River Heights make enough money to pay its bills and
survive? Time will tell
By Ben Walker
April 30, 2006 | RIVER HEIGHTS --
River Heights is one of the smallest cities in Cache
Valley. It has an estimated population of just over
1,500. It doesn't even cover a full square mile.
One interesting problem River Heights has is an almost
complete lack of commercial land and, in turn, commercial
revenue. Mayor Todd Weston says utilities are almost
the only source of revenue for the city.
"Eighty percent of the property taxes go to schools
and that's fine," Jensen said. "That's where it belongs,
that's what the law says, but it doesn't give us much
leeway to bring in enough money. Some things in our
city are wearing out and we need to replace them. We've
got this big water problem last year that cost us $100,000,
and when you take that out of your budget, it hurts
Weston has been a River Heights resident for 60 years.
City Councilwoman Mary Barrus is another longtime resident
of River Heights. Barrus lives in the Riverdale area,
which was incorporated by River Heights in the mid-1970s.
Barrus said shortly after the incorporation, some Riverdale
landowners wanted to develop their land to make some
"As with everything governmental, the process was
slow -- too slow for Mr. Lundahl and Davis -- and they
felt their needs would be better served through Logan
city," Barrus said.
She said the landowners requested to be de-annexed
from the city and the issue went to court. The landowners
won and were de-annexed from River Heights.
"With their disconnection, River Heights basically
lost any opportunity for acquiring any viable tax base
through development of any kind of commercial property,"
Barrus said. "[Councilman] Brent [Greenhalgh] and I
saw the sustaining of River Heights as an entity basically
go down the drain."
River Heights' audit for the year ending June 30,
2005, reports that the city has net assets of just over
$1.7 million and spent over $613,000 for the year. The
city pays over $60,000 for police and fire protection.
"Because of this dilema, most the the constituents
close to my age would support annexation," said Rob
Gines, the youngest member of the City Council. "All
the old folks in River Heights are vigorously opposed
to any form of annexation."
"River Heights is very strapped for resources right
now," Jensen said.
So can the city afford to continue its existence?
"Time will tell whether we can afford to do that or
not," Jensen said. "We still have some land that we
can zone into commercial if the council is in a mood
to do that. We haven't lost all of our land that has
commercial potential. If we work wisely and carefully
I think we can make some properties become commercial.
We're not at the end of the road yet."
"I believe that we can fiscally exist and provide
for the citizens of River Heights for the forseeable
future of 10 to 15 years," Gines said.
Barrus said, "Planning and Zoning tried real hard
last year to come up with some ideas of who and what
to pursue to create revenue. There's not much out there
and River Heights would be very difficult to locate
in because there's limited access. Also, River Heights
can offer very little in the way of incentives to a
"I think it's inevitable that River Heights will eventually
be consumed on the north or the south, but I sure don't
want it to happen on my watch," Barrus said.
Mayor Weston said he doesn't want that to happen.
"Anyone who's lived here as long as I have has some
fond attachments to independence and to River Heights
itself," he said. "We'd like to guide our own destiny
and I think the majority of people feel that way. We've
just got to find out a financial way to do it."
Barrus said the city has a sewer contract with Logan
City due to expire in 2020. "Former Mayor [Vic] Jensen
proposed that the city could stay intact until 2020,"
she said. "That's when the sewer contract with Logan
City will run out and they will kill us with fees."