Council approves water bond in split vote
A mock- up of the proposed water tank. (Sandy City)
The Sandy City Council approved a water bond in a split vote during the March 28 meeting. The $7.2 million bond will fund the replacement of water tanks and a well. The vote passed with Councilwoman Maren Barker and Councilman Scott Cowdell voting against.
Councilman Stephen Smith said the reason he made a request to go out to bond at the time was because interest rates are scheduled to rise and he wanted the city to capture a lower interest rate. Councilman Chris McCandless agreed with Smith, saying the state is doing the same thing with their bonds.
“One of the reasons the state moved their $400 billion up this year is because interest rates are rising and are scheduled to rise this year twice more, maybe three times more,” McCandless said. “One of the reasons I like this bond I’d just as soon get the money as quick as we can.”
The plan is to use the money to replace the two existing two-million gallon tanks with a new five-million gallon tank at Flat Iron Park. The existing tanks are nearly 50 years old, do not meet the current seismic structural design criteria and are in need of repair. The proposed well would replace a 30-year-old well located northwest of Flat Iron Park that was abandoned due to sanding. The well will also help replace five historic well sources in other areas of the city that are no longer used for drinking water due to groundwater contamination.
The proposed tank is currently under design and, pending final budget approval and bonding, the construction of the tank will begin in the fall and should be completed by 2020.
Barker spoke against the bond because she believed if the city put in the well and water tank 30 years ago, they should have had a plan in place to fund its replacement instead of putting the burden of cost on the city.
“I feel that it’s the city’s failure. We didn’t plan. The city didn’t plan for 30 years to replace these when we knew they would need to be replaced at some point,” Barker said. “I struggle to vote for a bond, asking the residents for more money when last year, we voted for a one-acre park that cost $4 million and it’s going to cost around $200,000 to operate annually. We’re okay with building parks and operating parks with their money. How are we possibly not using that money to take care of what we use to operate the city? That’s why I cannot vote for this.”
Smith said that while he does share some of the same concerns as Barker, the city did create the need for the bond right now.
“It was either a property tax increase a few years ago or it’s bonding now and paying the interest costs in lieu of the property tax increase,” Smith said. “I don’t want to fault the city for not planning, at least not the operators of the water fund and the public utilities department because they have, for a number of years, grown their fund balance to the point where they could have paid for this out of pocket. But this council deprived them of that opportunity a number of years ago and placed ourselves in this situation. It’s not entirely their fault.”
Scott Cowdell asked about how much residents could expect their water rates to increase. Smith said it was unknown at the time. Cowdell was uncomfortable with that.
“I’m going to have a hard time voting for it until I know exactly how much,” Cowdell said.