Residents agree to temporary utility license proposal

Following a process that had both the council and residents scratching their heads, the Lovell Town Council and residents of the Pryor View Subdivision agreed Tuesday to a temporary utility license agreement that will allow negotiations that had threatened to blow up a possible agreement continue for several months, even after the installation of a pressure-reducing valve for the subdivision this week.

The town this fall informed residents of the subdivision that lies just east McKinley Avenue atop the bench that the new higher water pressure on the hill – 70 pounds per square inch — made possible by the South Phase of the water and sewer infrastructure project would likely cause the older water main and service lines in the subdivision to spring leaks. Project engineer Frank Page recommended installation of a pressure-reducing valve since pressure will triple with the installation of a new water main coming east off of Nevada Avenue atop the hill to provide better water service to homes on the Garfield hill and other residences in the area.

Another option to residents was the installation of new water lines, but with the new main reaching the subdivision in about three months after the announcement, the only viable option was the PRV.

Residents pooled their money for the PRV, and plans were made to place a new vault containing the hookup and the PRV where the water main enters the subdivision. Residents were informed that because the vault was to rest on town land, residents would need to sign a utility license agreement.

That’s when things got sticky.

Some residents objected to certain language in the agreement but were informed last week, they said, that if they didn’t sign the agreement, water would be cut off to the subdivision. Time was running out because the new main, as well as the vault and PRV, were to be installed Wednesday after service lines were hooked up Tuesday.

With fears and misunderstanding mounting, the council called a special meeting for Tuesday at noon.

“We had been told Friday that unless everyone signed, our water would be cut off until everyone signed,” Pryor View resident Janet Prosser said during Tueday’s meeting. “Our request was a 30-day extension to negotiate a mutually-accepted agreement.”

Mayor Bruce Morrison expressed the town’s willingness to continue to work with residents, and Councilman Brian Dickson pointed out that the utility license is only required because the vault and valve was to be placed within the towns right-of-way, noting that no agreement would be required if the valve was placed on private land.

“It was never our intention to be hard-nosed,” Dickson said. “Our legal counsel said we have to have an agreement before the equipment can be installed. And it had to be done before the winter shutdown. There has been a lot of ‘he said, she said’ in every conversation.”

But the problem was the last-minute timing, residents attending the meeting agreed.

“The problem with this is the late notice,” RJ May said, referring to a recent letter from the town. “If we had notice, we could have done something else, but everyone has been, ‘Oh, crap!’ It came at the last second.”

Rick Grandalen of GK Construction agreed that the information from the town in recent days came with the threat of a shutoff.

Residents said they were told that there would be no negotiations, that it was “sign or lose water,” they said.

Councilman Scott Allred expressed optimism that common sense would prevail and the agreement language would be worked out. He asked what the major objections were.

“We feel misled as far as timing,” resident Joe Prosser said. “We thought there would be time for negotiation. Nobody seems to like it.”

Councilman Bruce Wolsey echoed Dickson in saying, “Our intention was never to shut the water off,” and town attorney Sandra Kitchen added that the language in the agreement is standard and similar to language the town must agree to in deals with the county.

Dickson also noted that the agreement contains a 180-day termination clause for the town because, while he has no problem with the vault within the town right-of-way, he cannot bind a future council to the agreement.

“The town’s intention was to help the residents and give them options,” Kitchen added. “The intention was not to force the PRV.”

Resolution reached

With some language in the agreement still to be resolved but an installation deadline looming, Allred asked if there was a way to sign a temporary agreement while negotiations are under way.

“I really believe we can come to an agreement,” he said.

Residents discussed some elements of the license agreement language but ultimately decided to negotiate further if a temporary agreement could be reached and signed.

Kitchen said one alternative would be a six-month temporary agreement, which would include six additional months for residents to remove the equipment if a permanent agreement cannot be reached. The council and residents liked the idea of a temporary agreement.

“The problem is, when it came down these people felt threatened and backed into a corner,” Dickson said. “We were told that in order for us to hook up the PRV, we had to have all of the signatures on the agreement. That’s why there was the deadline. The problem is, everyone was up against a wall.”

Dickson asked about a temporary agreement, and Kitchen said that, like the permanent agreement, the temporary agreement would have to be signed by all residents of the subdivision.

Speaking to the council by speaker phone from her Powell office, Kitchen said she could draft language noting that the agreement at hand is temporary in nature, then went to work drafting and later sent the new agreement to the council.

As written, the new language states that the license agreement shall be for a temporary period of Jan. 4, 2012 through Jan. 3, 2013, and if the town and residents cannot agree to a permanent license agreement by June 4, the residents must begin the process to remove the equipment from the town right-of-way by Jan. 3, 2013.

With a deadline of Wednesday morning facing the residents, it was noted that not all of the 10 property owners are in town currently, and others were unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting. The residents and clerk/treasurer Valerie Beal agreed to work together to contact residents and, in some cases, a faxed signature would suffice until a hard copy could be sent, signed and returned, the council agreed.

Residents attending the meeting agreed to the temporary license language, and the council eventually voted to approve it, but not before one last question reared its head. Councilman Kevin Jones asked what would happen if one resident declined to sign the agreement.

“I would hate to see one spoil it for the rest,” he added.

Dickson said the water meter, and thus water, could be removed for any resident who doesn’t sign the agreement. He said, “I don’t want to do that” but added that one individual without water would be preferable to many.

The council voted to approve the temporary utility license agreement following a 2½-hour meeting.

As of noon Tuesday, six of the 10 property owners had been able to sign the temporary agreement, and Beal said it would be up to Mayor Morrison as to what to do about the four who have not signed.

By David Peck