Wednesday, February 24, 2016

City Council 16-Feb-2016: Utility Rates, Park Land Purchase, 11800 N/Highland Blvd …

ArgueThere were 15+ people at the meeting. Not sure if it was because I was still recovering from the flue and that the meeting ran from 6 pm to nearly midnight but I managed disagree at some point with all presenters but one, plus all those offering public comment, all councilmen, and the mayor. I think that has to be a record of some sort. We held a one hour work session focused on the utility rate study followed by a 4+ hr. council meeting. Here is a brief summary of my disagreements. You’ll of course want to read the details that follow.

  • Challenged the Zion’s bank representative on information he presented during the Utility Rate Study progress report.
  • Opposed the city subsidizing insurance for the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra.  Note, our insurance provider declined to cover them under our policy.
  • I don’t support putting a light at 11800 N/Highland Blvd when the warrant study that was conducted said the intersection does not meet the required standards. I also have some concerns about putting a school crossing at the intersection. What happens when grade school children cross the busy street during non-school crossing hours (i.e. without crossing guards)?
  • Did not support the city waiving the fee for the multi-purpose room ($40) for distinguished young women. I would rather they solicit donations (they could even go to the Highland Foundation) plus the city attorney mentioned that if we waive the fee for them then we create a liability for the city if we were to not waive it for anyone else that asked. As it happened Tim Irwin said he would personally pick up the cost.
  • Disagreed with the city engineer’s proposed improvement on 11800/Highland Blvd (as did the rest of the council).
  • Voted no to borrowing from the enterprise funds to buy 3+ acres adjacent to Heritage Park. This is something the mayor wanted and Tim Irwin and Dennis LeBaron voted yes on.
  • Opposed Brian Braithwaite’s view on bonding to cover enterprise fund shortfalls
  • Opposed Ed Dennis in tying a decision on park usage to a review of the Open Space Fee.

Work Session

During the work session we reviewed the work done to date on the Utility Rate Analysis by Zion’s Bank. I would normally share with you the presentation but there were a number errors that were uncovered during the discussion so I will do a brief summary of the preliminary information. Please take any numbers I provide with a grain of salt as they are still subject to change. Here were the assumptions going into the study:

  • Rate changes to be limited to every three years.
  • We had asked them to look into identifying areas that should pay for the cost of pumping water up hill. Note, after the meeting, based on the information provided, I estimated that the pumping costs would only add somewhere between $0.40 and $0.50 to the monthly utility bills of all residents. If we separate the cost then specific areas those residents would see a $2.50 to $8.00 increase in their monthly utility bills. I talked with all but one member the council the next day and there is no support creating separate billing zones given the negligible costs involved. Note, Lindon has a 3 water rate zones based on elevation.
  • The council would generally prefer not to bond to cover any projected shortfall.

Zion’s provided an estimate of the impact to our monthly utility bill with and without bonding. One of the concerns I had with the estimates was that the rate increase without bonding was steady for 7 years even though the bulk of the capital costs occur in which create a shortfall occur during the next three years (see chart below). My question was why don’t the rates go down when the costs go down. In the bonded (debt) scenario I understand why they don’t go down. Another thing I talked with some council members after the meeting was including a formula in any rate increase that would require rates to decline when we reached an agreed upon reserve (e.g. 275 days operation expense on hand).

2016-02-16 Utility Capital Project

OK here’s the bottom line without bonding we will need to increase our total monthly utility bill around $30 for at least the next 3 years. With bonding the increase would be at least $12.20 for the foreseeable future. Brian’s view was that the residents will not stand for a $30 increase and that we would need to bond.  I am opposed to debt unless absolutely required and would not support bonding rather than raising the rate an additional $18 for 3 years. If we bond we are stuck with a fixed payment for a number of years. If we pay as we go that rate can be reduced when we get out of the current crunch. 

As noted, these are preliminary numbers. Staff may find a way to stretch out the capital projects and thus reduce the height of the bubble and thus reduce the initial rate increase.

Below is a list of neighboring cities and what their utility rates are based on base rates plus using 12,000 gallons of culinary water per month, 9,000 gallons of sewer and a 1/2 acre lot or 16,000 gallons of water in the case of PI. You can see that even if we were to raise our average monthly rate by $30 per month to $111.15 we would still be less than the average of our current neighbors, $112,88. Note, based on the info we have today it is clear that we have been undercharging for a few years which explains why we currently have the lowest rates based in the area.

Click to open up a separate window with Google Sheets.


Please note the final report is due to be completed in March.

Council Meeting AGENDA / MINUTES

Public Comment

  • John Pew / Gary Minor with the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra. They wanted to thank us for providing a rehearsal facility and to discuss the possibility of the city helping provide insurance so that their rate to rent Alpine School District facilities would be reduced.  The short answer was no. This has already been discussed and our insurer said that would not consider orchestra members as city staff.  We suggested they take this up with ASD and we would support keeping the fees low for the orchestra.

    As a side note, my wife served on the board of the TSO for a couple of years. It is a great organization and they put on excellent concerts with outstanding guest performers. If you haven’t gone to one of their performances I would highly recommend it. They generally perform and Timberline Middle School in Alpine (

  • Distinguished Young Women (Madeline Arnold) asked to be able to schedule our building at no charge. Councilman Tim Irwin offered to pay for this out of his pocket.

  • Jennifer Moulder wants a light to be installed at 11800 N and Highland Blvd based on a projected accident rate that will meet the warrant study requirements in the next year.


  1. MOTION: Approval of Meeting Minutes for the City Council Regular Session – January 19, 2016. Continue to next meeting. Asked city recorder to update that section covering the review of voting issues (there were several inaccuracies). Click here for details.

  2. MOTION: Approval of Meeting Minutes for the City Council Regular Session – February 2, 2016. Unanimously approved. Click here for details

  3. MOTION: Approval of Meeting Minutes for the City Council Work Session – February 10, 2016. Unanimously approved with one minor change. Click here for details


  1. MOTION: Approval for Intersection Improvements – Highland Blvd. and 11800 No.  At our last council meeting we asked the city engineer to see if there was something else which could be done to improve the safety of this intersection. He came with the idea of installing a 100 foot long median curb in Highland Boulevard. The purpose of the median is to eliminate the ability of drivers to use the shoulder as a right turn lane. This would be a relative low cost item. However, the council did not approve the proposed improvement. Note, during the discussion councilman Braithwaite asked one of the residents who attended the meeting if she would be happy with anything other than putting in a light at the intersection. The answer was not really.

    We asked staff to proceed with the state mandated process of determining if a school crossing is warranted. I mentioned that if a school crossing is put in and children use it during non-school crossing hours there may be an increased risk of young children being hit while attempting to cross this busy street. Is that really what we want? I certainly would not support a school crossing at the 11800/Highland Blvd intersection. I believe that is too dangerous. Further south between intersections would be safer, but still dangerous, from my perspective.  The mayor had a discussion with the district later in the week and they indicated they would support a pedestrian bridge. I am not sure if “support” indicates a willingness to help fund or find grant money to create such a structure.  Click here for details.

  2. PUBLIC HEARING / RESOLUTION: Enterprise Fund Interfund Loan to the General Fund - Purpose of Purchasing Park Land.  Discussed borrowing money from Sewer and Culinary Funds to pay for purchase of Pincock property. After a long and often circuitous discussion the council voted 3 (Brian, Ed and myself) to 2 (Dennis and Tim) against the motion. I was the deciding vote. While the property would provide needed additional parking space adjacent to Heritage Park, be an ideal location for a park maintenance building, and provide some additional park land I just could not support going into debt ($700,000) when we will likely be needing to raise utility rates and have a large ($500K to $1M) unforeseen liability hanging over our heads. If we had agreement within the council on selling existing undeveloped park land to pay for this (e.g. the undeveloped Spring Creek Park land) I would support proceeding but we did not. Note, we could use most of the proceeds from selling Spring Creek to develop the park to the west of Mountain Ridge High School. After the council meeting I spoke with most council members and there is support for this idea. Click here for more details.

    2016-02-16 Pincock Property

    2016-02-16 Mountain Ridge Park

    2016-02-16 Spring Creek Park

  3. MOTION: Mid-Year Budget Adjustments - Fiscal Year 2015-2016. The budget adjustments were unanimously approved. The net affect on this adjustment will be to take an additional $196K from general fund reserves to balance the budget. The bulk of this increase was a result of the council approving a $120K road study that was not in the budget. We won’t have a clear picture on revenues for the city until later in the year so it is possible that we won’t need to withdraw quite as much from reserves. Click here for more details


  • R-1-20 Zoning Discussion – Nathan Crane, City Administrator. Nathan reviewed the impact of allowing undeveloped land in the city to be rezoned to R-1-20 from R-1-40 as he has had a number of requests to do so (Click here to see the slides he reviewed with us). The pros include additional lots would increase property tax revenue to the city. The cons include additional infrastructure costs, over 50% of residents in Highland indicated that large lots were one of the reasons they liked living in Highland in a recent survey. Of course, we don’t know what it meant by large lots as that is a relative term. R-1-40 is a density driven zone meaning that lots need to be an average of 40,000 sq/ft whereas R-1-20 is requires that all lots be a least 20,000 sq/ft. During the discussion that council consensus was that staff should look into defining a density driven R-1-30 zone. This would allow developers to create transitional developments with smaller lots on one side (adjacent to smaller lot zones) and larger lots on the other side adjacent to large lot zones. 

    2016-02-16 Zoning Map
  • Water Conservation – Justin Parduhn, Public Works O&M Director. Skipped
  • Park Use – Erin Wells, Assistant to the City Administrator:
    We had a rather heated discussion regarding the merits of tying our park usage plan and associated fees (e.g. which parks can be used for team sports and what our policy would be with reservations) to a review of the Open Space fees. My point was that we already had enough information to set usage policies (i.e. which parks have sufficient parking, rest rooms, and space specific activities). We should not hold this decision hostage to the more complex problem of Open Space fees. This will require a lot more research and will be a divisive issue. Ed did not see it that way but the council consensus was to proceed with the usage plan.



Requested by / Owner

Due Date


Road Capital Improvement Plan for FY 15-16. Prioritize and Communicate to Residents

City Council

Est. June 2016

Study underway

Determine Park Use for Recreation

City Council
Parks Staff

March 2016

Staff to make recommendations

HW Bldg. – PW Storage Status

City Council


In progress

Speed Sign Information Collected


March 2016

In progress

Salt Storage Building


March 2016 Engineering review


  • Council agenda with my rough notes. If you want to review my comments to staff and rough notes in the PDF file you will need to first download it before opening it with Adobe Reader. If you click on the comment button on the top right of the Adobe Reader application or in the Tools Menu, depending on the version of Adobe Reader you are using, you will see a list of all comments in a panel on the right side of your screen. Note, this is a large file and may take a minute to download.
  • Staff presentation.

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