Residents' monthly water bills could go up as much as 35 percent to pay for water-system improvements, but they'll get a chance to vote on those rate increases.

According to city estimates, it will take $1,530,000 to upgrade Santaquin's water-storage capacities and pipeline system, as well as redevelop its spring sources. No-interest loans from both the Utah Safe Drinking Water Committee and the State Division of Water Resources (both amounting to $765,000) will pay for those improvements.City Councilman Keith Broadhead, Mayor Lynn Crook and Councilwoman Marilyn Clayson have been pursuing those loans. To pay for those loans, the city must raise its current water-usage base rate (metered for the first 10,000 gallons used) from $10.55 to $13.95, Broadhead said. Also, the 50-cent charge for each additional 1,000 gallons used would be raised to 60 cents.Broadhead said the city is also pursuing $150,000 in Community Development Block Grant money, federal grants given to low-income residential areas for capital improvements, and should know by March whether the project will qualify for those grants. Should the city receive those funds, the proposed rate increases would be lowered significantly, he said.

The city has already held a series of public hearings on the matter and will hold a final information session during the council's Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting before opening polls to residents, who will get one vote per water connection used. The voting booths (set up in the Santaquin City Hall, 68 E. Main) will be open after that public hearing, which will start at 7 p.m., and close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The city obtains its culinary water from seven springs in Santaquin Canyon, located almost 2 1/2 miles from the city. Santaquin has three storage tanks, one holding 500,000 gallons and two others totaling 260,000 gallons. That storage must be increased by 230,000 gallons to serve the existing sources, Broadhead said. Should the voters pass the bond resolution, a one million-gallon concrete storage tank will be built, at a higher elevation than the other tanks, to serve the entire city.

The city's pipeline system will be upgraded to standards as the northeast end of town, which was upgraded about 10 years ago. An engineering study four years ago showed the city is losing between 20 percent to 30 percent of its water through small and old water pipes, he said.

In addition, the canyon springs must be redeveloped to meet State Health Department standards, and a new well is to be drilled and equipped.

A study performed by ISO, the agency that rates city firefighting capabilities for insurance calculations, reports that the city has insufficient water to fight large structural fires - especially a hypothetical fire at any of the city's schools.

A fire-hydrant test performed by that organization showed the city capable of providing only 1,400 gallons per minute; 4,000 gallons would be necessary to fight such fires. Should residents approve the improvement project, an additional 20 fire hydrants will be installed.