The Tooele County Commission and Grantsville City have laced up their boxing gloves for what may be a long, legal fight. It promises to be costly, too, and not just at taxpayers’ expense.
This fight may cause unwanted collateral damage that could prevail for years.
As reported in last Thursday’s edition, on May 24 the county commission filed an answer and counterclaim to a lawsuit filed by Grantsville City in April over a breach of contract for sewer and water service between both entities.
Grantsville’s lawsuit seeks not less than $1.2 million in total compensatory and punitive damages over several topics of disagreement and conflict against the county. For the sake of brevity and space, those topics have been summarized to a few key points below.
They include Grantsville and the county signed an interlocal agreement in March 2014 in which the city would permanently provide sewer and water services to Deseret Peak Complex, and today’s Utah Motorsports Campus and Purple Mattress Company on Sheep Lane.
In return, the county would support Grantsville annexing those three facilities and adjacent acreage, and after annexation, the three properties would be withdrawn from the Deseret Peak Special Service District. Furthermore, the agreement called for the transfer of county water rights to Grantsville, and the city would install a new sewer main on Sheep Lane to provide wastewater service to Deseret Peak, UMC and Purple.
Grantsville’s lawsuit claims the county and special service district failed to honor the 2014 agreement, including a failure to remove the annexation area from the special service district and not transferring water facilities and easements. The city also said the county did not provide the necessary deeds, sewer facilities and easements, and failed to perform other obligations as promised under the contract.
The county’s answer and counter claim asserts Grantsville City breached that same interlocal agreement by obtaining the annexation before completing construction of a $280,000 sewer line on Sheep Lane to the county’s specifications.
That construction began in December 2016 but was stopped by the county commission prior to completion because of the unmet specifications and Grantsville not following its own policy on sewer lift stations. Because the county commissioners felt the interlocal agreement with Grantsville would no longer benefit the county and its residents, the commissioners requested disconnection — the return of annexed properties back to the county.
That disconnection request was discussed by the Grantsville City Council last December and was unanimously denied. During the council meeting, one of the council members expressed “disgust” at the commissioners and another said the commissioners could no longer be trusted.
Now it appears the conflict between the county’s top elected office and the county’s second largest municipality will take a long trip through the courts. The intent of this editorial is not to choose sides. It is to express regret and dismay that one or both entities could not, or would not, strive for a mutual win-win solution to avoid a courtroom fight that is likely to get costly and dirty.
And what unwanted collateral damage could prevail for years? A number of civic-related topics emerge, but one of the biggest is economic development. To effectively compete in Utah for attracting new businesses to a community, a spirit of cooperation between entities often makes a big difference. With the county and Grantsville suing one another, will such necessary cooperation be possible? Or will hard feelings and bad blood between both entities contaminate present and future endeavors to the detriment of citizens’ quality of life?
It would be a remarkable display of courage, integrity and leadership for the county commission and Grantsville City officials to give a win-win solution another shot before stepping into a courtroom. And not just for the sake of taxpayers’ pocketbooks.