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MEETING ON IRRIGATION FIRM ENDS IN THE DARK - LITERALLY

City officials had hoped to shed light on their proposed acquisition of Draper Irrigation Co. in a meeting with share-holders Wednesday night.

Instead, the 200 stockholders in attendance remained in the dark, literally, on some issues they raised about the $5 million buyout offer. And the city's hope of acquiring 65 percent of the company's 3,300-plus shares of Class A stock now seems only slightly brighter than the packed Draper Crescent Senior Center was after a power outage hit midway through Wednesday's proceedings.Because of the power failure, the company's Board of Directors didn't get a chance to poll shareholders to see how many planned to sell their stock to the city, which wants to pay $1,500 per share and take control of the century-old system that delivers drinking water to most Draper residents.

City officials may not have been pleased with the outcome of such a poll, shareholders speculated after the meeting was finally canceled following 45 minutes of discussion in the dark. Most in attendance likely would have given the sale a thumbs down, said Kay Smith, a member of the Board of Directors, which has taken a neutral stance on the proposed sale.

The meeting is to be continued Sept. 6, likely at the senior center. The city's deadline for buying shares has been extended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15.

B. Jenson, who lives outside the city limits and receives only irrigation water from the company, said shareholders would feel better about the sale if the city offered them a written contract with certain assurances - like a promise it won't take away irrigation water.

Draper Mayor Elaine Redd said the city "will do all we can legally do" to reassure shareholders, but said the city cannot promise what many wanted to hear Wednesday - that their water rates won't go up if ownership changes.

"We would like to see it go," Redd said of the sale, which officials have been negotiating for two years. "But I don't think it's going to be the end of operating the city if it doesn't go. It's not a matter of life or death."

City Manager David Campbell told shareholders the city wants to buy the company to end competition between its own water system and Draper Irrigation, and to give the government more control over growth. He said Draper Irrigation would have other advantages as a municipally owned system, including tax breaks and better financing options.

But some shareholders balked at the $1,500 offer, which Campbell said is the best the city can do. Company president Noel H. Enniss said Class A shares have a book value of $1,900, but shareholder Earl Garfield said he thought shares could bring as much as $3,000. Others questioned whether the system should ever be in the hands of government.

"Stop and think about it," Wade Spratt said. "Fifteen hundred dollars is not a lot of money for all the forefathers who damn near killed themselves over this company."

Representatives of the White City Water Improvement District, which owns a handful of shares, stirred emotions by suggesting Draper residents should form a service district and buy the company themselves. Improvement district chairwoman Paulina Flint was in the middle of a well-received diatribe when the lights went out.

"I believe God's trying to tell us something," she said.