At the September meeting of the Clifton City Council, Brent “Husk” Crowther, CEO of Civilize Management and Engineering and Krystal Harmon of the Southeast Idaho Council of Government, reported on Clifton’s current water crisis. At present there is insufficient water for the city to support the current growth rate, an issue every city on the west side is facing. The city has yet to finalize a well site, but have decided a well must be drilled that provides the minimum amount of water required by the State of Idaho.
Essentially, if the largest source is out of service, the city must still be able to supply maximum day demand. The city has selected a preliminary well site and is working to get its ducklings in a row for the project. However, the city is exploring other options, also.
That said there are numerous hurdles to the project. The city has investigated several alternatives including that of an existing well, which does not belong to the city, but is not being used, and is reported to have an adequate supply of water. However, it is legally a dry well because the water rights have been moved. This leads right into the next hurdle, cost. The project is currently slated to cost approximately $2.5 million. The main portion of the project’s expenses will be the acquisition of the water rights. Drilling of a new well or an emergency generator would cost more.
To surmount this hurdle the council is considering a Revenue Bond in contrast to a General Obligation Bond. Revenue Bonds are a municipal bond supported by the revenue from a specific project, such as a toll bridge, or local stadium while a general obligation bond is repaid from tax levies; an example would be a school bond or library bond. So on the bright side taxes will not go up, on the negative side water bills will. By the time the project is concluded the base water rate will have gone from the current rate of $32 to $55. The council was informed by Harmon that this would help them when applying for bond forgiveness, basically a grant, to help with the costs of the new well. The reason being, that this would silence those who would say, “Just raise your water rates. That’ll pay for it I’m sure,” she said. If this route is chosen, a public hearing will be required in the coming months.
The council was reaffirmed that they could raise the water rate in increments, so long as the plan to do so was in their bond forgiveness application. Crowther pointed out the council had two options: raise the water rate in one step and make everybody really angry about it all at once or take multiple small steps and make everyone slightly angry multiple times.
Should the bond be voted down, the city will be, as Harmon put it, “between a rock and a hard place.” By law the city is required to provide any prospective home owner a water hookup. Under The Fair Housing Act, the city could be sued if it refuses or can’t do so. The solution to the bond failing is a process called judicial confirmation, which functions similar to eminent domain: a judge reviews the situation and passes a ruling, most likely in the city’s favor, and get it done anyway.
In other business, the council advised Grant Clawson to check with the Twin Lakes Canal Company to see if they would help fund his Eagle project: signs to direct people to Twin Lakes. The project includes three to seven black text on white background signs, costing around $55 each. One council member joked that it was funny watching some of those really big boats go around the block three times while the driver tried to figure out "where the heck Twin Lakes is?!" Everyone had a good chuckle. Because the reservoir is the property of the Twin Lakes Canal Company it was suggested the company could split the cost of the project with the city.
The annual budget for the 2020 fiscal year was passed in under a minute. The budget had been unofficially reviewed and unofficially approved at last month’s city council meeting but to get it done officially there had to be an announced public hearing first so it got moved to this month. Not a penny was changed in the interim time so it went smoothly.