Citizens threaten recall of CS&WD board members

By Renee Rinehart –(Published: Sept. 14, 2017) A contentious meeting of the Cucharas Sanitation & Water District last Friday, resulted in the crowd threatening to mount a recall petition for two directors and prompting the resignation of a third.

Commercial water rates are at the center of the disagreements between citizens and the water board. The owners of the Cuchara Inn have expressed difficulty in operating a profitable business with monthly water bills around $1,700.

The meeting room was packed to capacity with 50 plus people, some standing in the hallway. They called for the resignation of Board President Gerald Van Nort and Secretary Tom Lewis, but it was Director Art Pierce who resigned at the end of the meeting Friday.

Pierce served one term and then did not run last May, but later filled a vacant seat on the board. The district has called for letters of interest from individuals interested in serving on the board until October 6.

During the regular meeting Board Secretary Tom Lewis resorted to name calling, repeatedly shouting out “liar” and “fascist liar” to residents Marshall Moore and Jim Littlefield.  Moore requested a copy of correspondence with the attorney referred to in the August meeting. Board President Gerald Van Nort replied he would need to put his request in writing. Moore then said he believes three board members met at Van Nort’s home the prior day. “The appearance of impropriety exists,” Moore said. Lewis responded, “Liar!” Both Van Nort and Lewis denied meeting with Henry Harnly, who was absent from the Friday meeting.

Resident Jim Littlefield stood and Lewis called him a fascist liar. Littlefield stated, “Tom Lewis and Gerald Van Nort were asked to resign and refused to do so.” He added, “Recall petitions are underway.” The crowd applauded Littlefield. Lewis appeared agitated and needed to be calmed down by Van Nort. Van Nort then banged the gavel to restore the meeting to order.

From the back of the room Rev. Don Pike reprimanded Lewis telling him public elected officials should not speak like this. Pike was joined by Rev. Rodger Thompson, offering to lead the group in prayer. Thompson urged the crowd to “show a temper of love, keep words calm and soft and be understanding and respectful in the words you choose.”

A proposal to deal with the commercial water rates was presented by Director Pierce, who met with a committee of staff, an attorney and consultants to make recommendations for moving forward.