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County sued by synagogue

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Add Temple Har Shalom to the list of plaintiffs with lawsuits pending against Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District.

The latest complaint filed Feb. 8 in Third District Court in the Snyderville Basin teams the Park City Jewish Center, Inc., with Summit Water Distribution Company and South Summit resident Nadine Gillmor

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the county, Mountain Regional, Summit County Treasurer Glen Thompson and County Assessor Barbara Kresser.

The case challenges the legality of a fee charged by Mountain Regional to property owners in the district who choose other water providers in western Summit County.

The county’s so-called alternative water service provider fee forces landowners not interested in Mountain Regional to pay to work with the county’s competitors who offer lower rates, the lawsuit contends.

"The imposition of such a fee significantly hinders Summit Water’s ability to compete for potential water customers in the Snyderville Basin water market who are not currently serviced by Mountain Regional," according to Temple Har Shalom’s complaint.

With plans slated for a synagogue in the Snyderville Basin, officials at Summit Water Distribution Company claim they can beat the county’s price for providing the congregation water.

But to connect to the county’s private competitor would require Temple Har Shalom pay Mountain Regional $4,700 per residential connection, the lawsuit states.

State law, however, doesn’t give Summit County the power to impose the mandatory fee on property owners in the district, the 40-page complaint states.

The Utah Supreme Court decided that there appears no "state policy of allowing counties to displace competition with a special service district unless the special service district is successful through its own competitive efforts in acquiring an exclusive market share within its area."

With the fee the county attempts to displace competition and monopolize the Basin’s culinary water market, charges Temple Har Shalom.

The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to prevent the fee from being charged by Mountain Regional.

Temple Har Shalom also wants Summit County barred from enforcing or foreclosing on a property lien based on a landowner’s failure to pay the fee.

"[The congregation] brings its claims against defendants on behalf of itself and all similarly situated property owners in the Snyderville Basin whose property lies within the political boundaries of Mountain Regional," the lawsuit states.

Other plaintiffs in the case together own hundred of acres of land in Snyderville and include Gillmor and the TCR company.

But county officials were "very comfortable" with their legal position when the buy-out fee was adopted in December, according to deputy county attorney Renee Spooner.

State law helps prevent people from de-annexing from special service districts with outstanding debt like Mountain Regional, Spooner claims.

This week the county had not been served with the lawsuit.

"We’re not saying you have to go with Mountain Regional," Spooner told the Summit County Commission.

Commissioner Bob Richer, however, voted against the new fee.

When reached Monday, Summit County Attorney David Brickey couldn’t comment about the lawsuit filed by Temple Har Shalom.


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