This "W4447" issue is a complicated one and I've done my best to convey to overall scope of the meetings listed below. I'm not an attorney. I'm not a reporter and I'm definately not a super-duper fast note taker. If you catch a mistake I've made or feel that I could have been clearer on something then by all means, let me know. Use the feedback forum, or call me or "IM" me...but let me know. It's important to me to pass along accurate information - especially to those whom couldn't make the meetings. TEK
The Meeting was opened with an informal question & answer session hosted by Edgar Zabrisky and Chip Cutler after which the first board of directors were elected.
Ed updated everyone with an informal query that was placed to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. The UAWCD will be preparing two proposals for our consideration. While each proposal will entail having them handle the responsibility of storing water on our behalf during the irrigation season and then releasing the water during the off season, one proposal will be based upon us retaining the water rights and the other would be based upon the water rights being turned over to them (UAWCD). These two proposals can then be considered against the other proposal on the table - that being to utilize the pond to store and release the required water ourselves.
Chip reminded everyone that we are not under the gun in any way to resolve this issue. The Water Board only wants to see that we are being proactive in bringing this issue to an agreed upon resolution. The only requirement that the Water Board has placed on our shoulders for this current year is to install a 2 inch pipe and flow meter connecting the Allen Ditch to Cherry Creek.
Chip informed the group that everything is in place on our end to receive the water rights from the Irelands but in order to do that they must first reinstate the original corporation currently holding those rights before they can officially be transfered to our new corporation.
The issue of funding this effort was brought up and the board announced that an initial amount of $100 would be needed from each well owner to not only cover the expenses associate with the formation and startup of the corporation but to cover ongoing expenses. As part of each future board meeting a summary of expenses will be read (as well as posted as part of the meeting notes) so every member can understand where the money is being spent. Whether we, as a collective group, decide to enter into an agreement with the Upper Ark or to restart the pond and maintain it, expenses will eventually be incurred and we need to be prepared to fund that. The board is in the process of setting up a PO box for its official use. Until the PO box gets established, members may send their checks to Ed's home address at 365 Heather Lane.
The Board wishes to remind everyone that their sole purpose of existence is to act on the behalf of the Acres of Ireland well owners; not only to deal with this immediate issue but for ongoing representation as well. Unfortunately although all of the board members are volunteers and receive no financial payment for their time and efforts the work that they perform on all our behalves comes with expenses. As much as we would all like this current situation that we are now entangled in to just go away - it's not going to unless we deal with it.
Next steps for the board will be to open a bank account in the name of the corporation to manage the income and expenses, set up a post office box for official use and then to begin to act formally on the behalf of the Acres of Ireland well owners.
A homeowner suggested that we include a frequently asked questions (FAQ) here on the web site for others to reference and thereby to help reduce the time spent at the start of each meeting covering the same ground. The section will be added here and updated as necessary.
The next official meeting was tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 10th at 6:30 at the Howard Fire Station.
The above meeting notes are my unofficial account until all other board members have had a chance to review and update or approve them at which time it will be noted here. Thomas Kainz...secretary.
Today's meeting was probably the most productive to date. As most of the owners present were more of the mind-set to look at realistic options to go forward with, as opposed to looking for someone to string up, quite a bit was accomplished.
No matter which option we, as owners, decide to go with one point seemed to be in agreement by all: We, as a group, need to get a corporation set up and do what we can to regain control of the water rights originally under the control of the Ireland Corporation. In his last officially, unofficial, act, Chip Cutler, volunteered his services, yet again, to bring the Corporation into being. I say "officially, unofficial" because up until this point, Chip has volunteered his expertise and knowledge in matters of water to help the community out with this issue. As it now gets to the point where official actions are going to need to occur, being a well permit holder in the subdivision, he will have to avoid any potential conflict of interest issues.
In earlier conversations with the Irelands, the Irelands agreed to perform the necessary transaction which would then assign the water rights over to the new corporation. As soon as this occurs, the new corporation can then start to take positive action towards resolving this issue.
Time to talk money......
While a number of homeowners such as Chip and Ed, as well as numerous others, have put forth a substantial amount of effort and time on behalf of the subdivision up until this point, the bottom line is that at some point in time...sooner most likely then later... some money is going to have to be spent.
If we as a community decide to rebuild the pond, there will be some excavation and land clearing fees, charge for the piping, gates and other related equipment, there will need to be a fence built around the pond and, of course, there will be the liability insurance expense.
If we decide to go with the option of assigning administration of the water movement to an outside agency, there will most likely be attorney's costs, administration fees and most likely periodic assessments.
With which ever option we decide to go with there will be the expenses associated with setting up the Corporation, getting the bank account going, fees to transfer the water rights, fees associated with office supplies, postage for mailings and so on.
There are currently 92 in-house use wells located within the subdivision; each one of which is impacted by this issue. It was determined at the meeting that an initial assessment of $50 per well would be enough to get the corporation started and initially funded with another $50 per well due shortly thereafter. While there was no guarantee given that the $100 per well would be the maximum needed, the feeling was that until the final cost assessments were completed for each of the two options being considered, this amount should come close to covering the anticipated costs. The owners were asked at the meeting, if at all possible, to bring their check to the next meeting so work can get started.
Personally folks - If I was told that all I had to do was to pony-up $100 bucks to get this issue behind us while others did all the leg work, the planning, the negotiating, the meeting, the reporting and all the other responsibilities, I'd consider myself off-easy.
Finally the issue of water meters was discussed:
Each well in the sub-division is required to have a water meter and each meter is required to be reported (I believe semi-annually - but don't quote me on that). To date only 57.6 percent of the homes are actually reporting their water usages as they should. Not reporting your usages only hurts you as well as the rest of the community - and here's why:
If a home doesn't report their use, they are assumed to be using the full 84,000 gallons per year. The augmentation plan requires us to return 15% of that amount, or 12,500 gallons. Of those homes that are reporting, the average use is slightly less than 40,000 gallons. 15% of 40,000 gallons is 6,000 gallons. There is a big difference between 12,500 gallons and 4,000 gallons. Multiply that by 92 wells and we could be "over paying" by as much as 360,000 gallons. Personally, I could think of a lot of things that could make better use of those 360,000 gallons of water then by just giving it away. That is water that we're giving away - back to the ditch - which we don't need to be. How would you like it if the electric company said that they weren't going to bother reading your electric meter and they would just assume that you used, oh say $400 worth of electricity each month - even though you knew damn well that you didn't use anywhere near that amount? I think not!
The Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on March 15th - a Monday - at 6:30 pm at that Howard Fire Station. By that time, the corporation will be formed (on paper) and the opportunity for owners to vote for the first board of directors will be presented. If you want to be considered for a board position - BE THERE. If you want to vote for those running for a board position - BE THERE. If you want to have a voice as to which option should be ultimately undertaken - BE THERE.
Additional Details Regarding the Options:
Since the last meeting, additional information was obtained regarding the two options under consideration.
At this second meeting, after a review of what brought us to this point, discussion finally entailed concerning what our options are to rectify this situation. After discussion amongst the homeowners there were two viable options which were presented and which would require further research and discussion. The next meeting was set for 2/15.
This was the first meeting held between the Water Board and concerned owners to discuss the "W4447" issue and what needs to be done about it. Use the "Background" link to the left to get a basic understanding of what the issue is.
In addition to the WB representatives, long time owner Ed Zabriski and owner Chip Cutler (whom just so happens to be a water Atty) were co-hosting the meeting.
It should be clearly noted at this point that Mr. Cutler was co-hosting the meeting as a concerned owner whom just so happens to be a water attorney and while he was willing to pass along his valuable knowledge on the subject he was not representing us owners in any official capacity.
The Water Board representatives whom were present at the meeting were quite clear in that some action needed to be taken by the owners to rectify the situation.
A number in attendance felt that the issue should have been dealt with back in the late 70's or early 80's when the Water Board should have been enforcing the augmentation agreement that the Ireland's entered into. While the WB representatives agreed that they let the ball drop on their end with respects to earlier enforcement that didn't change the fact that the agreement needed to be brought back into compliance.
The suggestion was made by the WB that our first action might be to form a new corporation - or reinstate the defunct corporation - and regain control of the water right which was part of the original augmentation agreement. At least, by taking that important step, we could block out some other person or entity from taking advantage of that valuable resource.
The WB also made it clear while they are not setting any definitive deadlines upon us at this time, they do want to see some action on our part in dealing with the situation.