The Grantsville City Council emphatically rejected a disconnection proposal by Tooele County that would return property, including Deseret Peak Complex and Utah Motorsports Campus, to unincorporated status.
The city council unanimously voted to deny the disconnection request by the Tooele County Commission and had strong words for the county, which was not represented at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
After only one community member spoke at a public hearing on the proposed disconnection in November, six residents spoke out against the disconnection during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting.
Lyle Lawton said the city shouldn’t give up the sales and property tax revenue the properties represent, especially with the county attempting to sell the former Miller Motorsports Park to a private entity. He also said the city, which provides water to the properties, should be getting a return for the resource it provides.
“In an arid climate like we have here in Tooele County, water is critical to any economic development,” he said. “If we lose the tax base of that area and still are providing water, we lose the ability to use the water for our development and economic benefit.”
Grantsville City attorney Joel Linares said the county plans to construct a new set of water and sewer lines to connect to the Stansbury Park Improvement District if the disconnection was approved. He said the county expects Grantsville City would continue to supply water and sewer services to the properties until the new lines were completed.
Resident James Whitney Cook was critical of the county requesting the property back after it was annexed into Grantsville City in November 2014.
“I think the attempt to bring it back in just shows a lack of competence and wishy-washy decision making,” Cook said. “The type of decision making that’s not fit for office.”
Linares gave a brief overview of the affected properties, beginning with the opening of Deseret Peak Complex in 1998. When the complex was complete, there was no means of providing sewer and water, so the county entered an agreement with Tooele City for water, culinary water and sewer.
In 2002, Tooele City cut off access to irrigation water to the complex, but Linares said he was unable to determine the rationale behind the change. The county approached Grantsville City to provide water to the facility in 2003.
In the 2003 agreement, Grantsville City agreed to provide water to the complex and the county would attempt to drill its own wells. Linares said the county wells proved insufficient and provided brackish water; Grantsville City began to provide additional water without compensation.
After the county’s sewer deal with Tooele City expired in 2012, an agreement with Grantsville City was created to install new water lines and a sewer line to connect Deseret Peak Complex, Linares said. The county commission approved annexation of the property into Grantsville City in November 2014 and the city completed the agreed upon water line in 2015 and the sewer line early this year.
“It was at that time that we were notified that the county did not intend to tie into the line and would be seeking to disconnect from Grantsville City and tying into another system elsewhere,” Linares said. “That’s when this motion was filed by the county in an attempt to disconnect from Grantsville City.”
The request for disconnection was submitted to Grantsville City on Sept. 2.
Linares said Grantsville City did not collect any sales or property tax revenue from the properties included in the disconnection request from 2003 to 2014, when it provided water to the facilities. He said annexation was crucial to absorb the cost of providing and maintaining the essential water and sewer services.
“Prior to 2014, we did not receive any taxes from this,” Linares said. “We provided services for 11 years. Grantsville citizens covered the costs of maintaining and operating both systems at our expense and provided additional water we were never compensated for.”
While the county said it wanted to return the properties to unincorporated Tooele County so it could better manage its own holdings, Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall said there is county-owned property in other incorporated communities that have not been a problem.
Grantsville City council members expressed disappointment the commissioners were unable to attend and answer questions about the proposal, including Councilwoman Jewel Allen and Councilman Mike Colson.
All five members of the council expressed concern on the disconnection proposal and frustration with the Tooele County Commissioners.
Grantsville City Councilman Tom Tripp said he participated in the negotiations prior to the annexation and said it was clear to both parties what would happen and the deal was mutually beneficial to both parties.
“I’m surprised such a short time later, that they would reverse that,” Tripp said.
Allen said she failed to see a benefit to Grantsville City residents in disconnecting the property from the city limits.
“I’ve kept an open mind, but I have yet to see any evidence why it would be beneficial for our city to deannex,” she said.
Colson took a harder line in calling out the commissioners for not attending the meeting.
“I am highly disappointed that none of the commissioners had the guts to show up at our meeting,” he said. “And I’m highly disappointed we’re even at this point and … I’m just disgusted with the current administration of county commissioners.”
Councilman Neil Critchlow said it would be irresponsible for the city to consider the disconnection proposal from the county.
“It is a disappointing thing,” he said. “These are people that I felt like I could trust and they have really killed that trust.”
Marshall said the city spent untold hours reviewing documents and trying to resolve the disconnection request with the county; he said the only meetings now are between attorneys from the city and county.
“It’s really sad because this is not good government, period,” he said.
The county can challenge the city’s decision to deny the disconnection request in district court.