Democracy proved to be an arduous, but amiable process at Saturdays annual Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company meeting.
After several hours of discussion, motions, amended motions and votes, shareholders narrowly approved a fee increase measure, agreeing to pay for the continued operation and debt service of the company out of their own pockets.
Voters cast 8,635 shares to increase the per-share assessment $7 and the annual account fee $27 until a loan owed by the company is paid off. A total of 8,282 shares were cast against the measure.
After the debt is paid off which will take an estimated three years the fees will return to their previous rate, with an adjustment for inflation.
This raises the per-share annual assessment from $20.50 to $27.50 and the annual account fee from $200 to $275.
With $300,000 in debt to pay off and additional work to be done on newly constructed irrigation pipelines, company leaders said they had exhausted outside sources of revenue and require the increase to maintain operations.
The money is in the form of a line of credit from the Dolores State Bank to cover regular operations for this year after various shortfalls last year, according to Don Magnuson, MVIC general manager.
While the budget is approved by the company board, shareholders must approve a fee increase by a majority vote.
Danny Decker spoke at Saturdays meeting, saying he would rather raise revenues by increasing assessments than by leasing company water to other entities.
I dont want to raise my assessments either, Decker said. But I am concerned about the company.
The first motion to permanently raise rates was voted down 10,857 shares against to 7,934 voting in favor.
A subsequent motion to leave rates the same also died 9,842 to 7,606.
The meeting also brought about a change in the guard for two board seats.
A shareholder vote resulted in 14,912 shares backing James Snyder to replace incumbent Lynn Gardner, who was backed by 7,322 shares.
Further, shareholders cast 8,038 shares to back Greg Black to replace incumbent Kevin McComb, who received 7,111 votes.
The board election votes were cast on a cumulative system, in which shareholders could place all their shares into both races or they could put up to double the shares into a single race.
Black told shareholders he was raised on Goodman Point as a dry land farmer and recognizes the importance of water.
Snyder said he supports keeping local water in the area and although he has a lot to learn, he is willing to take the time to find out about the issues.
During the meeting, shareholders expressed a reluctance to raise fees, citing a lack of transparency in the budgetary process. Company president Randy Carver said this is an issue the company has been working to rectify with multiple meetings and mail-outs.
When shareholders raised concerns about inconsistencies in statements from company leadership regarding projected water deliveries, company leaders said projections change frequently based on water flows and precipitation.
There is no deception, Carver said. The deception is from Mother Nature. ... Were not against you, and you shouldnt be against us.
Other shareholders said they remembered a time before McPhee Reservoir was built and irrigation water ran out mid-summer. They said they are grateful to get as much water as they do.
The company administration proposed the rate increase after more than two thirds of shareholders voted down a water lease last year that would have brought in nearly $1.2 million in revenues for the company.
Last years proposed water lease would have entailed leasing 6,000 acre feet of water from Groundhog Reservoir to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for $400,000 annually to bolster the flow of the Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir for three years.
While company leadership said the impacts on irrigators would have been minimal, shareholders voted down the proposed lease, expressing fears that the leased water would be seized permanently or would be unavailable to them in case of a drought.
The Montezuma Irrigation Company holds a large portion of senior water rights from the Dolores River and provides irrigation for most of the agriculture in Montezuma and Dolores counties.
Reach Reid Wright at email@example.com