal is to curb the impact of "peddlers ... and transient merchants" on the city’s "bricks and mortar businesses." City attorney Ned Williamson is working on the revised ordinance.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.