FEUS claims Bloomfield residents are being led down a 'primrose path'

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FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington is attempting to appeal a judge's ruling that Bloomfield has the right to acquire the electric utility system that serves the city of Bloomfield.

In late August, a district court judge ruled that a 1960 court judgment and decree gave the city of Bloomfield the right to acquire the electric utility system within its limits from Farmington Electric Utility System.

A court hearing regarding Farmington's appeal has been set for Jan. 29.

Farmington Electric Utility System sent a letter to customers in late October claiming the acquisition would hurt utility customers both inside Bloomfield and outside of Bloomfield. The letter states that the residents of Bloomfield "are being led down a primrose path" and claims that a 2014 feasibility report completed by the city of Bloomfield is incomplete and out of date.

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Electric utility director Hank Adair said the letter was sent out to provide customers with the most up to date information.

Bloomfield officials say Farmington has not given them the information needed to do a more in-depth study. When reached by phone, Bloomfield City Manager Eric Strahl said Bloomfield is waiting on two pieces of information from Farmington — the value of the electric utility infrastructure it hopes to acquire and where and how the two systems should be separated.

After Bloomfield receives the information, Strahl said the city will begin phase two of a study looking into purchasing the electric utility system.

He said if the acquisition is "such a bad deal" the best thing Farmington could do would be to provide Bloomfield with the two pieces of information needed to move forward with the study.

"That would save both the cities the litigation costs," Strahl said.

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He said ultimately Bloomfield residents will vote on whether or not to acquire the system.

"If it doesn't make sense, Bloomfield certainly won't do it," Strahl said.

Bloomfield maintains owning its electric utility will give it more control over its future. The 2014 feasibility study showed that owning an electric utility would allow the city to use revenue for quality of life projects. Strahl said the letter FEUS sent its customers stretches the truth. 

Farmington attorney Jennifer Breakell said the city held off on having an appraisal done on the system when the judge split the case into two sections. The first section, which was ruled on, focused on Bloomfield's right to acquire. The second part of the case will determine the scope and value of the system.

More: Judge: Bloomfield has right to buy electric system

"We will be happy to provide Bloomfield with the information once it's complete," she said.

In an email, Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said determining the total acquisition value would be an expensive endeavor that would require various appraisals. He said in-depth engineering studies would be needed to determine how to separate the Bloomfield portion out and maintain two functional systems with the same level of reliability.

"These independent issues were separated by the court because of the exorbitant cost both entities will endure if the process moves to appraisals and severance engineering," Mayes said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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