Trial date set for electric utility lawsuit

Joshua Kellogg

AZTEC — A trial date has been set for a lawsuit filed by Bloomfield against Farmington to purchase Farmington’s electric utilities. The trial will determine the scope of the property Bloomfield is trying to acquire.

District Court Judge Bradford Dalley presides over a case between the city of Farmington and the city of Bloomfield Wednesday at Aztec District Court.

During a hearing today in district court, Judge Bradford Dalley ruled in favor of Farmington’s motion to bifurcate its trial with Bloomfield into two parts with a trial date set for May 10. A schedule for pre-trial activity was also established by lawyers representing both cities.

The city of Bloomfield filed a complaint on Aug. 18, 2015, stating the city of Farmington allegedly broke a contract that would allow Bloomfield to purchase Farmington’s electric utility infrastructure within its city limits.

Purchasing parts of the Farmington Electric Utility System — which provides Bloomfield with power — is part of Bloomfield’s plan to form its own electric utility.

Sunny Nixon, an attorney representing the city of Farmington, said during the hearing the motion was filed to determine if Bloomfield can acquire all of Farmington’s system inside Bloomfield or only a portion previously owned by Basin Light and Power Co. more than 50 years ago.

Farmington acquired the Basin Light electric utility system in the 1960s, which set off a court case in which the subsequent judgment and decree have become known as the Culpepper Decree.

The Daily Times has reported that Bloomfield alleges the court case, judgment and decree served as a contract with Farmington that establishes the city’s right to purchase the electric utility from Farmington at any time.

Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane, left, City Councilor DeLaws Lindsay and City Manager Eric Strahl listen during a hearing  Wednesday at Aztec District Court.

Lawyers for Farmington have argued the Culpepper Decree is subject to a statue of limitations and is not a contract.

Nixon told Dalley during the hearing that the scope of the property needed to be determined first before an appraisal can take place. She said the scope of the property is also needed to determine a reasonable price.

Nann Winter, an attorney representing Bloomfield, said during the hearing that Farmington is seeking to delay and drag out the case because it doesn't want to sell the electric utility. She also argued the issues determining the scope of the property and the cost of assets are intertwined and should not be separated.

After the hearing, Winter said she was appreciative of Dalley expediting the trial date.

“I don’t see the city changing its position at all,” Winter said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.