Funds for SC Water Distrift are scarce

Seven residents shivered through a Shady Cove Water District meeting on Jan. 13 in an almost unheated, concrete block building the water district uses as an office. The reason given for the frigid temperature was financial because of a heating bill for $438 the district received after a recent cold spell. Only $250 of the bill will have to be paid because the building owner shares the heating cost. After payment, there will be about $3,750 left in the district account, according to treasurer Bob Hawkins.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Water District Manager, Jim Collier, turned the gavel and meeting over
to new President Dee Hawkins after an election of board members that
was mostly a rotation of the same people. Hawkins kept his seat as
treasurer while the new secretary is Judy Shanrock. Board member Joe
Petko resigned in a written statement, leaving the possibility of an
open position to be filled. No announcement of an opening followed the
resignation.
   
Details of Collier’s contract were revealed.
Collier as manager, a volunteer position, will not receive a salary or
benefits. The contract disputes rumors in the community of Collier
getting a salary as a means of repayment for $16,000 or more that
Collier lent the water district in a legal fight to maintain the
district’s viability.
   
Although the gavel was turned over to
Hawkins, Collier still conducted much of the business calling it a
manager’s report. The first item was an update on the lawsuit that
challenges the $6 fee the district bills to residents monthly. The suit
was filed in circuit court on November 20, 2008 by property owner
Norman Fincher who feels the district may have misinterpreted
ORS264.110 and therefore may not have the authority to charge the fee.
   
According
to Collier, the attorney for the district, Michael Kellington, said he
does not expect any action or change before Feb.1  and perhaps not even
then. (Kellington did not return this reporter’s phone calls.)
Fincher’s attorney, Michael Franell, said a trial before a judge will
most likely take place in April. Franell said he was surprised how
quickly they (the court) jumped at it. Until the legality of the fee is
determined, the district is virtually at a standstill with almost no
revenue. So far, according to the treasurer, just under $4,000 has been
taken in from the $6 fee.
   
Collier also spoke about an ethics
charge brought against the water district by former Shady Cove Mayor
Ruth Keith. The matter has not yet been resolved.
   
Bringing a
publicly owned water system to Shady Cove does not look promising in
the near future. Referring to an article written by Oregon State
Senator Doug Whitsett and published in the Upper Rogue Independent on
December 30, Collier said it is unlikely any grants will be available
this year for new projects.
   
After some discussion, board
members thought the water district might get funding from new President
Barack Obama because Obama plans to fund infrastructure in this
country. The board will talk with elected federal officials to try and
secure money for the project. An audience member said she learned at a
meeting the federal government is looking for short-term projects at
this time rather than long-range goals.
   
Grant
opportunities and cooperative agreements with governmental agencies
will be pursued. The board will also seek advice and assistance from
private companies, said Collier.
   
During the board comment
period at the end of the meeting, Dee Hawkins chastised both the
community and community leaders for not supporting the water district.
"We’ve called for their support but nothing has happened. They just
turn a deaf ear towards us."
   
Analysts are predicting dire
times ahead and that it may take a decade or more for the economy to
recover. Grants are drying up for everyone, Hawkins continued. She said
if they can’t come together as a community to work this out, federal
representatives will not be willing to work with the water district.
"It is up to you, the residents, to approach the local elected council
and city administrator and ask for help. We can’t do it by ourselves,"
she said. "You are going to have to ask them to support the water
district."
   
The next water district meeting is Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. at the old Masonic Hall at Highway 62 and Cleveland.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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