Midway City Council Rejects Putting $4 Million Bond Proposal on Ballot in November
The Midway City Council did not approve putting a $4 million bond measure on November’s ballot on Tuesday night. The bond would have paid for the burial of about a mile of power lines set to run through the city.
In order for the city council to pass a bond measure in Midway, a supermajority of at least four councilmembers must vote in favor of it.
Tuesday night’s vote ended up with three in favor and two opposed, with council members Lisa Orme and Jeff Drury voting against putting the bond on the ballot.
The power lines are to be constructed in the southern portion of Midway and are part of a larger state utilities project throughout the Heber Valley that began two and a half years ago. According to the Utah Utility Facility Review Board Act, any municipality wanting to alter the route of any power lines must pay for those modifications themselves. Initial estimates by the city put the costs of burying the lines at approximately $5 million but bids submitted by Rocky Mountain Power were for more than double that number.
Midway eventually took the utility company to court over the bids and the case is currently in appellate court. Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson tells KPCW the courts could answer many of the remaining questions about the project.
“Going to the appellate court could still be advantageous,” she said. “Then we would get all those questions answered, things like what are the legitimate costs of this? Is it truly critical? There’s just many questions, still.”
Those unanswered questions are what ultimately doomed the bond proposal as both Orme and Drury questioned if the city and the public had all of the facts.
Orme said there were simply too many “what-ifs” for her to vote yes.
“There’s so many ‘maybes’ and so many ‘mights,” Orme said. “I feel irresponsible to put it out to the voters to say ‘here, maybe. There’s 15 what-ifs and if everything, if the stars align and everything falls into place perfectly, then we might be able to bury these for $4 million if you vote to bond for that.’”
Mayor Johnson says if the court does rule in Midway’s favor, a bond proposal to pay for the burial of the power lines may be back on the table in the near future.
The council also considered a request for $1.5 million from Midway's open space bond to help fund a conservation easement on the Mountain Spa property along River Road. Public comment on the request was heavily in favor of preserving the open space, but there was also a lot of concern over the property’s access to water, which Johnson said is always a touchy subject in the Heber Valley.
“The landowner several landowners back sold the water off that land so there is not enough water on that land to support agricultural use,” she said. “Partly why there’s water now is that it’s being leased to our dairy farmer who uses his water to keep it green for his cows. Water here, as is everywhere, is always a big component of any project because you have to make sure that you’ve got enough water to sustain whatever’s going to happen there.”
Council did voice their support for the request but a final decision was moved to the next city council meeting in order for a formal letter of intent to be drafted.
The next Midway City Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.