96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735
On our front page this week
October 4, 2023
By Rebecca Dopp
Nephi City Council revisited a discussion they had in their September 5th meeting regarding a master fee resolution adding a $200 construction water fee. That discussion was tabled and brought back up during the September 19th meeting.
“We do have, from time to time, a lot of builders, both for commercial and residential, they’ll jumper the lines,” said Seth Atkinson, city administrator. “We have water going to the property, but not necessarily to a meter, and they need water on site during construction. They put in a rigged water line and they aren’t paying for it.”
He said that they have also accessed the meter box and tied into it.
Atkinson said that it was proposed that a $200 flat fee be assessed on the building permit for residential and commercial builds.
He said that the council had wanted to make sure that was a fair fee before passing a resolution, so the city staff did some more research before bringing the matter back to the council.
Atkinson said that once a meter is installed the builder is on temporary rates, a base rate of $49.00 a month. City staff said that they recommended the $200 fee based on a 4-month temporary water usage as well as for the time it took employees to disconnect the rigged water line.
“There is some staff costs when this is happening,” he said.
Staff also have to go out and read metered water from a hydrant on a commercial build, so the fee would cover that time.
He said that if the city was subsidizing any water usage it was coming out of the pockets of existing users.
“It’s an effort to make sure that new development pays for itself,” he said.
Nathan Memmott, council member, said that not every new home has temporary water and he didn’t feel it was fair to charge everyone that flat fee.
“If they need it, then that’s the base rate, but I don’t think everyone should pay that,” he said.
Atkinson said that it would be difficult to track who was and wasn’t using it.
Kyle Marchant, public works director, said that they had caught quite a few people using the water, mostly in new subdivisions. He said that not everyone was dishonest, though.
He felt that charging a flat rate was the best solution so that other residents weren’t having to make up the deficit.
Larry Ostler, council member, asked when a homeowner was officially charged for water.
Lisa Brough, city recorder, said that once a meter was set, a city employee brings in a meter sheet to the city office and the builder is put on temporary rates. It’s the time between getting the building permit and installing the meter that is the problem.
“If someone is going to use our water system, then they need to be charged the base rate because they are tapping into our huge system,” she said.
Marchant compared it to someone who might have a meter on an empty lot that they might be using for livestock. When they aren’t using the water, they are still charged a base rate for having the meter.
“We’re trying to do something similar so that through those construction ones we are making sure we aren’t losing water to someone,” he said.
Brough said she had initially agreed with Memmott on the fee possibly being too excessive, but after discussing it with city employees, she saw that it was necessary.
Skip Worwood, council member, didn’t feel $200 was excessive.
Memmott said that he didn’t want to Nicole and dime everyone, especially if they weren’t being dishonest.
“I just have a hard time being charged for something that I’m not going to use,” he said. “I don’t think that’s right.”
Brough said they might be able to refund that fee after the builder brought in their occupancy card and they hadn’t tapped into the system.
Marchant said that wouldn’t work because someone could undo their rigged system and say they didn’t use the water. They don’t always get caught.
Atkinson said that the city could always follow up with the building inspector.
Memmott said that maybe they could find a way to refund that fee if they didn’t use the water. Donald Ball, resident, suggested taking it off the utility connection fee.
Terry Messersmith, developer, said that he felt the $200 fee was too excessive. He said he could buy a lot of water for $200. At some point, he said, the fees stacked up and cost the developer a lot of money and they couldn’t afford to build.
Worwood said that if people weren’t doing it, then they wouldn’t have to be having the discussion.
“It’s basically theft of service,” said Marchant.
The idea of putting a lock on the meters was shot down by Marchant, saying that it was easy to access a meter barrel if it wasn’t buried. There was also an added cost for the locks.
Worwood made the motion to charge the flat $200 rate and it was seconded by Ostler. There was a roll call vote since two members voted against it. JD Parady and Memmott both voted against while Worwood, Ostler and Jeramie Callaway voted yes. The motion passed 3-2.