Farmington responds to Bloomfield's complaint

Motion cites three reasons to dismiss Bloomfield complaint

Dan Schwartz

FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the city of Bloomfield that aims to acquire Farmington electric utility infrastructure that lies within Bloomfield' boundaries as part of a plan to create its own utility.

“Bloomfield’s 2015 Complaint simply is a backdoor attempt without statutory authority to condemn Farmington’s electric utility system within Bloomfield,” states the Sept. 21 motion to dismiss.

The complaint Bloomfield filed on Aug. 18 in Aztec District Court claims Farmington broke a contract that would allow Bloomfield to buy electric utilities within its city limits. Bloomfield says a 1960 court order allows it and Aztec the right to “acquire such portion of such properties each is entitled to acquire from the defendant,” which is Farmington, the city that now supplies power to Bloomfield.

Farmington outlined three reasons why the court should dismiss Bloomfield’s complaint.

Power lines cross U.S. Highway 550 on Aug. 20 on the north side of Bloomfield.

The motion states Bloomfield hasn’t reopened and filed a motion in the case to enforce the 1960 judgment, which a judge that same year said it would have to do.

It states that Bloomfield’s deadline to enforce the judgement expired 14 years after a judge issued it.

It also states Bloomfield is trying to overcome that deadline by claiming Farmington breached the 1960 contract and that Bloomfield twice entered into franchise agreements with Farmington. However, the contract and franchise agreements didn’t give independent contract rights, the motion states, and the last franchise agreement expired in 2010.

Under the franchise agreements, Farmington pays a fee to Bloomfield twice a year based on a portion of the electric revenue Farmington collects from utility customers in Bloomfield. Although the agreements expired, Farmington still pays the fee.

Bloomfield City Attorney Ryan Lane said he’s confident a judge won’t dismiss the lawsuit. He has until Oct. 7 to file a response to the motion, but on Thursday he pointed to flaws in Farmington’s argument.

To Farmington’s first point – which claims Bloomfield didn’t reopen the case and file a motion regarding  it – he said Bloomfield had to electronically file the complaint under a new case number because the case was so old.

He said Farmington’s second point ignores that the court reserved jurisdiction to resolve any acquisition dispute without a time limit.

To Farmington’s third point, he said the franchise agreements allow Bloomfield to acquire utility infrastructure at any time and even if the agreements expire.

“The plain language in the franchise agreement gives the city the right,” he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606.