A standing-room only crowd applauded Monday after three new Cortez Sanitation District board members were sworn into office.
“Congratulations,” outgoing board president Dave Waters told the new board, “and good luck.”
Moments later, the work began.
During public comments, business owners demanded that the board readjust rate structures. Others insisted the board reappoint Jim Candelaria, kicked off the board last month.
The new board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, to consider repealing the resolution. Board attorney Jeff Robbins said Monday that it could be rescinded.
Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane, who attended with another officer, said the board wanted police present to encourage order.
Ray Fox, Ryan Griglak and Tim Robinson were each elected to serve four-year terms on the board last week. On Monday, May 12, they took their oath of office one-by-one before nearly three-dozen citizens. Griglak was appointed as president of the board, Robinson was tapped as vice-president, and Fox was named secretary/treasurer.
Waters and outgoing board member David Kimble, both defeated in the election, exited quietly. Retiring board member Harold Foster lingered for a few minutes before leaving.
Effective Jan. 1, the previous board enacted a rate structure that resulted in dramatic increases for the city, schools and some businesses. Rates were previously charged based on water usage, but new rates were based on 20-year-old national averages.
“I’m paying $7,500 more a year for sewer,” Gunther Hardt told board members.
Hardt owns and operates the Plaza Laundry on East Main Street, and he requested the new board provide temporary relief for sewer charges.
Without rate changes, Hardt said he’d cut employees.
“In two to three more billing cycles, local businesses are going to suffer,” Hardt said.
Returning board member John Stramel defiantly defended the rate structure, but Fox and Griglak were more sympathetic to small-businesses.
“We need to do something,” Fox said.
“It will take at least one more billing cycle to develop new ideas and reach a potential solution,” Griglak said.
Other citizens addressed the recent resolution adopted by the previous board to bar Candelaria from the remainder of his term. Stramel on Monday defended the resolution, which prohibits board members from holding or seeking public office with an outside governmental agency.
The CSD resolution passed April 14 and took effect April 15, 84 days after Candelaria filed as a candidate for Montezuma County commissioner.
“I feel this resolution was passed and is being used to undermine the electors of the district and hence the democratic process,” Wendy Mimiaga told board members.
As a spectator at the meeting, Candelaria said he’d retake his seat on the board if reappointed.