County responsible for bad water systems
August 14, 2013
The "Our Take" article entitled "Water system déjà vu" in the Aug. 2 edition of The Record-Courier aims its darts at a topic with which I am very familiar. As one of the original homeowners in Jobs Peak Ranch, I have followed the story on JPR's continuing water debacle, and it is from this standpoint that I am responding to the content of the article. Although a surface examination of the activities in the few months leading up to the County's acceptance of the JPR water system might suggest that the lagging housing market was responsible for the debacle that followed, we JPR homeowners who participated in the effort to get the County to obligate the developer to fix the water system know differently. Those commissioners described as "possibly eager to take over Jobs Peak, anticipating connection fees" should not be let off the hook as well-intentioned bureaucrats acting in good faith in an attempt to solve an unanticipated problem. Every one of "those commissioners" knew or should have known that the developer of the JPR system had not done what he was required to do under the developer's agreement with the County. I can say this unequivocally because I was one of the JPR residents telling "those commissioners" about the lousy, not-built-as-required water system long before the county opted to ignore the system's faults and let the developer off scott free. We told them the cost of the fix could be in the millions (as it has actually been), and the math or justification of charging connection fees never added up. At that time, one commissioner even had the gall, when questioned about the probable shortfall of fix-it money, to derisively sneer that JPR homeowners were "rich" and could pay for it. This remark was tape recorded. In 2005, the County Commissioners made a rotten decision and, under America's democratic system, taxpayers and ratepayers (who elected them) have been tasked with paying the price. Perhaps "those commissioners" were motivated by desperation, or allowed themselves to be fooled by underlings who chose to minimize the water system's inadequacies (for unknown reasons). After all, a previous bad county decision regarding the set-up of Sheridan Acres' water system had created a water crisis there, too; the SCE water system deficiencies were already well known (and so that system was a ticking time bomb); and the JPR water supply (conveniently) would fix those snafus. It is worth noting that the county demanded that the JPR system be designed to take care of more than twice as many homes as were planned to ever be constructed in JPR. To sum up, the Jobs Peak Ranch and Sierra Country Estates situations do qualify as "déjà vu" in one respect which wasn't covered in the article: Poor judgment or possible corruption at county level created catastrophes for both the JPR and SCE people who purchased homes expecting to be able to depend on having a safe water supply. Neither of the projects should have been approved for development by the county without better assurances and oversight that their water systems would do the job they were supposed to be built to do without added cost to taxpayers, ratepayers or the respective homeowners themselves.
Virginia Starrett is a Jobs Peak Ranch resident.