Down to the wire
Park City and the Snyderville Basin are the political battlegrounds this weekend for Republican Bill Miles and Democrat Bob Richer as the candidates fight to secure West Side votes in the race for a seat on the Summit County Commission.
The population in western Summit County, where voter turnout can be low, could sway the election if the majority of the county’s voters who live in the Basin cast similar ballots on Tuesday.
Particularly important for some Republicans is ensuring Miles unseats Richer because the moderate incumbent from Ranch Place often casts the swing vote when the commission’s decisions are split.
The opinions of westsiders, however, who face rapid population growth, troubled roads and steep water bills aren’t always divided along party lines. While many citizens have chosen sides, Miles wasn’t sure Thursday how many voters remain undecided in western Summit County.
The 61-year-old Woodland resident should fare well among voters in eastern Summit County as they traditionally support candidates from their region.
Despite Miles’ attempts to shore up West Side votes by portraying himself as more of a Parkite than someone who was born in Coalville, making inroads into Richer’s political base, which he’s crafted during almost two decades of public service in Park City, could prove too daunting for Miles, a South Summit political outsider who spent much of his career in the mining industry.
Miles blasts the Snyderville Basin General Plan and Development Code as "onerous," which may have some West Side development watchdogs afraid to place him in the position to decide planning disputes in Snyderville.
"I feel like I’m fighting for the future of our community," Richer said. "Open space is big, real big."
If elected, Miles claims he wouldn’t open the development floodgates, however, Miles’ campaign-financing documents reveal several of his campaign donors have challenged zoning ordinances and water policies in the Basin.
His largest contribution was $2,178 from the Summit County Republican Party, however, Hy Saunders, the president of Summit Water Distribution Co., donated $1,000 to Miles’ campaign.
Numerous lawsuits filed by Summit Water Distribution Co. against Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District are pending, conceded Miles, adding that Saunders’ contribution does not mean the candidate is "in bed with anyone."
While campaigning, Miles is attempting to tie Richer to an alleged illegal stream diversion in Peoa. The accusations are the subject of Saunders’ latest lawsuit against the county.
Richer denies the county took water illegally from the Weber River.
"Bob Richer is flat-out lying to the community by saying it’s a gray area," Miles said. "He’s either telling a fib to the community or he is flat-out inept."
The county will be cleared of any wrongdoing when the state issues Mountain Regional a permit to take both surface and groundwater from the river, Richer countered.
"There are some facts here that are reality," the incumbent said. "Right or wrong, we’ve got some litigious players here in our community."
‘Lawsuit du jour’
A spike in the number of lawsuits filed against Summit County under Richer’s watch indicates the Democrat hasn’t been able to get along with his constituents, Miles charged.
"People are upset about the lawsuits," Miles said. "Over half of them are dealing with people like Summit Water [and] Anderson Development."
Miles received a $1,000 contribution from Joe Tesch, an attorney in Park City who has criticized Summit County government. A $500 contribution to his campaign came from Greg Ericksen, who is an attorney with litigation pending against the county. Another plaintiff who is suing Summit County, Basin resident Mel Flinders, gave Miles $250.
Many of the lawsuits against the county were filed by one group of land-use attorneys in Salt Lake that is trying to "bust our code," Richer said, adding that attorneys like Michael Hutchings and Bruce Baird "don’t want to mediate anything."
The county recently defeated lawsuits filed by Hutchings that alleged county commissioners violated federal housing and racketeering laws, Richer said.
Richer raises and spends the most
Richer had raised $19,525 and Miles $10,428 this week, according to campaign-finance papers.
Notable contributions to Richer’s campaign include $1,000 each from Park City residents Jan Wilking, Hans Fuegi, Richard Bizzaro and Steve Chin.
Paladin Development Partners gave Richer $1,000 and a $1,500 contribution came from All Resort Express.
Miles this week had spent $9,330 campaigning while Richer had spent $14,004.
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The Park City Police Department last week and early this week received several reports of parties, a common complaint to the agency during busy times of the ski season. The cases did not appear to be serious, but they seem to show an uptick in activity in the community.