Water Issues Boiling In Star Valley

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Water is making things boil between the Star Valley Town Council and the Hellsgate Fire District.

Well, it’s not really the water; it’s the system to get the water to fight fires.

The district asked the council to consider footing the bill to repair and maintain or replace the pump and hydrants in The Knolls at its Feb. 5 meeting. The topic will come up for a decision on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Star Valley Town Council meeting at 6 p.m.

Water Department Director Robert Rippy told the council it would cost about $2,000 a year to keep the one pump and the six hydrants in working order.

Star Valley set its water rates to maintain the water system and its only legal obligation is to provide drinkable water, said Town Manager Tim Grier.

“It’s the staff’s position that Hellsgate should be putting in its part. We should be looking to the district for part or all of the cost. We feel we should be working with Hellsgate and not be combative,” Grier said.

Combative is just what the discussion has become.

Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch said that Brooke Utilities never maintained the hydrants when it owned the water system, beyond repairing a hydrant when it was damaged pumping water to truck to other subdivisions.

Unfortunately, he said the fire district couldn’t afford to make the needed repairs.

“Our current stance is that we have no money,” said Hatch.

Hellsgate faces a $38,000 cut in the coming year, on top of the $400,000 cut in the past two years. Only a federal grant averted even deeper cuts.

“Our finances are maxed out,” said Hatch. The fire district is considering imposing a $500 annual fee on people living within 500 feet of a hydrant to cover the maintenance costs said Hatch.

Grier met with representatives of the fire district, but came up with no compromise plan.

“We talked, they didn’t,” said Mayor Bill Rappaport.

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