Water everywhere — except in Shady Cove

If ever a situation called for the phrase "dragged kicking and screaming," Shady Cove would seem to have found it.

Residents there have been dragged along a very bumpy road for nearly a decade now as various interests have attempted to bring reliable water to the town of 2,600.

Reliable water is, by the way, something Shady Cove sorely needs. Residents get their water from about 1,000 wells, some of which have run dry or become contaminated. The city has no central supply it can use to fight fires. Shady Cove is the largest city in Oregon without a municipal system.

So yes, it needs water.

What the town clearly doesn't need is more of the approach it's endured for several years now at the hands of the Shady Cove Water District board.

Since residents voted to dissolve the district in 2005, its board has waged an expensive court fight over its existence, survived relentless criticism from residents unhappy about a monthly fee it is charging and fought everyone's requests for clear information.

What it has not done is to bring water to Shady Cove.

Inexplicably, the district's board now has decided to replace its combative president so he can become its general manager. This will be a paid position, he said in a recent interview, but the district has yet to tell residents what that pay will be.

Residents are understandably frustrated with and wary of this board. The board, in turn, seems frustrated that residents are contesting a monthly $6 fee it is charging all property owners. It needs that money to get the process of getting water started, members have said.

But its financial reality is this: The district still owes nearly $20,000 it borrowed to fight the 2005 legal battle. It apparently will take on more expense to pay the manager. At the same time, it faces a new court challenge from a landowner unhappy about the monthly fee.

This board has dug a hole, both financially and with patrons. What are the chances Shady Cove residents will have a sudden change of heart and find reason to support it and the district? They've got to be very near zero.

Shady Cove does need water. It also needs to rewind this process to the point that it's clear residents and people attempting to get water for the city are on the same page — or even reading from the same book.

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