Some Orem residents prefer darkness to paying $2 or $3 a month for street lights.
"We would like to see more lights in Orem, but we don't want to force people into something they don't want," said Jack Jones, director of public works.In response to a public works survey sent out last year, city officials have proposed special improvement districts for seven neighborhoods. Officials explained the project to about 80 residents who attended a Wednesday night meeting, but most present opposed the project.
Of the 14,000 surveys sent out, 905 were returned. Residents who said they wanted more street lighting were charted on a map, and areas with clusters of interested residents were drawn into the project proposal.
Boy Scouts and interested individuals surveyed 90 percent of the residents in three areas and learned that those residents strongly supported the special improvement district.
In the remaining cluster areas, Orem officials say there is not enough information on what residents really want. Jones said more neighborhoods than the interested three would have to be involved before the project went forward.
Jones said Orem will take no action to survey residents further but will accept any petitions supporting and opposing the project. A petition showing neighborhood support for the special improvement district could bring an area into the project.
"I had six or seven people come up after the meeting saying they will organize to get support for the district," said Stewart Cowley, assistant administrator of public works. He added that although many audience members seemed to oppose the project, "they are just sitting back and hoping no one else does anything."
If some or all of the project is approved, Utah Power & Light Co. will install light poles about every third lot on one side of the street in the involved areas. Existing wooden poles will be used where possible. It will cost $2.35 monthly for Orem to rent each pole, and each 9,500-lumen sodium vapor lamp will cost $9.19 a month. (Jones said staff research showed it would be cheaper to rent equipment from UP&L than for Orem to buy and maintain the same equipment.)
City authorities would then compute the total cost and add 15 percent for administrative services. That total would be divided by the linear feet of frontage of the property on the involved streets.
Orem officials would assess each property owner between 33 cents and 48 cents per year for each linear foot of frontage on their property. The owner of a lot 60 feet wide at the front, if assessed 45 cents a foot, would pay $27 annually or $2.25 each month.
Any UP&L rate increases would be passed on to landowners. After 10 years, the district could either be canceled or renewed for 10 more years.
A special improvement district can only be approved by the City Council if property owners representing at least 51 percent of the land support the plan. That support must be documented with a survey or petition.
Once the council has voted to go ahead with the project, opposing votes from property owners representing two-thirds of the land are required to stop the project.
Several audience members supported the proposed district, saying it would reduce crime. Others said the city should supply lighting without increasing taxes to residents. Some said a special service district was another tax in disguise. When Jones tried to explain why the charge was necessary, an audience member shouted, "Baloney."
If the project proceeds, landowners will be sent notices and given a chance to formally protest the project. The City Council will hold a public hearing for more citizen input, there will be a vote, and if the project is approved, landowners will be sent a list of assessment costs.
Property owners will be given a chance to protest the amounts of individual assessments, and once the Board of Adjustments OKs a plan, the City Council will decide whether or not to give it final approval.