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Over the strong objections of some Magna residents and community leaders, Salt Lake County commissioners Wednesday night appointed state Democratic Party Treasurer Warren Nuesmeyer to the Magna Water Co. board of trustees.

Nuesmeyer was one of 11 candidates considered to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of trustee Tom L. Bird, who resigned halfway through his six-year term.The appointment has been mired in controversy in recent weeks, with one of the incumbent trustees, Dick Bezzant, and representatives of the Magna Area Council accusing commissioners of politicizing the non-partisan board.

Commissioners Jim Bradley and Randy Horiuchi, both Democrats, responded that they were only interested in selecting someone trustworthy and competent. And they noted that the matter was thrust upon them by the inability of the trustees themselves to select a new member.

The water company board has been in disarray since April 1991, when it was learned that two properties owned by Bezzant's family had been receiving unbilled water service for a number of years. Bezzant paid $5,850 in past due bills but rejected the board's request that he resign.

Several sources said it was the fallout from that dispute more than politics that fueled the current debate over Nuesmeyer's appointment. Nuesmeyer said he hopes to work out any differences between the board and to concentrate on long-range planning for the water company.

Commission staff manager Anthony W. Mitchell indicated in a memo to commissioners that nine of the 11 candidates for the job were interviewed. All of the applicants were long-time Magna residents and had at least a basic familiarity with the Magna Water Co., he said.

During those interviews, a number of concerns were identified, according to Mitchell.

The three member board aims to:

- Focus on planning and policy development and leave day-to-day operations to the full-time staff.

- Improve efficiency, although a case can be made that 18 employees servicing 20,000 connections "is about as efficient as you can get."

- Upgrade the water delivery system.

- Be more responsive to customer needs.

- Upgrade water quality and complete the integration of water acquired from the Salt Lake Water Conservancy District.

- Select people with good personal skills to pull together trustees, employees and various factions.

- Improve the professionalism of the staff, although several of the candidates praised the current staff.

Nuesmeyer said, "The water company employees from the manager on down deserve nothing but praise for the work they've been doing."

If for any reason Nuesmeyer is unable to fill the position, commissioners selected Magna dentist Carl D. Clark as next in line for the job.