Billing for water, without the service, angers Shady Cove

A crowd of over 50 residents attended the June 4 meeting of the Shady Cove Water District. The crowd was fairly quiet until a feisty, white-haired senior citizen, Winnie Nichols, demanded to know how the water district could assess a $6 fee for legal expenses, doing something "we the people did not want in the first place." Resident Geri Worley shouted, "Hear-Hear," followed by loud applause from the crowd. With the ice broken, residents bombarded the board with questions.


Between the budget hearing the day before, and this meeting, President
Jim Collier had plenty of explaining to do, including whether he does
live in Shady Cove. His answer to that question garnered some salty
comments.
   
The crowd demanded to know why residents should
pay $6 for nothing and who would pay. Collier said about 1,500 improved
tax lots would be charged with or without a dwelling on the lot. If a
lot has any change from its natural state, that tax lot would be
billed. The definition of a tax lot is determined by Jackson County. 
   
Several
residents already subscribe to private water systems and felt they
should not have to pay another fee. "We need funds to get this district
up and running," said Collier. The district has really been in business
only since February 27, 2008. And he asked the people to give the board
the opportunity to provide water and to think about the tradition of
neighbor helping neighbor, for those without water.
   
Because
five mobile home parks are not in the water district, the parks will
not pay the $6 fee. Unless the parks are annexed into the district,
those residents would not be able to obtain water. Although a park is
one tax lot with one $6 fee, if annexed in, each unit in a park would
have an individual meter for water. Collier explained the parks were
excluded from the district by the organizing committee of the water
district in 2002.
   
In answer to a question from Tom
Sanderson, Collier said the $6 fee could go up, to keep the district
from operating in the red. The $6 fee is only until water is available.
When there is water, the cost will be more than $6.
   
Collier
said the water district board would set the rates after a public
hearing. Rates would be based on projected costs at that time. Some
general rules from the Public Utilities Commission would be considered.

   
A $20,000 line item in the 08-09 budget would pay the legal
bills of about $18,000 the district incurred in the last 2 1/2 years.
Other loans ranged from $20 to $500. Other than himself (in for
$16,000), Collier would not identify the other creditors.
   
Budgeted
is $60,000 to purchase private water systems and this garnered much
discussion. Several people said only a small amount of the town would
get water but everyone would be charged the fee. "The fact remains,"
said Robert Gebhard, "the purpose of the district is to provide water
to all of Shady Cove." Private water systems with existing structures
would get water first, according to Collier.
   
"Who is going
to pay for the piping and everything so that when I turn on my tap I
get water?", asked Worley.  How much will it cost each homeowner to
bring water to a residence? Ultimately, everybody is going to pay to
build the district. But until the district can afford one or more
engineers, the costs are not known, answered Collier.
   
When
water is available, existing wells will be used for outside water with
district water used inside. The state will insist that wells be
disconnected from houses, said Collier.
   
Water will come
from Lost Creek Lake. Ed Mayer suggested possibly extending the Medford
water system to Shady Cove. Water bought from Medford would still come
from the lake but would need treatment in White City before being
pumped back, entailing much pipe work. Collier added that Butte Falls
has indicated a willingness to pump water down the hill. Procuring
water from Native Americans was also questioned after ten years of only
talk.
   
Ordinance 8-2 that prohibits the drilling of new wells
did not get a second reading. Until that ordinance is in effect, the
City of Shady Cove may issue permits for new wells, confirmed Collier.
"No new wells, that’s a bunch of hogwash," stated Linda Smith.
   
One
man had a list of questions for Collier. They ranged from whether the
district, a government entity, would be competing with private
enterprise by selling water from Lost Creek Lake, to whether the
district would use eminent domain. On the question of eminent domain,
Collier answered, "Probably not if we can avoid it." We would have to
pay full market value for the property so we would probably negotiate a
price with the owner instead.
   
Collier was also questioned
about a guest opinion he wrote that was published September 6, 2002. He
was against the formation of a water district with unlimited access
into the wallets of citizens. Collier said, at that time, an up to
$2.50 ad valorem tax per $1,000 of property value, would be available.
Measure 50 changed that, taking away that funding.
   
Gerald
Holmquist questioned what board members were elected by voters.
Collier, Bob Hawkins and Dee Hawkins were elected May 2005. Their terms
end June 30, 2009. Wayne Barnes’ term ended June 30, 2007 and he was
then appointed to the board, Collier said.
   
The $6 fee is
currently in effect and residents will be billed as soon as written
statements, owner addresses and other billing procedures can be
prepared, said Collier. As for those individuals that may choose to
delay their payments, a variety of legal options are available to the
district. After the meeting adjourned, many residents strongly objected
to the threat.
   
The next meeting is June 18 at 2:00 p.m. at the Old Masonic Hall at Highway 62 and Cleveland
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent.
 

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