basin

Four of the five new members of the Basin County Water and Sewer District are sworn in on May 11: Nancy Smallwood, Ronald Hale, Brian Carver and Jason Norman. Dema (DeDe) Rhodes was absent.

The newly reconstituted Basin County Water and Sewer District Board met May 11.

And not much happened.

After more than a year of steadily increasing contention surrounding the proposed installation of water meters, with higher usage rates, for Basin residents — culminating in a petition to recall the board and, last month, the resignation of the board’s four members — this month’s meeting at the Basin Community Center was relatively tranquil.

County Commissioner Cory Kirsch swore in four new members selected by the Commission from among eight applicants. Brian Carver and Ronald E. Hale will serve until May, 2022; state law requires that they then run for election to serve out the remainder of their unexpired two-year terms. Nancy Smallwood and Jason Norman were appointed for terms that expire next May, after which they may run for new four-year terms. In addition, Dema (DeDe) Rhodes was elected, without opposition, to a one-year term to fill a fifth board seat.

The board then elected Norman as president, Carver as vice-president, and Smallwood as secretary-treasurer.

Then, the newly charged board set off to run a water and sewer district — which, as one attendee observed, “should be a boring job.”

Kirsch and Joel Pilcher, a project manager with Great West Engineering, which has consulted to the board on potential system improvements, discussed the possibility of grants made available for community water and sewer projects via House Bill 632, passed by the state legislature in April – which could be matched by funds received by the county from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Kirsch noted that the deadline for project proposals is July 15. The district also has available a low-interest, $400,000 state revolving fund loan negotiated by the former board; half of any borrowings from that fund would be forgivable as a grant.

The board committed to considering potential investments that grant funding could support. It also agreed to examine the district’s finances and staffing; Nissa Manley, the district’s water operator and clerk, resigned last November, citing harassment from some in the community.

And board members said they would pursue testing to determine the district’s actual water consumption and whether, in fact, there is significant leakage from the system — one of the questions at the core of the persistent controversy.

There will be more frequent meetings to address such issues — the first an emergency meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m.

The 20 or so attendees at this week’s meeting appeared to welcome the opportunity to dig into the mundane details of running a water and sewer district.

“This is exciting to see,” said Celeste Sotola, an opponent of the previous board. “We want this to be a democracy, and the town should vote on this stuff. We’re building this whole new platform that we can all participate in. If you want people to keep coming, let us have our voices.”

“That’s how it’s always going to be,” Norman responded, to applause. “If we can combine our voices, we can do good things for the community, not just water.”

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