Summit Water files new brief in antitrust case
Antitrust laws were violated when decision-makers tied development approvals at Promontory to the builder agreeing to buy his water from Summit County, officials at the private Summit Water Distribution Co. claim.
Developers in the Snyderville Basin were required to purchase their water from the county’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District in exchange for permit approvals, as Summit County pursued its failed attempt to take customers from Summit Water through condemnation, Summit Water officials claim.
The Utah Supreme Court dealt a blow to the county when it declared unanimously that a 3rd District Court judge erred in dismissing the antitrust lawsuit. The case returned to court in the Basin where Summit Water filed a request for partial summary judgment June 4.
The new court filing details an alleged letter from deputy Summit County attorney David Thomas which states that Promontory builder Rich Sonntag "let me know that he understands that burning the county will kill his project."
"It was not extortion. That’s not what it was," Sonntag countered in a telephone interview Tuesday. "At the time we needed a source of future water for the project Mountain Regional had water that was available."
County officials deny they entered into "tying agreements" with developers.
When Sonntag was deposed in the case, the builder explained that he shopped around for water for Promontory, said Jody Burnett, an attorney who represents the county.
"I find it a little puzzling," Burnett said in a telephone interview, adding that Sonntag met more than once with Summit Water. "[Sonntag] came to his own conclusion."
But, according to Summit Water, the County Commission conspired to run the company out of business when it voted in 2000 to form Mountain Regional. Officials at Summit Water claim they met with Sonntag and offered to meet or beat any offer from the county.
"After learning that [Sonntag] may meet with Summit Water representatives the Summit County Attorney’s Office emailed Sonntag and informed him that his ‘latest antics of meeting with Summit Water and Park City have caused concerns with the commissioners about [his] intentions with the water projects at Promontory,’" Summit Water claims.
Attorneys for the county have argued that the Utah Antitrust Act allows "municipalities" latitude related to condemnation when it serves the public.
But counties are not municipalities, counter officials at Summit Water, who seek monetary damages from Summit County in the case.
Antitrust laws in Utah aim to prevent monopolies from forming.
But when government officials claimed immunity, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 27-page opinion that "the activities at issue here were not ‘authorized or directed by state law,’ and the defendants are therefore not exempt from the Utah Antitrust Act."
Contracts between Summit County, Mountain Regional and Promontory demonstrate illegal tying arrangements, Summit Water claims.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.