SYRACUSE -- City leaders will not make any change in the secondary water rates or setup without first consulting with residents, Mayor Jamie Nagle says.
Nagle made her comments at the end of a work session on the topic Tuesday, which drew some spirited comments from resident Val Price, who has suggested a move to meter secondary water is just another mechanism to implement a new tax and city revenue stream.
Price, who has served on the board of the West Branch Irrigation System, said he remembers when irrigation ditches in the city were removed as part of the move to the current secondary water system.
He said the move was made to keep excess water from flowing into Great Salt Lake.
At the time of the change in the system, he said, residents and farmers in particular were told the rate for secondary water would remain flat.
Price also said that when city leaders pushed a bond for the water system in the 1980s, residents were told the rates would go down when the bond was paid off.
That didn't happen, he said.
No one is challenging Price's assertions, but City Recorder Cassie Brown has been unable to document it in her search of city records so far.
Nagle insists past promises will be considered.
"A couple of us on the council have been involved with agreements that were less than stellar. I don't disagree they were made," she said.
"As long as I'm here, we are a farming community. I don't think we're so far apart we can't bring in those farmers and say, here is a workable solution.
"We will make sure we dialogue, if we get to that point."
Price said installing a meter system would fail in its objective, if the intent is to conserve water and fairly spread costs among residents.
He said the city currently charges for secondary water 12 months out of the year and that installing meters would only allow that to happen for six months of the year.
It would be hard to justify the cost of installing the meters, Price said.
"What will you do? Double the rates? How do you work it so those who have larger acreages don't have to pay an arm and a leg to water their pastures?" he said.
"The city is obligated to keep it as cost-effective as possible. Using water for revenue is not right for citizens of the community."
Councilman Doug Peterson said one of the key issues council members need to decide is what promises were made in the past. He pressed for facts on the specifics of those promises and to whom they were made.
Councilman Larry Shingleton said another reason the city implemented a secondary water system was to keep residents from digging their own private wells, which he said was not uncommon before the new system was put in place.
Councilman Brian Duncan said a key lesson should be learned from this dispute.
"The lesson to be learned is to be careful about the promises you make."