HEYBURN — The Heyburn City Council agreed to move toward a judicial confirmation instead of an election for a bond to help pay for $7-$8 million in work at its wastewater treatment plant.
The city is out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency and faces large fines that could bankrupt the city if it doesn’t rectify the problems.
During a judicial confirmation, a judge decides whether the project is ordinary and necessary.
The Council’s decision during its Wednesday business meeting is just the first step and doesn’t represent the Council’s final approval of moving forward with the judicial confirmation process, city attorney Paul Ross said.
The city will now undergo a public notification process, a public hearing and afterward, a “cooling off period” for the Council, before it makes the final decision to move forward with the judicial confirmation.
The Council also approved signing a consent order representing the agreement with the EPA to fix the problems, the timeline and penalties if the city fails to comply.
“I think it’s wrong to ask voters to approve something and turn right around if they don’t approve it and get it done by other means,” Councilman Dick Galbraith said.
The city doesn’t have a choice, he said. It must bring the plant into compliance.
“I don’t like it any more than anyone else,” he said. “I’m going to have to pay for my share just like everyone else. I feel like we have no choice but to go for the judicial confirmation.”
Councilman Chad Anderson said because of the timeline, the city will be under to complete the work, that judicial confirmation makes sense.
“We totally respect our citizens’ rights to vote, but as a city we don’t have a choice,” Councilwoman Joanne Justesen said.
Justesen said the city will continue to work to educate the public on the issue.
In a draft consent order, the EPA said the city must have the first phase completed by June 19, 2020, and the second phase done by May 31, 2022, or face fines of $53,484 per day.