Animosity grows over Three Lakes sewer extension plans
November 15, 2016
The ongoing animosity surrounding a sewer line extension within the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District (TLWSD) continued Monday night when the TLWSD Board of Directors responded to 17 questions posed by local citizen Michael Eha.
Deputies from the Grand County Sheriff's Office were on hand for the meeting and arrived just as the proceedings were getting underway. The District called the deputies to the meeting over concerns the District had regarding the possible reactions of citizens who were posing pointed questions to the Board.
The meeting covered a broad range of topics but the capacity crowd of attendees was primarily focused on issues surrounding a highly contentious sewer line extension project the District is undertaking in the Pine Beach area. Among the citizens most adamantly opposed to the Bine Beach sewer extension is Michael Eha.
Eha and other citizens impacted by the Pine Beach sewer extension have requested the Board engage with citizens in a question and answer session. The Board did not engage in a Q&A session.
Instead the Board requested Eha submit a list of questions in writing so the Board could prepare answers. The Board's response to Eha's written questions was scheduled as an agenda item for the evening. The Board refused to entertain additional questions from the crowd and instead responded only to those questions previously submitted by Eha. Responses were prepared ahead of time and were read aloud to the crowd by various members of the Board, TLWSD staff members and the District's Attorney.
As the Board took up the issue Board Chairman Bill Heffron pointed out the proceedings were an, "unusual" agenda item for the Board.
"This Board has a history of asking that questions be submitted in writing," Heffron said. "It gives us an opportunity to research and give a fully developed and through answer. That is what we are doing here tonight."
Heffron continued by asking that additional Board responses to citizen questions no longer be scheduled as agenda items, preferring instead that such interactions occur through correspondence only and outside regularly scheduled meetings.
Heffron asked if that was the consensus of the Board to which the other Board members stated yes.
As the segment began Michael Eha raised an objection to the Board. Eha said it was his understanding that the agenda item would be a question and answer session with additional dialog between constituents and the Board and not merely an agenda item wherein constituents were not allowed to ask follow up questions.
Chairman Heffron said, "We are not accepting questions. We are responding to questions that have been posed."
When those in attendance raised additional questions later in the meeting Chairman Heffron used his gavel liberally to bring order to the crowd.
"Are we going to entertain taking questions from the floor?" Heffron asked the other Board members.
All other Board members said they wished to press on with the Board responses and not field additional questions.
In the lead up to the meeting Monday night Michael Eha submitted a list of 17 questions for the Board. Eha submitted his questions at the request of the District, which does not typically hold any formal Q&A sessions. Additionally the Board does not respond to questions posed to the Board during the Public Comment portion of their meeting.
The responses prepared by Three Lakes for the meeting ostensibly answered the questions posed by Eha though several questions were answered through legalese that appeared to avoid the deeper substantive issues posed by the questions.
For example, one of the questions posed by Eha was, "We find the Board to be cavalier in their decision making, and would like to give them the opportunity of explaining. Exactly what are the qualifications of each board member that allows them to impose such financial hardships on residents?"
The response provided by the Board quoted the Colorado State statutes that outline the requirements for election to any special district board in the state. The Board offered no additional response to the question beyond the relevant state statutes outlining Board membership requirements.
The full list of all questions submitted by Eha, as well as the District's responses, can be obtained through a request to the Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District.
The cause of the contention in the TLWSD stems from plans the District has to install a new sewer main line in the Pine Beach area. District resident Gayle Langley, one of a handful of individuals impacted by the Pine Beach sewer extension project, outlined her concerns to the Board during the Public Comment period.
"As a constituent, and as someone who is not financially able to pay the fees you are asking me for in the time frame you are asking, I am asking you once again to find a way to make a longer term loan program," Langley said.
"I'm still looking at 40 to 50 thousand dollars. I cannot pay that off in a four or five-year period of time. I'm asking you to find a way to make it a win win for everybody."