Letter: Why the secrecy?
At the May 27 Pueblo West metro district board meeting, three new metro district board members, newly elected in the just-held May 6 election, took their oaths and were installed in office – whereupon it became apparent almost immediately that a new rules policy may develop.
For years, the agenda for metro board meetings often either started or ended with an executive session. These sessions have been sequestered beyond public view, presumably to preserve attorney/client privilege in dealing with legal matters.
Newly elected board member Mark Carmel initiated opposition to this practice relative to two issues scheduled for executive session on the May 27 board meeting agenda. Judy Leonard, another newly elected board member, and newly installed metro board President Lew Quigley supported Carmel’s position.
One issue involved a Bureau of Reclamation policy concerning water stored in Reclamation facilities that is being delivered to activities prohibited by the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. The question: Is it compatible with federal law to supply a marijuana growing operation with water that has flowed through a federally-maintained water system?
The other issue involved a memorandum of understanding concerning negotiations with Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) relative to delivery of water through the new SDS pipeline. This sounds like a deal where CSU would turn on water through the new pipeline early to Pueblo West, but could also compel that the water again be turned off if Colorado Springs fails to meet conditions it has agreed to in both a Bureau of Reclamation Record of Decision and Pueblo County’s 1041 permit. Both Carmel and Quigley expressed concern that this could leave Pueblo West in a compromised position, at the mercy of the other agencies.
Carmel insisted on holding discussion of both issues in public meeting so that citizens could observe and readily learn about these issues and the metro board‘s intentions. His position appeared contrary to the wishes of two board members and to in-house legal advice. Both issues were held over for future consideration pending the supply of more information to board members.
A third issue was aired openly at the May 27 board meeting. Representatives of contractor H. E. Whitlock, Inc., and School District 70 came seeking a variance from metro district policy concerning a remodeling project at Sierra Vista Elementary School. A common water supply line has been installed to provide both drinking water and fire suppression water to the remodeled building.
The metro district’s policy mandates two separate lines, so that contamination of drinking water is avoided. Even though back-flow inhibitors have been installed and state regulations permit such installation, board members Carmel, Leonard and Quigley, and Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta expressed doubts about such a co-mingled system. They expressed concerns that 500 school kids could potentially be at risk of drinking contaminated water if stored/stagnate fire suppression water were to leak back into the drinking water. This issue was also held over pending reassurances to be supplied by School District 70.