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Mayor cites record cold, city structure as causes for high utility bills

By Mike Anderson | Posted - Feb 11th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

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EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Taxpayers in Eagle Mountain say they've seen skyrocketing utility bills in the past few months, and they want to know where the money is going.

A group of residents met Sunday night to go over the numbers and raise awareness of the problem. Monday, the city's mayor responded by saying a combination of record-cold temperatures and a unique system of city services are behind the bills.

Eagle Mountain resident Sam Allen led the group gathered at the city library Sunday night. He said because he'd been keeping track of his bills, he discovered he'd paid $640 extra in utility fees in a 12-month time period.

Laura Andreasen is another resident upset over a surprisingly large utility bill. She was charged well over $300 in January for a combination of utilities provided by the city.

"We just want our money to go where it's supposed to go," Andreasen said.

She started up the Eagleshare emcity Facebook page for Eagle Mountain residents facing the same problem, and Monday afternoon it was flooded with complaints. Similar comments and concerns were also seen on Eagle Mountain City's official Facebook page.

Eagle Mountain Mayor Heather Jackson said she was a bit surprised by the response.

"The rates haven't changed," she said. "They've been exactly the same, and have been the same for several years."

At least for January, Jackson believes the reason behind the bill spike had more to do with the weather than the city.

"It's the record cold," she said. "So, obviously (their bill) is larger than usual."

Eagle Mountain City supplies gas, electricity, water, sewer services and garbage disposal to its residents, and all services are combined into one bill. The city also has a higher base rate than many other cities, put in place to pay off $50 million in bonds that date back more than 10 years.

Not all of the money residents pay goes directly toward utilities, either. For example, Jackson said all of the city's utility billing clerks are paid from the city's general fund — and Eagle Mountain isn't the only city to cover general funds out of the utilities coffer.

"That system isn't quite as transparent, perhaps, as the Truth and Taxation system, but it's something that's long been a part of state code and is quite common across all of the Utah cities," said Royce Van Tassel, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

Van Tassel said his group is looking into the citizen concerns, but warned that people should reserve judgment until all the information is out.

Still, several homeowners are hopeful everything will be closely scrutinized.

"I think that the issue is much larger than ‘people's bills are going up,'" Andreasen said.

City leaders plan to hold a town hall meeting at Eagle Mountain City Hall Wednesday at 7 p.m. There, residents will be able to pose questions to the city council, and Jackson hopes council members will be able to address a lot of their concerns.

Contributing: Jordan Ormond


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