Water system foes say plan is all wet

SHADY COVE — A Wednesday forum on a proposal to create a city water system drew only half the number of the previous week. But those in attendance were more assertive in their opinions and the meeting lasted nearly an hour longer.

Although a few in the crowd of about 40 on Wednesday spoke in favor of building a water system in Oregon's largest town without one, the more vocal speakers voiced their opposition to the idea, which will be on the November ballot. They peppered city officials and members of the volunteer Citizen's Water Task Force with questions ranging from concern over the cost to individual users, opposition to mandatory connection to a completed system, and being forced to use wells only for outside irrigation.

Not everyone was opposed, however. When someone asked how many people don't have water or have water problems in the city, Marianne Wolf shouted out, "We do!"

Wolf said her family of five had lived in Shady Cove about seven years with no problems, but that two years ago their well went dry.

"We spent over $12,000 trying to get it back," she said, "but it didn't work."

Wolf said they had to buy a truck and trailer strong enough to haul water and that her husband, Clay, now drives to White City for water three times a week.

At the end of the meeting, someone rhetorically asked what a property would be worth if its well went dry. Again, Wolf spoke up.

"I can tell you that," she said. "It's zero. I can't sell my home. No Realtor will talk to me."

No sooner had she begun to speak than opposition members of the crowd stood up and began to leave.

"So that's why you people are walking away," she said, visibly upset. "Yeah, you have water. But anybody that has a well has to consider that wells do run dry."

Residents will decide the fate of the $23 million system in the Nov. 6 election. If approved, officials say residents will pay a $40 to $50 dollar monthly user fee for 4,500 gallons of water. Property owners would be assessed between 95 cents and $1.10 per thousand to pay for the system. Based on that estimate, the property taxes for the owner of a house assessed at $150,000 would be $142 to $165 annually.

User fees would be collected when a resident begins receiving water. Property taxes would not be assessed until completion of the first phase of the two-phase project, sometime in 2015.

Answers to the most frequently asked water questions and recordings of all water forums are on the city's website, http://shadycove.net/water_system.htm.

The next water forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 3, at the Fire District No. 4 fire station, 21200 Highway 62, Shady Cove.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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