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After years of legal disputes with the private operators of the Davis County burn plant, the Davis County Energy Recovery District is two steps closer to taking over the operation of the $54 million facility that converts waste to energy.

The district board on Monday voted unanimously to adopt two resolutions - part of a final three-step process - to give the district control of the plant.The first resolution amends the agreement on the plant so the district can operate it. The second authorizes the board chairman to execute agreements with the banks on the outstanding bonds. These are the last legal hurdles to be cleared before the current plant operators, Davis Energy Systems, also sign the agreement to make the district the operator of the burn plant.

"The district has successfully terminated the operating agreement," said Ray Gardiner, the lead attorney for the energy district. "The district will take over operations of its own plant."

Gardiner stressed this takeover is still subject to approval of each of the banks but said it is anticipated this will be approved within one to two weeks.

"We've got to work out little glitches with the (banks)," Gardiner said.

Robert W. Arbuckle, district board chairman, said the district will have many advantages being operator of the burn plant, located near the southeast corner of Hill Air Force Base in Layton.

"It is hoped that it will operate more efficiently then," Arbuckle said.

Gardiner said district management will unite all the aspects of the plant - selling steam to Hillfield, pollution control and waste disposal in a manner that should reduce overall costs.

Davis Energy Systems, a subsidiary of Katy-Seghers Company of Delaware, has operated the burn plant since it was built in 1986. Gardiner said Katy-Seghers is expected to sign the new agreement without any reservations.

The district will pay $800,000 to Katy-Seghers, while Katy-Seghers will cease operations and give virtually everything from tools, supplies, motor vehicles and records to the district.

Until the district proves it can effectively operate the burn plant within the first year, it also will face an increase of about $183,000 in its letter of credit fees. Gardiner said this is because the banks feel there are increased risks with new, unproven operators.

Two pending lawsuits involving the burn plant are now being dismissed with the new resolutions passed Monday. In May of 1989, the Davis County Construction Contractors filed a $4 million federal lawsuit against the district, while in October of 1990, the district filed suit against Davis Energy Systems to seek termination of the operating contract.

Gardiner also referred to "piles of legal gobbledygook" that are involved with acquisition of the burn plant, but he stressed the plant already has an interim manager for the plant.

The district is also consulting with the Belgium energy company that invented the plant's technology.

LeGrande W. Bitter, district director, said the State Bureau of Air Quality has been very cooperative with the district and realizes burning waste for energy is a lot better than burying it at a landfill.

Still, the plant has been cited for some emissions violations in the past, and new equipment to reduce pollution may carry a heavy price tag in the future. Bitter said adding wet scrubbers at the burn plant, for example, might be able to increase air quality but would cost around $6 million.

Spiraling costs and air quality have been two of the main issues for the controversial burn plant.