Fairfield road case going to high court

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2008 12:54 a.m. MST

FAIRFIELD, Utah County — Fix a pothole here, lay new gravel there. Every city has the right to decide when to fix its own roads — for now.

Lynn Gillies, Fairfield's mayor, worries that cities and towns won't be able to do so in the future. A lawsuit involving Fairfield and concerning towns' ability to control their own roads will be heard by the Utah Supreme Court.

Several Eagle Mountain farmers appealed a case to the Utah Supreme Court asking it to rule that Fairfield has to fix a road heavily used by the farmers.

The five farmers originally sued Fairfield to fix a road that had significant problems. The farmers use the road, 1600 North, to reach state Route 73. All the farmers who use the road have trucks that carry a state oversize, overweight permit, Gillies said.

Fairfield drew up an ordinance to put a weight limit on the road in order to keep it from deteriorating further. A judge overturned that weight limit because at the time Fairfield didn't have an engineering report detailing the poor soil base or climatic causes for the breakup of the road.

The farmers again sued Fairfield, asking a court to order it to fix the road. Fourth District Court Judge Lynn Davis heard the case and ruled that he couldn't tell a town when to fix a road. The farmers appealed to the Utah Supreme Court, and the case will be heard sometime this year.

Gillies says that if the court rules in favor of the farmers it will take authority away from all governmental bodies in the state.

"That's going to affect every road authority in the state of Utah, including the state" if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the farmers, Gillies said.

He added that any decision regarding a town's right to self-govern would be a constitutional violation.

"If the court is going to take all the jurisdiction away from the town, (it) violated our rights under the constitution," he said.

Gillies brought the issue up in the Mountainland Association of Governments Regional Planning Meeting asking the members, other mayors in Utah County and Utah County commissioners, to support them in their effort.

MAG and other cities are looking into writing a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Fairfield, Gillies said.

At the meeting several members of MAG announced their support for Fairfield.

"(We need) to try to remember our role, stand up and help a colleague city," said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings.

Others echoed the sentiment that city officials should stand together on governmental issues.

"This is a great opportunity for us to sit down and do what's right," said Don Richardson, former mayor of Eagle Mountain.

Fairfield has until Feb. 18 to file briefs with the Supreme Court.


E-mail: csmith@desnews.com

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