Small towns need help paying for services

By: 
Steve Lyon
 
If you don’t have anything planned this weekend, think about taking a trip up to Cambridge for the town’s annual Hells Canyon Days. 
 I’ve gone each year and always enjoy it. This year is the 24th installment of the weekend of fun, and there is a lot going on both Friday and Saturday.
 The Hells Canyon Jam on Friday should bring plenty of folks to see headliners Micky and the Motorcars. They are a crowd favorite.
 Rodeo fans will want to catch the thrills and spills of the Bulls and Broncs on Saturday at the fairgrounds. The flyer publicizing the event notes that there also will be some mini-bull riding. 
 I’m not sure what that is exactly. I’m guessing these are small bulls and not the 2,000 pound, snorting beasts. It’s comforting to know that getting tossed in the dirt by miniature bulls results in miniature injuries.
 Cambridge never changes much, and I like its small town charm, but it needs new business and a growing tax base to stay economically vibrant. It’s been described as either grow or wither. The population has been slowly dropping and stands at about 313 at last count.
 The community needs all the services of a city, such as water and sewer and streets, but there are not that many property owners to pay the taxes for services. 
 The town just isn’t growing much. Without a lot of new jobs, other than tourist-oriented services along U.S. Highway 95, there isn’t much to keep young people around. Granted, it’s a great community for retired people. Meanwhile the tax base continues to shrink. 
 The city attempted to garner support for a revenue bond to pay for some needed water system improvements with a funding measure on the ballot last week.
 Cambridge has to meet all the EPA mandates that any other city must, but it just doesn’t have a lot of ratepayers to pick up the tab. The revenue bond went down to defeat with fewer than 100 residents voting on the measure. 
 Ratepayers decided they didn’t want to be on the hook for $1.75 million in bonds and voted against the measure.
 City clerk and treasurer Sandra McKee said city officials have not decided what is next following the bond defeat. The city council will meet on June 10 and discuss the results.
 The city was told it needs a backup well in the event the main water source goes down. The likely water source for the backup well contains arsenic.
 The city is seeking a grant through the Idaho Department of Commerce and  has hired an outside consultant to assist with the process. The deadline to apply for the grant of $500,000 is November. 
 The grant would cover a chunk of the cost to upgrade a backup well with arsenic treatment. It doesn’t require the city to come up with matching funds, either.
 The city had a second well in operation for years with no problems. When the federal arsenic standard dropped, the well water was slightly over the limit. That has forced the city to make expensive upgrades and pass the costs along to customers of the water system. 
 Steve Lyon is the editor of the Weiser Signal American. Contact him at scoop@signalamerican.com.

 

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