Summit Park residents raised their water glasses Tuesday in a toast to a federal bankruptcy judge's ruling that approves the sale of the beleaguered Summit Park Water Co. to a special improvement district within the county.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John H. Allen ruled that trustee Harriet Styler may accept an offer of $550,000 from Summit County for the wells, pipes, plant and the system's physical property.The purchase also means the special improvement district formed by Summit County takes over all the headaches associated with the water company.
The special improvement district also gets to take over an inadequate system with sanitation and supply problems, and irate homeowners tired of interrupted service and falling property values.
Stan Postma, a consulting engineer hired to oversee employees working for the water company, testified it would cost an estimated $936,000 to repair the system and erase deficiencies in water quality and service.
Styler, a Salt Lake lawyer who was appointed trustee for the water company last December, told Allen that water was hauled in last winter from Jeremy Ranch because supplies had run out.
The trustee is "not sure she can continue to furnish water to users, she has no money for repairs that are needed (and) there's no evidence there are other buyers" for the problem-ridden water company, Allen said following a two-hour hearing.
Allen called the $550,000 offer reasonable, and said, "Notwithstanding that there may be a higher offer sometime in the future, the trustee has made a reasonable business decision."
Summit Park Water filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 1987 to shield itself from creditors' lawsuits while it reorganized. Its filing listed an estimated $1.4 million in debts.
Residents who endured weeks and months without water service and hauling water from nearby communities when the system broke down or supplies were depleted were elated by the ruling.
"We are happy because it's the best thing that could have happened," said resident Al Cooper, adding that dry taps and low water pressure "would happen at almost any time."
"I want to pay my $30.30 a month and wash my clothes in my own house," said resident Gloria Miller, who was among the two dozen residents crowded into the courtroom for the hearing.
The water system was built nearly three decades ago, when the mountain community on the summit of Parleys Canyon mostly consisted of vacation homes.
The company that supplies water to the 300 homeowners has been under order for 2 1/2 years from the Utah Department of Health to improve the system so it meets state law for approved status.
Additional water rights and some land owned by the water company won't be sold immediately with Allen's ruling, attorneys said. The transfer from Summit Park Water Co. to the improvement district should take about seven to 10 days.