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No volunteers for Cucharas District’s Citizen Advisory Committee

Despite strong customer dissatisfaction with water rates in the Cuchara district, no one has stepped forward.

by Carol Dunn
CUCHARA — “We tried.”  This statement by Cucharas Sanitation & Water District board member Bradley Lemons at the Friday, Feb 8 meeting sums up the situation CSWD now finds itself in, after several attempts to get citizen participation on an advisory committee to assist with revising its water rates.  “We have advertised, and it seems no one is interested,” Lemons added.
The advisory committee was created as one of the steps to resolve customer dissatisfaction with CSWD’s commercial water rates – a public movement that resulted in several contentious meetings and the subsequent resignations and replacement of three of its five board members.
Now that the board is ready to tackle the rate structure, it’s not finding any community interest.
Board chair Shella Snider suggested the advisory committee is not needed.  Since an interim rate adjustment brought the commercial rates into line with those of La Veta, Snider said, “The issue was addressed with the public about adjusting the rates.  Do we want to keep it or abolish it?  Setting the rates is a board issue.”
General manager Shannon Shrout advised, “The interim rates were a band-aid, and the rates still need to be set.”
This brought agreement from board member Jim Berg, who said, “Whatever we do, we gotta do it.  This is a big issue.  We need to determine what has to be done and get after it.”
Berg and board member Jim Alt both opined the committee should be renamed the “Rate Structure Committee” and there should be a spot on it for a customer/ citizen.
The office will send out another notice with the next utility bills.  All five board members will be on the committee, along with Shrout and administrative assistant Leslie Cordova.
CSWD is still awaiting a report from studies by Stantec and GMS Consulting Engineers so they can proceed with the revised rate structure.
Berg also updated the board on CSWD’s legal/water cases, including Blouin, the “Pond” case, and the City of Walsenburg’s exchange case 17CW3063, to which CSWD has filed a statement of opposition (SO).  Berg explained that the SO was filed so CSWD can monitor the case and any effect it could have on the district’s water rights.  The board ratified the SO retroactive to the date it was filed.
The board agreed to participate in a memorandum of understanding with the Town of La Veta and the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District related to the filing of water court case 17CW3075, which involves conditional water storage rights and conditional appropriative rights of exchange.  Berg said, “We’re going to work together with our partners, and it sets the rules and procedures for storing and exchanging water.”
Shrout reported CSWD employee Todd Eddleman just passed his tests and will soon be licensed for collection and distribution at Level 1 – for communities of 3,300 or less.  Shrout proudly announced that Eddleman will receive an award in mid-February for “rookie wastewater treatment employee of the year” from the Colorado Rural Water Association.
Alt explained that CSWD needs to upgrade its computer and network services, and the board approved the low bid of $2,400 plus $140/month maintenance from The Computer Kernel, Trinidad, to begin that process.  Other bids were $8,000 and $17,000.  “This may be a first cut,” Alt said, “and we may need to spend a couple thousand more.”
San Isabel Electric recently installed a new power pole at the water treatment plant.  The controls at the treatment plant have been upgraded by Element Engineering, and the Spanish Peaks plant is also scheduled for upgrades.
“We tried,” said Bradley Lemons, above, of the CSWD’s so far unsuccessful effort to find volunteers to get citizen participation on a committee working on revising water rates.
The office will try again by sending out a notice in the next utility bills. WJ file photo.