Sandy officials laid divorce papers on the table Thursday, reducing to writing the reasons they want out of the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District.
The parting will be beneficial to all of the parties involved, Sandy has claimed for several months. The fast-growing municipality has been invited to join the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City. Thursday morning the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Advisory Committee passed a resolution approving the annexation. The Sandy City Council did the same several months ago.A somewhat skeptical board in June asked Sandy to document the claims that a deannexation would not hurt its financial base and bonding ability. Those claims were prepared for presentation at the Thursday meeting. Once an attorney and an engineer described Sandy's reasons for wanting out and gave each board member a 30-page explanation, board Chairman Gerald K. Maloney said it would take at least two months for the district's staff and board to decide if they agree with Sandy's conclusion.
Somewhat ironically, Sandy Mayor Steve Newton was sworn in as a member of the conservancy district board the same day Sandy's presentation bent on getting out was delivered to the board. He made it clear during the meeting his role on the board would not be that of a rubber stamp. He raised a number of questions during the monthly staff report and complained about the choice of colors used on a graph that shows the district's water sales patterns.
Repeated at the meeting was Newton's claim that the contract Sandy has to buy 5,000 acre feet of water from the conservancy district "wasn't a negotiated agreement, it was crammed down our throats."
Sandy sells water it owns in Little Cottonwood Creek to the conservancy district for $28 an acre-foot. The district then pays the Metropolitan Water District to treat the water in the district's plant at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon; then the conservancy district sells the water back to Sandy for $140 an acre foot, Newton said. The rate is similar to that of other district wholesale customers, but even with treatment costs considered, the conservancy district makes too much profit on the deal, Newton said.
Also repeated at the meeting was Maloney's taking offense to Newton's contention that his city is being "ripped off." Maloney negotiated the five-year contract with Sandy three years ago.
Newton submitted a letter to the board saying Sandy intended to terminate the contract when it expires in two years. Sandy's withdrawal from the district would take a minimum of three years, according to the city's report.
Maloney asked Sandy officials and the district staff and board to stay in contact with each other but give no comments to the press until the negotiations are finished.
Lee Kapaloski, a lawyer representing Sandy, told the board the proposal was not simple, but said Sandy's interest is in achieving a more firm water supply, which it believes it would get by leaving the county district and joining the Metropolitan Water District.
The Metropolitan Water District sells surplus water to the conservancy district. "You face the reality that your supply is interruptible," Kapaloski said. "Sandy can annex and be a co-equal partner or participant with Salt Lake City." He explained later Sandy would have to pay the Metropolitan Water District more than $6 million up front for capital improvements, a payment that would put it at a lower priority for water deliveries from the district than Salt Lake City in the event of a shortage or restrictions. That inequality would last for several years, he said.
Sandy's report said residents would pay about $1.41 per month more for water if the switch occurs, but the long-term projections show a savings of about $5.12 per month. "The plan will cost Sandy about $9.3 million in capital improvements, most of which are eventually required by the city master plan anyway," the report's executive summary reads.