Focus group to establish goals

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After almost a year of meetings, the water focus group decided to form a subcommittee to look at establishing its policies, goals and objectives.

With differing opinions, the water focus group -- formed last January to slowly find ways to consolidate the city's water and sewer with Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District -- will be challenged in establishing those directives.

The decision to form a subcommittee, with one member from the district and two from the city, came at Friday's water focus group meeting. The main item of discussion was whether the group should continue to exist.

"I want to see what the goals, objectives and policies are to see if it makes sense to go forward," district representative Tim Borden said.

The water focus group held its first meeting in January and was intended to begin the baby steps toward consolidating the two entities. The group was formed after the failure of the water authority in the 2002 election. It is comprised of four representatives each from the city and Mount Werner Water.

The already shaky water focus group started to stumble earlier this month when the city representatives of the group came up with a proposal, which they hoped would resolve one lawsuit and prevent a potential future dispute. Mount Werner Water focus group members quickly countered that proposal.

The focus group approved Mount Werner's counter proposal in a 5-2 vote, but the City Council the next day said it wanted more information before going ahead with either proposal.

It is debatable if the water focus group has made any progress in the past year, Borden said. But what he and other focus group members said they would like to see are more guidelines in how to operate.

The group does not have any policies on whether it will take public comment at meetings, what should be put on the agendas and if they will make decisions through votes or consensus.

At Friday's meeting, the group agreed that city representatives Bill Martin and Nancy Mayer would meet with Borden to establish policies, goals and objectives and bring those directions back to the entire group in early February.

Early in the meeting, city representative Bill Martin said it was no secret that he believed Mount Werner Water should dissolve.

"You know that I feel it is an extra layer of government and redundancy," Martin said.

Mount Werner Water used the running of the water and sewer system for politics, he said.

District representative Joe Brennan said it was because of politics that the city has not run its water and sewer system efficiently. The best thing that could happen to the city would be if Mount Werner Water ran the entire water system, he said. The district doesn't want to take over the city's water, Brennan said, but the district does want to continue to run like a business.

"I am not interested in being a political body," Brennan said. "All I want to do is figure out how we get water into one end of a pipe and out the other end."

John Fetcher, another district representative, said the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District would never agree to the city running the entire water system. Fetcher, who is also the secretary and manager of the Upper Yampa District, said what the district would agree to is a separate entity.

"If you folks won't accept that, then I think our mission is over here," Fetcher said.

The group also rehashed the process of the city representatives' proposal and Mount Werner's counter proposal earlier this month.

Borden said if a district representative was at the meeting when the city representatives came up with the proposal, the process might have moved more smoothly.

Marin said the proposal was a good faith effort to try to reach a compromise on both sides. With litigation pending over water usage in the Fish Creek area and an upcoming sewer agreement to sign, Martin said the focus group is being asked to work through some tough issues.

"We can work through these opinions and find a compromise," Martin said. "Just because there are differences of opinions doesn't mean we don't all want to succeed."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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