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Audit: Paradise’s water expenses overflowed its budget allotment

November 26th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Christopher Farnes

PARADISE – An audit has revealed that the town of Paradise overspent its water budget by about $5,000.

Diana Cannell, a certified public accountant for Freemon, Shapard and Story, has been doing accounting work for Paradise for the past few years. She presented the audit to the Town Council at its last meeting.

“Most of the findings were similar to previous years with a few exceptions,” Cannell said. “There is too much money left in the general fund budget and the water spending was too high for state requirements.”

The council’s main interest in the report was the water budget balance. Mayor Leland Howlett explained why water spending was so high for the past year.

“The big one is the other operating expenses, the $63,000,” Howlett said. “A lot of that was for the canyon water condemnation lawsuit plus the payout to one particular party. The legal part has been dragging out for a few years, but the payout is a one-time payment.”

The water condemnation lawsuit involved Cache County cities surrounding Hyrum Reservoir paying residents compensation for condemning their water lines in the interest of public safety. The towns wanted to remove all water connections above the storage tank, to prevent the possibility of a backflow event that could contaminate their entire drinking water supply.

“The condemnation activity was a long, drawn-out process due to the complicated nature of establishing a correct value for the water, but eventually we did settle short of having to have an actual condemnation trial,” Howlett said.

The trials between Paradise and three different parties have been going on for the past three years, with the last this year with Paradise resident Ray Balls. “I think we ended up paying a total of $80,000 to the combination of Balls, Johnson, and Weeks, but the exact split info I do not have with me,” Howlett said.

The council found that almost all Paradise residents have been paying their water bill and did not contribute much to the loss in the water balance.

“This year we are on top of most of the water bill payments,” said Beverly Shieffer, town clerk. “We only have a few that won’t pay; I think there are four or five so it is not a big concern.”

Now that all parties and the associated legal fees have been paid, the council can spend the water budget on updating the town water system.

“The good news is that we can now spend the water revenue money received on other infrastructure water projects, like an emergency generator for the wells and updated water meter technology, rather than on legal fees and connection elimination payouts,” Howlett said.


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