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Archive for Friday, July 29, 2005

Rural water district patrons grill board on meter approval

Officials deny conflict of interest accusation

July 29, 2005

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Patrons of Douglas County Rural Water District No. 5 questioned the district's board on how it approved new water meters and a potential conflict of interest with a district employee Thursday night.

The matters came up during the board's regular monthly meeting at the water district office, 946 E. 650th Road.

"I just want to see the list of people requesting water meters is taken care of and followed in the order of the requests," said patron Mike Fangman.

Fangman and about 10 other patrons at the meeting were concerned that requests made by developers of the Red Tail Ridge residential development, west of U.S. Highway 59 and south of North 1000 Road, would receive preferential treatment. The concern came about because water district office manager Sharon Dwyer's husband has a vested interest - as development manager - in Red Tail Ridge. Dwyer's name also was listed on the Red Tail Ridge Web site until recently.

Dwyer said she didn't know why her name was on the Web site. She also said she didn't see a conflict of interest.

"I have no decision-making in who gets water meters," Dwyer said. "That's up to the board. And I think my husband can work for who he wants to work for, and the board can't dictate that."

Derek Welsh, chairman of the rural water district's board, said the board did consult with an attorney regarding the question of a possible conflict of interest. The attorney had informed the board that it was not a conflict, he said.

There is a wait for water meters in the district. The wait has been projected to be as long as five to seven years. The office has 162 letters on file requesting meters. Those letters are not a matter of public record because the board hasn't approved any of the requests.

In 1999, the board approved 232 new water meters. Some land owners continue to wait for meters because the district has to extend water lines. However, the board plans to approve the first 45 of the 162 letter requests for water meters during 2005. The board has approved meters for 28 of the 45 property owners as of Thursday.

People at the meeting still questioned if Red Tail Ridge developers Rod and Mary Barnes would have their request for 10 water meters approved before property owners who applied before them. The development received approval by the board for two water meters in 1999.

Dwyer said the developer's request was somewhere in the mix of the 162 letters, but not in the group of 45 requests the board intends to approve this year.

"We're trying to proceed in the fairest way possible," said Welsh, who is in his second three-year term on the board. "If you feel there is unfair treatment, then come to the meetings. The meetings are open. I'll have to say that this is the largest group of people I've seen during my time on the board. We're trying to include everyone."

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