$80 Million In Infrastructure Projects Slated For Heber City's Old Town
In January, Heber City residents will have a chance to give input on a massive water line infrastructure project, which will cost about $80 million over the next ten years.
Since 2018, Heber City has had over 100 water line breaks, with 90 occurring in the old town area. Heber City Manager Matt Brower said it’s important to enact sewer and water fee increases beginning in February, so they can start phasing the project in 2021 with a completion target of 2023. He said there are 120 blocks of aging sewer lines that were installed before 1953.
“You see that the majority of the downtown sewer system is 70 years or older.”
Other lines Brower showed City Council were built in the 1970s. Brower said Horrock’s Engineering has broken out the costs of replacing both water and sewer lines.
“The cost for the sewer system replacement was about $45 million and the cost for the water replacement was about $31million. So, it’s a hefty price tag.”
Brower wants the council to act quickly. In 2019, some homeowners experienced significant property damage.
“We had five water line brakes. Five incidents that resulted in 13 claimants sustaining property damage. Heidi and Mayor and Wayne, you might recall me coming back before the city a year and a half ago. I wanted to help some of these property owners out. Some of these costs exceeded $30,000 and $40,000 in damage to these homes.
Brower said they have several goals in mind for the infrastructure project. One is to raise the rates slowly to avoid a rate revolt by the taxpayers. They want to finish it within a couple of years, and they want community support.
"We want to address the most critical elements of Old Town infrastructure, the oldest sections and the most unreliable sections. We want to go after we're calling a realistic project, meaning we don't want to bite off more than we can chew. We don't want to have a project that's too expensive, we can't afford it. And we don't want a project that is such a large scope that it becomes unmanageable and unwieldy and that ultimately will cost us more money. We want to manage the uncertainty in this project. We will have a lot of uncertainty because all of it is underground and areas that we've not seen or even looked at for upwards to 70 years.”
Brower said other utilities might want to update their infrastructure while these old town streets are being torn up. The city expects to perform major stormwater improvements along with pressure irrigation projects required by the state.
Councilmember Mike Johnston said the council should take the costs into account as they plan for future development or redevelopment in the area.
“If you divide up $80 million between the 121 blocks, you're talking $660,000 per block, spread amongst 12 to 14 homes, that is a very difficult situation to be in and it gets worse as you have larger lots. Keep that in mind as we move forward over the next few years of planning the future of our city.”
Brower told the council that rate increases are needed immediately beginning in February. Staff will work over the next six or eight months to document the water and sewer lines' condition. Another rate increase would be put in place in August. For now, the council plans to take public input at the January 5 meeting, and they will discuss it further when they meet for their annual retreat also scheduled for January.