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Cities to sue Tooele over Army land

TOOELE — The city soon may be sued for reaping all the profits from the early transfer and sale of former Army property.

"We just don't think the thing was done right," said Merle Cole, mayor of Grantsville. So far, there has been no notice of claim served to the city of Tooele, and Cole isn't sure yet how much the four cities are seeking or which court a lawsuit would be filed in, although the mayors have already asked a Salt Lake City law firm to handle the case.

fident it has made every attempt to involve other cities in the deals with the Army.

In 1993 the government announced the partial closure of the Tooele Army Depot, and in 1994 the city annexed 1,700 acres of the depot into its boundaries. In 1995, the nonprofit Tooele County Economic Development Corp., made up of several cities, came to Tooele City Attorney Roger Baker and declined further involvement in the transfer of Army property to local municipalities.

"Tooele city took it and ran with it at a tremendous risk," said Baker. The decades-old property contained 200 buildings, a sewer and water system and roads that were in need of repair.

By 1996 the city made $10 million on the sale of former depot property to Detroit Diesel. In December 1998 the transfer of an additional 1,700 acres was complete, and the following month the city sold the land to an industrial developer for roughly $21 million. The city has used interest from that money to build a new library, city hall and animal shelter.

Baker estimated Tooele spent about $2 million on consulting and staff time to broker the whole deal, which has resulted in the formation of the Utah Industrial Depot. Each city involved in the impending lawsuit was invited to participate in the process.

Cole believes Tooele City skirted the laws that govern the transfer of Army property to local "base" municipalities by not including all affected cities, which apparently includes Grantsville, Stockton, Rush Valley and Vernon.

Cole expects an actual lawsuit to be filed within the next week.