Carmel: Negotiate SDS terms in public, not private
A new Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member didn’t wait long before dipping his toes into political hot water.
A proposed memorandum of understanding between Pueblo West and Colorado Springs on Southern Delivery System raised concern from Mark Carmel Tuesday at his first board meeting.
“I believe it is more of a political document than legal agreement which seeks to allow Springs to take Pueblo West hostage and hold our water as ransom over the county’s heads at the time final approval of SDS permits is considered in 2016,” Carmel told The Pueblo Chieftain after the meeting.
The item was to be considered in executive session, but board President Lew Quigley and newly elected member Judy Leonard joined Carmel in keeping the memorandum out of executive session. It likely will be discussed in public session at a future meeting.
“Over the years, the majority of things that are talked about in executive session could just have well been discussed in public,” said Quigley, a former Pueblo city manager. “I think this set the tone for the new board at its first meeting.”
Quigley said he did not have an opinion specifically about the proposed memorandum.
Carmel said he thinks Pueblo West residents should have the opportunity to discuss the memorandum, because it lays out conditions that Pueblo West must agree to before moving water through SDS.
“To me, it’s saying Springs won’t let us turn on SDS unless they can turn it off,” said Carmel, a former Pueblo County administrator. “If the Bureau of Reclamation contract was negotiated in public, this should be negotiated in public.”
Pueblo West Manager Jack Johnston said the memorandum is just a working document that has been in the making for more than a year and could be changed. Johnston said the intent of discussing it in executive session was to update the new board on the progress of negotiations.
“The conversation we’ve had so far has been on the staff and attorney level, and everything in the document is on the conceptual level,” Johnston said. “There will have to be an MOU of some kind, but there’s no way this is a final draft, or even ready for debate.”
A final version could be ready as soon as sometime in June, he added.
Carmel said he saw enough cause for concern.
Pueblo West would hook into the SDS pipeline below Pueblo Dam for a capacity of up to 18 million gallons per day when the project is complete in 2016. The metro district now has the ability to pump up to 12 million gallons per day from the South Outlet Works.
Its contract with Reclamation also allows it to buy long-term storage in Lake Pueblo as part of SDS.