The Pueblo West View

Letter: MOU killed

The question is: Who created it, the infamous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?

The issue is: Will Pueblo West get SDS water early, before delivery to Colorado Springs?

Pueblo West would prefer to receive water early through the partially-completed 36-inch SDS pipeline. Delivery through the existing 24 inch line to Pueblo West is nearing capacity, and completion of the SDS line is not expected before 2016. But the section to serve Pueblo West could be available sooner, providing, apparently, that an agreement is reached. A proposed MOU agreement was drawn up.

The proposed MOU would require that Pueblo West, as a condition of getting the SDS pipeline turned on early to Pueblo West, “… must provide CSU (Colorado Springs Utilities) with written assurance from Pueblo County that Pueblo County concurs with the interpretations herein (CSU’s interpretations) of the regulatory requirements and obligations of the permits, approvals and agreements and that Pueblo County will not take actions inconsistent with those interpretations.”

The proposed MOU would further require that should Pueblo County seek to restrict or enjoin CSU for failing to comply with said regulatory requirements and obligations, then Pueblo West would “voluntarily” shut its water through the pipeline off, while CSU files responsive pleadings or initiates civil legal actions against Pueblo County.

The proposed MOU was first scheduled on the metro board’s May 27 meeting agenda by metro district staff – district manager Jack Johnston and in-house lawyer Harley Gifford – for discussion in closed-door executive session. But board president Lew Quigley and members Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard insisted that it be discussed in open public session – and so it was; whereupon contentious discourse ensued between staff and board members over proper discussion venue and the MOU’s origin and intent, ending in stalemate and spilling over to the county and the media. Board members Quigley and Carmel insisted the MOU is a blatant CSU hostage-taking attempt. Stories and editorial comment in the Pueblo Chieftain have accused CSU of bullying both Pueblo West and Pueblo County.

At Tuesday’s (July 22nd) board meeting, Carmel said that everyone has been wrongly led to believe that Colorado Springs Utilities executives are steadfastly standing behind this MOU, resulting in acrimonious accusations against them. He expressed concern that, in fact, it now appears there never was any involvement by any Colorado Springs-elected officials in creating this MOU. Disagreeing, district manager Johnston plaintively insisted that Colorado Springs negotiators had proposed some MOU terms.

Carmel insisted that the metro board had been misled by its own staff and by other non-elected people. “The tail is wagging the dog and elected officials are being left in the dark; public business should be negotiated in public, not behind closed doors,” he insisted. Moreover, “The board shouldn’t further be led by staff on this,” he protested. In conclusion, the metro board voted unanimously to kill the proposition and named board members Mark Carmel and Jerry Martin to head any further efforts toward early access to the SDS pipeline.

Bill Clemens

Pueblo West

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