PLAIN CITY -- A war is raging in west Weber County over a precious resource -- water.
Contention permeated the packed room of the Plain City Senior Center where shareholders and the five-member board of the Warren Irrigation Company gathered in an unofficial meeting Wednesday to discuss solutions to litigation pending in 2nd District Court in Ogden since May.
Many wanted the board to resign, and some supported dissolution of the now-battered corporation as the best strategy.
The century-old company provides water shares to residents and farms in the small communities of Warren and West Warren.
But now its five-member board and some shareholders have sued and countersued each other over surplus water that some have allegedly been getting for free for decades.
"I've never seen a fight like this before. It's a furious battle," 83-year-old Lamar Skeen, secretary of Warren Irrigation's board, said by phone earlier this week.
The company distributes 2,800 shares of water (a share is a half-hour flow) to stockholders, along with 200 surplus shares that did not show up on the books.
Court documents indicate that plaintiffs Ed and Jim Wayment and 14 other shareholders sued the company along with board members Randy Marriott, Lamar Skeen, Jeff Hales and Glynn Wayment over a May 16 decision made by Marriott, Hales and Skeen to end the decades-long practice of giving free water to some, which allegedly resulted in shorting others.
Those three members had also voted to sell the extra 200 shares at $2,000 apiece on a prorated basis to individuals who own at least 14 shares, based on the company's 7.5-day rotation.
In the complaint, plaintiffs claimed emotional distress and severe monetary loss because of decreased crop yields, calling defendants' conduct "extreme and outrageous" and transcending "all bounds of decency tolerated by society."
An interesting sidelight is that the company's articles of incorporation expired in 2007 and have yet to be renewed. However, it is registered as an active business on Utah's Department of Commerce website.
A change in water masters occurred earlier this year -- replacing Jim Wayment with Ryan Rogers -- which revealed the "mystery water" that some enjoyed free of charge for many years.
In early October, the panel voted in favor of dissolution, which board member Jeff Hales said personally came as a surprise.
"Everything has been distorted and twisted and turned around," Hales said.
Board member Randy Marriott, who helped blow the whistle on the unwritten practice, told shareholders Wednesday that he was "standing pretty tall."
"I don't like things that are not right, not correct," Marriott said, adding that he's honest with people and likes things to be fair.
Marriott lamented how the company was now in disarray.
"We had a great water company, and now it's almost torn down," Marriott said.
The company's board of directors will likely reconvene in two weeks to determine a course of action, Marriott said.
Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at