Outdoors the place for news in ’05
5. Committee: county government should change
Summit County voters are expected to decide next year whether the county’s form of government should change. After a majority of the electorate in 2004 supported studying the issue. A study committee this year recommended a five-person county council replace the current three-member Summit County Commission.
County commissioners currently perform both legislative and executive duties. Under the new form of government, county councilors would only be legislators who would hire a county manager to perform the government’s executive functions.
The seven members of the county’s Form of Governance committee recently made the recommendation to Summit County commissioners, who will likely decide next month whether to give voters a chance to weigh in on the change during next November’s general election. 4. Litigation dogging county officials
With Summit County officials facing more than 20 civil lawsuits, the County Commission was relieved when a Third District Court judge ruled in favor of the county’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District in an antitrust lawsuit filed against it by Summit Water Distribution Company.
But in 2005, a unanimous decision from the Utah Supreme Court in favor of Summit Water has the county’s largest private competitor in the Snyderville Basin water market looking forward to a trial. Summit Water founder Hy Saunders claims county officials conspired illegally to run Summit Water out of business.
But the antitrust litigation is just the beginning of Summit County’s legal woes. As deputy county attorneys battle on many legal fronts, the Summit County Commission has doubled what it plans to pay outside counsel next year to nearly $200,000. Mountain Regional Water’s budget also increased significantly to pay outside attorneys. Battling developers who claim building densities in the Basin are too low sometimes requires expertise beyond the skills of the Summit County Attorney’s Office, Summit County Attorney David Brickey said. Roughly 13 of the lawsuits pending against the county involve land-use decisions, and attorneys Bruce Baird and Michael Hutchings from Salt Lake County, filed about eight of those. Meanwhile, a handful of the lawsuits involve personnel matters, including a claim from a Coalville woman that Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds used excessive force when he responded to her home shortly after he was sworn into office in 2003. 3. One Scout found, another is still missing
Bountiful resident Brennan Hawkins captured international headlines when he wandered away from a Boy Scout camp last June and became lost for about four days in the Uinta Mountains.
The 11-year-old was staying at the East Fork of the Bear River Boy Scout Camp when he was last seen near a climbing wall at the facility.
On June 19, nearly 3,000 people volunteered to search for Hawkins. Investigators speculated that maybe the boy was kidnapped, eaten by an animal or drowned in the swift waters of the Bear River. "To hear this after four days of searching is just incredible to me. I can’t believe it," Kay Godfrey, director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America’s Great Salt Lake Council said upon hearing Hawkins had been found.
A volunteer searcher on an all-terrain vehicle found Hawkins June 21 about two miles from where he was last seen at the Boy Scout camp. Hawkins became missing about 15 miles from where Utah County resident Garrett Bardsley, 12, got lost in 2004.
Though Hawkins’ rescue inspired the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team to spend another weekend searching for Bardsley last summer, the boy has never been found. Bardsley was last seen while fishing with his father about 300 yards from his campsite. "If I spent time speculating, I would waste my time, I would waste my effort that I should be searching," said Garrett’s father Kevin Bardsley while helping search for Hawkins last June. 2. Deadly avalanche season
With eight avalanche-related fatalities, slides killed more people in Utah last winter than any other season on record.
Idaho resident Shane Maixner, 27, died Jan. 14 after he was buried in an avalanche near The Canyons resort.
Maixner was skiing at the resort and entered the backcountry through a gate near the Ninety-nine 90 lift. Four people were reportedly skiing the Dutch’s Draw area when the slide was triggered around 12:45 p.m. Responders searched for two days without finding a trace, before Maixner, who was not wearing a beacon, was pulled from the snow with his snowboard attached to his feet. Funding for the four-day search, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, will likely come from state and county coffers. The avalanche was triggered below a tracked-out ridge between Ninety-nine 90 and Peak 5, and measured several hundred yards across. It was between eight and 30 feet deep with a circumference of nearly two miles, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said, adding that the slide created a roughly 16-acre field of debris. 1. Armendariz gunned down
The slaying of a leader in the local Latino community on U.S. 40 last fall perhaps tops the list of stories that had the most impact on Summit County in 2005.
Wasatch County residents Antonio Vasquez-Pelaez, 55, and 19-year-old Cunny Antonio Pelaez each face a murder charge for allegedly killing Aniceto Armendariz Jr.
Investigators say Armendariz was shot while driving with his wife near Mayflower toward Heber. He reportedly died at the scene after he lost control of his truck and rolled the vehicle seven times after he was shot in the head with a shotgun. They claim the defendants were in a nearby van that collided with Armendariz’s truck. The suspects were captured at the Lodge at Stillwater while trying to hide from police.
"I don’t even understand how I feel," Armendariz’s wife Alma said prior to a court hearing for the suspects last November.
Armendariz was a religious leader for Holy Cross Ministries in Heber and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Summit County. His violent death prompted widespread speculation about whether the popular deacon knew his shooters.
"We haven’t made much progress," Wasatch County Attorney Thomas Low said recently, adding that investigators have not established a motive for the crime.
Some of the more than 100 potential witnesses interviewed by prosecutors have proposed many theories about why the homicide occurred, Low said.
"There are several that we find credible enough worth investigating," said the prosecutor. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for the suspects in Fourth District Court Jan. 11.
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