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Controversy in Cuchara

Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting

by Caitlin Dunn

CUCHARA — Controversy rocked the normally placid Cucharas Sanitation and Water District meeting on August 11.

Marshall Moore spoke on behalf of Scott Lynch and the Cuchara Inn and reported Lynch wishes for the board to do “what the board needs to do” by studying their rules and regulations and making sure that they are treating recipients of their water fairly and equitably.

At the moment, Cuchara Inn is being charged 0.3 EQR for their water, whereas a comparative study showed that a similar hotel in La Veta would only be charged 0.15 EQR. Moore stated that this difference is “not equitable; it is not fair” and urged the board to make sure the rules and regulations are being honored with their current system.

Chairman Gerald Van Nort stated the District has been utilizing this system for roughly 25 years and that their last rate study was most likely performed in the 1990s. Moore told the board to consider “the prosperity of this county” and to reevaluate as soon as possible.

A member of the public added that since the Inn is no longer open 12 months a year, their previous EQR rate is no longer fair.

Van Nort stated the district is currently waiting on a preliminary report in order to do the rate study; the study should be conducted in October. Board member Tom Lewis added that if they attempt to do the study themselves, they will be challenged because they are not professionals in that field.

Board member Jim Berg weighed in and said that he finds the board’s inaction regarding rules and regulations “absolutely disgusting,” adding that doing the rate study is not truly going to solve the issue. “This board needs to step up and get involved in this thing… What matters is today, and we need to fix it,” he said.

A member of the public suggested adopting La Veta’s EQR rate for the next three months until the results of the rate study come back. Van Nort said the board will take the suggestion into consideration and that it may hold a public work session.

Lynch was revealed to have been sent a delinquent letter and was asked to come into a payment program. “We don’t shut their water off. We try not to,” Van Nort said.

According to Moore, Lynch offered to pay $500 a month for his $6,900 bill until October 15, upon which time the revenue from his other business would pay off the remainder. “I think it’s profound that Scott is not here,” Lewis said. He added Lynch is using outside sources and is not willing to “stand up with other community leaders.” Moore argued Lynch believes Moore is more well-versed in rules and regulations and thus would be a better spokesperson for the Cuchara Inn. The board decided to extend the current board meeting to Wednesday, August 16 at 9 am to address rates for commercial customers.

The board’s Wednesday August 9 meeting with Lynch, during which time they appeared to make a decision outside of a public meeting, may be in violation of the Sunshine Law. The board, minus Van Nort, accepted Lynch’s offer to pay $500 in August, $500 by September 10, and account balance in October.

Lewis said he appreciated the contributions of the audience and hopes for “this level of participation” at regular meetings, as they have a lot of work ahead of them; they are facing major expenses. “We’re trying to operate as efficiently as we possibly can,” he said.

Shannon Shrout gave the operations status report and told the board Joe Siegel got concrete in the building up at the resort and did “a fantastic job;” he added that the district is trying “to do their part in cleaning up” at the resort. H&H Fencing is currently installing fencing around the resort property and the tank on the hill, which should be done next week.

Brad Snow, a resident, offered himself as a volunteer for the board. He explained he is an environmental engineer and a hydrologist, and he has experience with geotechnical engineering.

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