SALT LAKE CITY — Territorial issues that have erupted between a special electric service district and handful of south Utah County cities would be grounded under provisions of a bill supported by a House committee Wednesday.
House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said a decades-old contract between the South Utah Valley Electric Service District, created by the Legislature in the mid-'80s, and the cities of Elk Ridge, Mapleton, Payson, Spanish Fork and Woodland Hills, is no longer functional.
"There was an agreement 20 years ago, and it's not being met," Gibson said. "Sometimes it feels like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Neither side is abiding by the contract."
The recent rapid growth of the area, and ongoing expansion of municipal boundaries through annexation efforts, has muddied the intent of the original electric service agreements, according to Gibson.
Provisions of his bill, HB256, would freeze both the current boundaries of South Utah Valley Electric's current service areas and the boundaries of areas served by the municipalities, as well as stipulating the resolution options for disagreements about who is going provide electricity to whom. Those options include requiring municipalities, in acquiring new service customers, to pay fair market value for existing infrastructure owned by South Utah Valley Electric, as well as paying out lost revenue compensation for 10 years. If an agreement cannot be reached, the bill allows for multiple electric service providers within municipal boundaries.
Representatives from some of the cities impacted by the bill weighed in at the committee hearing Wednesday morning, but opinions were divided. While the mayors of both Spanish Fork and Payson said they oppose the bill, Woodland Hills Mayor Wendy Pray voiced her support of the effort and thanked Gibson for his fight on her residents' behalf.
"This bill attempts to level the playing field and get our little voices heard," Pray said. "And that's what I'm asking for."
Power to Woodland Hills residents is provided entirely by the South Utah Valley Electric Service District, whereas both Payson and Spanish Fork have their own municipal electric providers.
Some members of the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee encouraged South Utah Valley Electric and impacted cities to work out their differences, saying they see Gibson's bill as a way to compel all parties coming to amicable agreement.Comment on this story
Retired utility executive Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, said there are numerous examples around the state of municipalities and utility providers navigating service and territory issues through workable contracts.
"It’s not like we’re talking about something new," Albrecht said. "We just need to get it done, and I think this legislation will push you folks to the table."
HB256 was supported on a 10-0 committee vote and now moves to the full House for that body's consideration.