Maybe the reason so few residents attended the public hearings on American Fork's upcoming bond election is that most people agree the city needs to upgrade its water system.

That's what city officials are hoping.Officials say the improvements are "absolutely necessary" to provide adequate water supply, storage and quality for the city's growing populace.

"There were times this summer when we had about a foot of water in our main tank," said Mayor B. Kay Hutchings.

During peak demand periods last summer, all city wells ran 24 hours a day and pumps were unable to refill reservoirs overnight. A fire or mechanical failure of one of the city's existing wells could create a major problem, Hutchings said.

"We really, really need to take advantage of this opportunity," Hutchings said.

The city held three public hearings during the past month, the last on Monday night, to educate residents about the proposed $2.5 million culinary water improvement project. Of American Fork's 15,728 residents, only 30 attended the public hearings.

The city is proposing to finance the project with general-obligation bonds.

Residents will vote for or against bonding for the project during the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The bonds would be repaid over 15 years.

American Fork has a debt capacity of up to $35 million; it is currently in debt $2 million.

The city is also seeking a low-interest loan from the state Safe Drinking Water Committee to cover some costs of the improvements. American Fork will learn Nov. 1 whether the committee will grant its request.

Costs of the improvement project will be borne by water users. If the city fails to receive the state loan, it will need to increase base water rates by $2.50 per month - from $6 to $8.50. Also, the city wants to increase the overage rate - the amount charged per 1,000 gallons over a base of 6,000 gallons used - by 15 cents, an increase from 50 cents to 65 cents.

And the city is proposing that water- and sewer-connection fees - which are among the lowest in northern Utah County - be increased $300; water-connection fees are now $850 and sewer-connection fees are $800.

If American Fork gets the state loan, the proposed increases could be lower; however, the bonds would have a longer pay-back period - 20 years.

Budget officer Carl Wanlass said the city has "mediocre hope right now" that it will get the loan.

The proposed improvements will allow the city, among other things, to bring water from two of three recently purchased wells into its system, build a second 5-million-gallon reservoir next to the city's present tank and install a new distribution line in the northwest part of the city.

After six years of negotiation, the city purchased three wells from the American Fork Irrigation Co. in July for $450,000. Adding one of the wells alone to American Fork's water system would double water production, Hutchings said.

"The project is not just for northwest (residents)," said Steve Sowby, of Sowby and Berg, one of the engineering firms working on the project. "A good share of this project will increase flow and fire protection for all people."

If approved, construction of the system improvements would begin and be completed in 1991.

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Kids ideas on drinking and driving:

Sixth-grade students from Franklin and Provost elementary schools in Provo showed their knowledge of drinking and driving during a special presentation Monday. If teenagers are going to drink at parties or away from home the 11- and 12 year-olds offer the following suggestions:

- Have a designated driver

- Appoint a "key master" to hold all car keys for those drinking

- Call a taxi

- Have a prearranged ride home

- Sleep over

- Don't be afraid to call your parents