New water fees anger property owners | ParkRecord.com

New water fees anger property owners

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Legal costs for the district could spike next year as some property owners continue to reel at the rates charged by Summit County s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District.

The Summit County Commission voted to approve a 2007 budget that shows the county isn t able to fairly compete for water customers in the Snyderville Basin, the district s critics say. What Mountain Regional needs today to focus on is how do they bring the rates for water more in line with the competitive environment, Park City developer Jon-Eric Greene said.

The county would charge too much to serve water to a subdivision he plans to build on 55 acres near Silver Springs, Greene said, adding, They can t be competitive as a water company.

Richer insists Mountain Regional s rates, which might be some of the highest in the nation, are necessary to service debt incurred several years ago to form the district.

It s just like saying you ve got to pay the mortgage on your house, he said. Mountain Regional s new budget also establishes a $4,700 buy-out fee for property owners within the district who sign up with other water providers, which an attorney for the private Summit Water Distribution Company criticized.

We believe that this fee is not authorized We see it as a serious anti-competitive matter, said attorney Michael Petrogeorge, who added that Summit Water has serious concerns about the legality of these fees. Countering, deputy county attorney Renee Spooner said, We re not saying you have to go with Mountain Regional.

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We re very comfortable on our legal position, she said, insisting that state law prevents people from de-annexing from special service districts that have outstanding debt.

Meanwhile, someone panned Mountain Regional s new monthly fee of $8.35 to flush private fire hydrants at homes. Officials expect to inspect hydrants annually to maintain water quality and ensure there is adequate flow to fight fires. All of us in The Colony paid a very substantial fee when we connected to Mountain Regional, said Max Mendel, who is president of the homeowners association at The Colony, where many private fire hydrants are installed. The fee appears to be largely a Colony tax for which Mountain Regional has overcharged, he said.

It is not a highly skilled activity, Mendel said. With lawsuits pending against Mountain Regional, legal fees for the district in 2007 are budgeted to jump to $269,300. Still, rates shouldn t climb as standby fees paid to Mountain Regional by lot owners who haven t yet connected to the system drop from $33.50 to $31.25.

The district s budget in 2007 jumped nearly 10 percent to $4.7 million. Officials say water production costs accounted for a significant share of the hike because of increasing utility costs and higher prices to lease water