IVINS — A study commissioned by the city has determined it will cost Ivins more than $87 million to refurbish and/or replace its roads, trails and sidewalks over the next 30 years.

New roundabout at Old Dixie Highway 91 and 400 West, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 19, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The study, announced in an Ivins City Council meeting last May, was undertaken at the urging of Mayor Chris Hart and City Council member Mike Scott with the blessing of his fellow members. The idea, they said at the time, was to see how much time the city’s structures, facilities, roads, drainage and waste management had in their lifetimes, how much it would cost to replace them and discuss how to raise such funds.

The results of the in-house study by the Ivins Public Works Department and Scott found that infrastructure has 20 to 30 years of life left and it will cost $87,487,670 to replace it.

“$87 million surprised me. It’s a big chunk of money,” Scott told St. George News.  

With both Scott and the mayor in their 70s, they know they will likely not be part of the decision-making process in 2043. But Scott said it is still the responsibility of the current generations and its legacy as to where Ivins is in the future.

“My interest in bringing it up … is that we’re all using this infrastructure and then we’re going to disappear and it will be older,” Scott said with a laugh. “And so is that fair?”

The council and the mayor had an initial discussion of the findings during their Nov. 2 meeting. Council members indicated the study would be a topic for many more meetings to come. 

A large part of that discussion turned to how to raise the funds for infrastructure improvement and replacement. A property tax increase has been talked about before but in the same sentence council members are quick to point out such a call can be political suicide.

Instead, the council talked about two possibilities: An impact fee similar to the water and sewer infrastructure fees that residents already pay on their utility bills or relying on the additional revenue expected to come from Black Desert Resort when it’s fully operational in the next year.

Council member Mike Scott speaks during the Ivins City Council meeting, Ivins, Utah, Nov. 8, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“Within our utility bills, there’s this fee that is for the cost of maintaining the storm drain and also replacing it down the road,” Scott told St. George News. “But the other option could be maybe we’ve got lots of sales tax revenue coming in from Black Desert.”

Scott also mentioned more than $1 million remaining in the city’s capital fund. 

Ultimately, the study estimates that the city would need to reserve $1,725,174 a year over the next 20 years to build up the $87 million-plus. 

Overall, the report said Ivins has 130 miles of roads and 12.78 miles of trails. 

There is already one piece of infrastructure that is in the process of being redone: The portion of Old Dixie Highway 91 in Ivins, with the first phase recently completed and the next phase funded for work next year. 

During the Nov. 2 meeting, Hart noted that an “enterprise fund” for infrastructure should be considered to build a reserve fund so that the city isn’t faced with paying the entire bill at once.  

Excerpt from Ivins’ 2023 Infrastructure Study showing expected lifetime of roads, trails, curbs and sidewalks and cost to replace | Photo courtesy Ivins City, St. George News | Click to enlarge

“We have the ability now to set up an enterprise fund like we have for stormwater and sewer,” Hart said during the meeting. “No one wants to impose a fee for anything but this is something 20 years down the line that could be a problem.”

City Manager and Attorney Dale Coulam noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a case in the next few months, Sheetz vs. El Dorado County, that will determine definitively if a city can add a fee to local utility bills to pay for infrastructure. Coulam cautioned the council that an infrastructure fee needs to be clearly defined as not being a backdoor tax.

“The structure as a fee as opposed to a tax, that’s a fine line,” Coulam said. “It can’t go to the general fund as that would be a tax.”

Concern for such a fee was raised by council member Lance Anderson, who said it potentially could have a homeowner pay twice for the infrastructure they use. 

“The idea is when someone buys a home they are paying for the roads,” Anderson said.

Scott responded during the meeting that infrastructure isn’t something that is paid for and lasts forever.

“I went through the same philosophical angst. The argument against setting aside money is if homeowners pay for future improvements to the road, you’re paying for it twice,” Scott said. “But the counterargument is there is no value to the road if there’s no road.”

“In my mind, you’re still double paying,” Anderson replied.

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