Wednesday, October 30, 2002
It appears that most everyone is in agreement that the city and Mount Werner should consolidate water districts.
What is causing the problem is the document setting forth the terms of the agreement and the uncertainty of living with a very powerful appointed "Water Board."
This is not choosing one candidate over another. This is a complex document with extremely complex consequences. I am discouraged that City Council tells us this is a good thing, we negotiated a good agreement, trust us and vote for it. In my opinion, the public certainly does not realize what they are in for. This is a huge and far-reaching document with serious implications for our future. Read it.
If approved, there will be winners and there will be losers. One of the biggest concerns settles around the unaccountability to the citizens of the "Water Board." Keep in mind the agreement states "Members of the Water Board are not subject to removal by the City Council" Why is that? Why does that language have to be in there?
The "Water Board," a body politic, will have full municipal powers/authority as provided by the Colorado Constitution and Colorado statutes pertaining to water and wastewater services. Do you know what that means? I don't, and I suspect neither does the City Council. The Mount Werner District rates forever more, are linked only to the liability of the infrastructure needs within the boundary of the Mount Werner district as of the date on which it was dissolved. Why? I thought this was one for all, all for one?
It has been presented by advocates of this agreement that the "Water Board" has no influence, or control over enlargement of the city (annexation). The agreement states that any plans for annexation must be supplied to the board, and then the board will make recommendations to the city "based upon best water filtration and distribution and wastewater collection and treatment practices. If the City Council does not impose all such recommendations of the Water Board as terms and conditions of annexation, or fails to enforce such terms and conditions after annexation, then the Authority has no obligation to serve the annexed property."
Sounds like power and control to me. This city is unable to annex any property without imposing whatever conditions the appointed Water Board wants. But trust us, this is based on "best practices."
City Council President Kathy Connell says in Steamboat Today that the water board reports to the City Council. True, the agreement states that annually the water board shall file with the city a report of their activities. But the very next section clearly states "The entire control, management and operation of the Authority and its assets and operations shall be vested in the Board of Water Commissioners." At best this type of statement in the local paper is misleading to the citizens of Steamboat Springs. Because in reality the City Council has no control over the Water Authority. What happens in a couple years when someone decides this was a bad idea and we need to change it. Guess what? City Council cannot change or amend this authority.
I have sat by and read in the papers and heard on the radio City Council members' spin on this. I have heard about "intent," I have heard about "preamble," I don't care about those things because I know what the agreement says.
Finally, there is the issue about downtown rates going up. Our rates for water and sewer should be nothing more than a budget item. If City Council really cares about keeping our rates down, our respective representatives for the downtown districts should fight and represent us in the budget process to keep our rates down. They could transfer money from ice rink funding, the chamber, transit services or $300,000 consultants.
I feel water and sewer rates affects everyone and also goes towards affordable housing. City Council seems intent on raising the cost of living in Steamboat, from raising water and sewer rates to threatening city property taxes. These all are hard costs we have no choice in. Do like the rest of us and cut back with your available money. Vote No on 2C.