Sandy's request to get out of the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District was refused by the district board Thursday, but the fight between Sandy and the rest of the board is not over.
Sandy Mayor Steve Newton, who serves on the nine-member board along with Sandy's Chief Administrative Officer Byron Jorgenson, said he will fight a $26.5 million bond proposal approved by the board just before the board refused to let Sandy de-annex.The district's current bond debt and future bonding ability were two reasons given by district staff for recommending Sandy be kept in the district.
The bonds can be issued with board approval unless petitions from at least 5 percent of the residents of the district call for the proposal to be put on a ballot. Newton said he will work inside his city to get the necessary signatures to put the bond issue to a vote.
Newton said it is likely the city will still have an election in February to decide whether Sandy should become a member of the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake - something it had hoped to do after de-annexing from the county district. Jorgenson said it is possible the city could end up with membership in both districts now that the county has refused the de-annexation request.
District staff members and bond counsel told the board that de-annexing Sandy would have negative financial effects on the district and its customers and could limit the availability of Metropolitan Water District water the county now relies on during the summer. If Sandy joins Salt Lake City's district it would have priority over the county district for Metropolitan's Deer Creek water.
The request to let Sandy out was voted down 7-2, with Newton and Jorgenson casting the dissenting votes. The board vote on the bond issue proposal also passed 7-2, opposed again by Newton and Jorgenson.
Newton said whether Sandy is in or out of the district he supports a $12.5 million portion of the proposed bond issue that would be spent to purchase water rights for the district. But he said he's against a proposal to borrow $4.7 million to pay part of the costs of a new district headquarters being built in West Jordan. "When they build a $7 million building I can't stomach that."
Newton also believes the staff presented data to the board that would ensure a vote to keep Sandy in the district. Jorgenson said the staff report was biased. "I have concerns it hasn't been given an honest evaluation."
Sandy had offered to honor its contract to buy 5,000 acre-feet of water from the district and was willing to cover its portion of existing bond debt, Jorgenson said. "I think we're setting a sad precedent if we are holding an entity captive when they're willing to take care of their past obligations."
While several other members implied Sandy's displeasure with the vote amounted to sour grapes, Newton said comments made to him after the meeting by a board member indicates Sandy's representatives on the board weren't the only ones dissatisfied with the presentation.
"It may not be the last vote," Newton said.