Officials of Mountain Fuel Supply Co. want to see natural gas service extended into three rural Utah counties and are conducting a series of meetings with community and county officials in Millard and Beaver counties.

Mountain Fuel isn't actively soliciting franchises in the area and doesn't plan to do so until a source of natural gas is available, according to Wayne Saltzgiver, manager of the southern region retail operations, headquartered in Richfield. "We don't know who, where or why, and that's what I'm telling the communities," he said.Two companies are seeking permits to install gas lines to transport gas from southwestern Wyoming to Southern California. The proposed lines would run through Juab, Millard and Beaver counties.

Saltzgiver said Mountain Fuel could tap into a line going through the area, thereby making a project feasible if there were a sufficient number of businesses and homeowners who would subscribe to the service. About 80 percent would be needed. Signups in other areas of southern Utah exceeded expectations of company officials, he added.

The meetings will give community officials insight into the whys, wherefores and costs of natural gas. They are being told how Mountain Fuel will buy the gas and who it will be bought from, the type of gas contracts and whether natural gas would be economically feasible for each community.

"We are formalizing our priorities rather than seeking franchises," Saltzgiver said. He reported meetings have been held in Milford, Fillmore, Delta, Oak City and with Millard County commissioners.

Community representatives will be hosted by Mountain Fuel at a Sept. 27 dinner meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Paradise Inn in Fillmore. Additional meetings are planned Oct. 1 in Minersville and Oct. 2 in Beaver.

Saltzgiver said what happens in the future will depend on the reality of a natural gas line running through the area. It is expected that construction could begin late this year or in early 1991 and that a line could be tapped to provide service in the rural counties by late 1991 or early 1992.

Mountain Fuel brought natural gas service to some south-central Utah counties in 1987, later extending it to Iron and Washington counties. That line was built through Sevier and Sanpete counties. Those counties are geographically separated from Millard and Juab counties by the Pahvant Mountain range.

Millard County Commission Chairman Mike Styler said he believes most communities in his county are interested in getting natural gas, either through a gas company or municipal systems. Warren Peterson, county attorney and a candidate for the commission, says such service is needed for economic development.

Nephi has given strong indications that a municipal system might be developed in that county. Nephi officials have met with community representatives in Millard County, offering an update on a study that has been made relative to delivery options. Nephi is reportedly looking at tapping a gas line near Payson to provide a gas source for a municipal system.

The Central Utah Gas Co., headquartered in Nephi, also wants to serve the area and has been seeking franchises with some success. The company hasn't supplied any previous gas service in the state, however.

Central Utah Gas received a non-exclusive franchise recently in Delta but was turned down in Fillmore. Fillmore officials noted they support natural gas service in the city but wanted to look at alternatives before granting a franchise.

Millard County awarded a non-exclusive franchise in 1982, but that wouldn't eliminate the possibility of getting natural gas services through other sources.