Residents want city to take back water system

SHADY COVE — Residents who watched their "reliable" wells go dry this past summer are asking the city to take back responsibility for a municipal water system.

Joining in a grass-roots effort, Shady Cove resident Lynn Horn is circulating a petition asking the "city council and mayor to investigate the possibility of bringing water to Shady Cove by whatever means possible."

Last month, Horn, accompanied by two neighbors, met with Debbie Vincent, attorney for Shady Cove Waterworks, the private company that has been trying to bring water to the city for nearly two years.

During the meeting, Horn said Vincent told them Waterworks was for sale.

"She said we could propose a ballot measure to the city," said Horn, "so they could buy Waterworks and finish the system."

When asked for comment, Vincent said, "The company and its infrastructure have always been available for sale to prospective investors who want to participate in the costs of building this facility.

"If the city of Shady Cove wants to buy the system, my client would make the system available to them. His goal all along has been to provide a water system for the city's citizens by whatever means are available and has invested a substantial amount of his own money to further that goal."

Shady Cove Waterworks, owned by Ron and Charlotte Boehm, recently placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal offering the water system as a "liquid gold" business opportunity for $6 million.

The company has completed a 500,000-gallon water storage tank on land owned by the Boehms. Distribution lines have been run and pressurized to the city limits. A water purification module has also been purchased, but not installed.

Horn said she thinks it would be a good idea for the city to buy the Waterworks system from the Boehms and then complete it. She brought the idea to Shady Cove Mayor Ruth Keith.

Keith said she wanted to be sure there was community interest before asking the city to commit to a ballot initiative.

"I told her I would want to see a petition with 1,200 voter signatures," said Keith. "Voters who are willing to support a ballot measure."

Shady Cove voters have rejected previous water bond measures in 1991 and 1999.

Horn admits that she voted against the bond in 1999, but said she now thinks the city is in the middle of a water crisis.

"I voted it down because at the time I had plenty of water and I didn't want to add to my property tax bill," she said. "There are lots of people out there who don't think they have a problem yet, but I've talked to engineers and others who know about water and they say things are only going to get worse."

Horn, after watching the recent fires in California, now worries about wildfires.

"We wouldn't have a chance," she said. "Not living in all these trees. I just can't imagine that the city couldn't use that to get some grants from somewhere."

Horn distributed the petitions a few weeks ago at local businesses but said she hasn't counted the number of signatures.

"I think people are finally ready," she said.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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