Woman claims county is harassing Summit Water
April 23, 2010
A Jeremy Ranch woman Wednesday said longstanding legal battles between Summit County and the private Summit Water Distribution Company have caused her water rates to increase.
As both a county taxpayer and a Summit Water Distribution Co. customer, Cherie Hooten says she is tired of paying to support all sides of the brawl, which dates back nearly a decade.
A lawsuit in 3rd District Court in Summit County currently pits Summit Water against Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District. At issue is whether county officials abused their power by conditioning development approvals on a builder at Promontory ignoring private water companies and agreeing to buy his water from the county.
The county’s actions violated antitrust laws in Utah, which aim to prevent monopolies from forming, attorneys for Summit Water claim.
"I assumed that the county had stopped harassing and stopped trying to gain control of Summit Water," Hooten told the Summit County Council this week.
About 10 years ago, the county attempted to condemn the Summit Water Distribution Co.
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"[Summit County] tried, with eminent domain, to condemn it. Where does the county come off going after a private company and trying to condemn them? I don’t care if it was 10 years ago," Hooten said. "Summit Water had to take the county to court to win that case."
But councilpersons stressed to Hooten that Summit Water is the one that sued the county, not the other way around.
"We have no desire to harm Summit Water in any way," Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott said.
The county was forced into court to defend itself, Elliott added.
"I think you are broaching on a topic about which you know very little," County Councilman Chris Robinson told Hooten. "We haven’t come after them."
Hooten countered using the words of fictional action hero John Rambo.
"The county drew first blood," she told councilpersons during the testy exchange at the Sheldon Richins Building. "’Antitrust’ means, ‘get off my back.’"
"Summit Water has filed an antitrust suit. That was to stop the county from doing what it was doing," she continued.
As the two entities continue competing for new water customers in the Snyderville Basin, there is another case that has Summit Water Distribution Co. and the county wrangling in court. At issue is whether Summit Water, as a mutual water company, should be taxed for personal property for some infrastructure the company develops on the West Side of Summit County.
"Why, as a taxpayer, am I paying the county to fight a private water company?" Hooten asked. "If this keeps going on, how many rate hikes am I going to have as a [Summit Water customer] because I have to defend myself?"
Her quarterly water bill recently jumped from about $113 to about $162, Hooten said.