Munger sewer line placement

The Munger Mountain sewer line cuts across private property. It might have to be redone if the school district can’t resolve an easement that bans the district from allowing others to tie in for a fee.

Rather than agree to the school district’s request to reinterpret its easement and allow outside entities to use its sewer line, the Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust said, “Tell us more.”

At question is a section of the Munger Mountain Elementary School sewer line that crosses a corner of Melody Ranch at the intersection of South Park Loop Road and Highway 89. Melody Ranch Investments granted the school district an easement to run the line at a 45-degree angle across the corner, which was easier than having it follow the contour of the roads.

Melody Ranch Investments also has an open space easement on that section of property that dictates what kind of activity is allowed. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jeff Daugherty sent the trust a letter Sept. 24 asking for a section of the original easement to be reinterpreted.

Utilities “are permitted, provided such utilities only serve the property or provide benefit to a public or semi-public utility company, governmental entity, district or service district and their users,” the easement states.

That phrase limits who can link into the line. When Munger Mountain was built, the district opted to install a 6-inch sewer line, rather than a 4-inch one, with the expectation it could allow entities like the now-folded Hog Island Improvement and Sewer District to use it.

The school district envisioned charging a fee for the use of the line and recouping costs. Due to the way the original open space easement is written, the school district needs the trust to reinterpret the document. If the trust decides not to reinterpret the easement, the district may have to change the placement of the line.

“The Teton School District’s specific interpretation request is as follows: Shall the phrase ‘district or service district and their users’ be read to mean ‘TCSD No. 1 may, at its discretion, add sewer connections independent of an ISD,’” Daugherty wrote in a letter to the trust.

The Teton County Scenic Preserve Trust is simply a different version of the Teton County Board of County Commissioners — it’s the board convened under a different name.

Daugherty’s letter came before the trust during the commissioners’ Oct. 1 meeting, and instead of approving the reinterpretation, the trust sent its own letter back to the school district saying it needed more information to make such a decision.

The trust “will need to determine there is no private inurement,” the return letter says, “and that there is a net conservation benefit for any additional connection.”

Deputy County Attorney John Graham said his office expects the school district will file an easement application with the Teton County Planning Department, which would allow the trust to take up any amendments. Once the application is filed, he said, the Teton County Attorney’s Office would help evaluate the change.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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