CMC asks judge to dismiss compressor station lawsuit
July 30, 2012
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Lawyers for Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and SourceGas are sparring over whether the CMC junior college district is a quasi-governmental entity and therefore protected by state law from a lawsuit being pressed by SourceGas.
The legal dispute is over a contract between CMC and SourceGas allowing the utility to build a compressor station on a five-acre site on the college’s Spring Valley campus outside of Glenwood Springs.
The company said the compressors are needed to maintain adequate pressure in gas pipelines serving the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys.
Following two months of motions from the attorneys, the matter is now set for a hearing in mid-August.
SourceGas and CMC executed a 20-year lease for the compressor station in 2011. But when the project went before the county planning commission in March for permit approval, neighboring landowners, college faculty and students objected. After much discussion, the CMC board of directors rejected a second compressor site and declared the contract invalid in a meeting held May 14.
In a lawsuit filed a week later against the college, SourceGas asked Garfield District Court to force CMC to honor the contract permitting construction of the compressor station.
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In return, CMC has asked Boyd to dismiss the SourceGas lawsuit, arguing that the school is protected from such lawsuits by the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.
According to the school’s attorneys, the CMC college district is a “quasi-municipal corporation” under state law.
CMC’s court filing argues that the legislation creating the junior college district makes the school subject to that same rules about lawsuits and contracts as city or county governments. CMC’s attorneys argue that the college district was created by voters, and is run by a publicly elected board of directors.
SourceGas argues that CMC is not protected by the state’s governmental immunity laws.
“It is simply not a ‘government’ that is immune from liability for breach of contract,” the company stated in documents filed July 6.
In addition, SourceGas maintains the lawsuit is about a breach of contract, and is not simply a traditional civil suit where one party seeks monetary damages from another party.
According to the company’s attorneys, the school is “misleadingly” attempting to cast the case in terms of the governmental immunity act, rather than sticking to the issues of contract law.
In an extra notation, CMC also argued that SourceGas did not file notice of its intent to sue, as is required for lawsuits against governmental entities.
The utility responded, arguing that since CMC is not a governmental entity, no such notice was required.