Shady Cove Water District is dissolved at last

SHADY COVE — Five years after voters first tried to say goodbye to the Shady Cove Water District, a unanimous vote Tuesday by the district board officially shut it down.

The vote came after the board accepted certified election results from Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker that showed the dissolution measure on the Nov. 2 ballot passed with nearly 88 percent of the vote, 856 to 108.

A similar measure passed in 2005 with 83 percent of the vote, but that result was overturned by a ruling of the Oregon Court of Appeals.

"By Oregon law we are now a board of trustees," said Philip Keith, former president of the board. "We now have to settle the district's business affairs."

By Dec. 15, the district's trustees will send refund checks to residents who paid a water service fee to a previous board, and who had filed a claim with the now-dissolved board.

The previous board collected about $4,000 in water service fees during 2008, before the Jackson County Circuit Court ruled them illegal. When the previous board was defeated in a May 2009 election, no refunds had been made and $624 was left in the district's bank account.

Keith said because the previous board spent most of the water fees on other activities, the current refunds must be prorated and he estimates payment at about 19 cents on the dollar.

The district's refund bank account will remain open until sometime in February, giving residents a little over two months to cash their checks.

Once the bank account is closed, a public meeting will be held to close the district's affairs, including turning over district records and remaining property to Jackson County.

"We want this all open to the public," said trustee Jeff Smith, "so, if they want to come, they can come and listen to it and say, here's the final accounting."

That meeting is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Water is still a major issue in Shady Cove, the largest city in Oregon without a municipal water system. Residents rely on nearly 1,000 private wells, many of which go dry each summer.

With the end of the water district, the City Council has begun working toward a solution.

Earlier this year the city received a $20,000 grant from the State Infrastructure Financing Authority to fund an update to its water master plan. The council awarded a contract to HGE Inc., an architectural and engineering firm that has designed city water systems in Oregon.

"We expect to be able to present the final draft of their proposal to the public in the first couple of weeks in January," said Dale Shaddox, interim city administrator.

Even with a new plan, financing a water system would require voter approval, something that has failed twice before, most recently in 1999, when an $11 million project lost by 100 votes.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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