By Renee Rinehart –(Published: Sept. 21, 2017) Cuchara property owners are taking the first steps toward a recall election for two members of the Cucharas Sanitation & Water District board over what many citizens believe are unfair commercial water rates.
At the Sept. 8 board meeting, citizens asked board President Gerald Van Nort and Secretary Tom Lewis to resign their seats. They both refused. The two had voted against a motion in August to temporarily lower commercial water rates until a rate study could be complete. The group claims high water bills for businesses are causing hardship and may drive the decision to close the Cuchara Inn.
A letter to CS&WD dated Sept. 18 requests they provide a copy of the eligible voter list by noon Friday, Sept. 22. The list contains the name, address, phone number and email of Colorado residents who own property within the boundaries of the district. The letter is signed by Rep. Larry Liston, Jim Littlefield and David Barclay. A copy of the letter was sent to the Colorado Special District Association and the local media.
Barclay told The Signature they have met with the Colorado Secretary of State to gather information for a recall. A petition with fact sheet will have to be approved by the County Clerk’s office and then petitioners will have 60 days to gather signatures to move forward with a recall election.
Lewis is fighting back, sending a letter to District Attorney Henry Solano alleging individuals have made false and damaging statements regarding CS&WD, interfering with board functions, attempted blackmail, and conspiracy.
Lewis claims board members are protected under Title 32 for Special Districts. The attorney for CS&WD defines them as a “special purpose” district which does not have the authority to incentivize general purpose government issues like business development. The attorney states they have to recover the cost of service in an “equitable manner among customers”, and are directed by statute to make decisions that are legal as opposed to “what might be good for the business community”.
Lewis said their attorney has offered to provide information on Title 32 and a free day of mediation for the board and interested citizens.