Water Commission Causes Stir At Sv Council

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Star Valley knows it needs a water committee, but after a heated debate Wednesday night, what that committee looks like and how it is structured is still up in the air.

The council voted unanimously Nov. 5 to table an ordinance that would have established a seven-member water and sewer commission after existing water committee member Gary Coon recommended the ordinance be rewritten.

The suggestion of rewriting the ordinance, which is a standard template for commissions and boards for the town, upset Mayor Chuck Heron.

“What makes this commission so unique we have to change everything?” he asked Coon at the meeting.

Coon suggested the current commissions might be set up wrong.

Coon said the proposed ordinance, which includes seven duties, has several issues that need to be changed before it can be approved. These include setting a size limit of seven members. Coon would like to keep the number of members open.

The ordinance also states the mayor shall appoint the members and the town council will approve them. Coon would like the council to decide who the members are, not the mayor.

“The mayor would select and all we could do is agree or disagree,” Coon said.

The seventh duty, which states the commission will complete tasks determined by the mayor, should be changed to say the council will decide what additional tasks are needed.

Coon also wants to add an eighth duty that says a member of the commission will be present at all Star Valley water meetings, excluding executive sessions.

In an e-mail Thursday, Heron questioned the proposed changes.

“We tread on dangerous ground when we try and adapt commissions and boards to specific individual inputs and needs,” Heron said.

“That has the look of doing something on someone’s agenda. This makes for a fragmented set of rules and regulations.”

The new commission was created after a 12-member water task force created in September 2007 failed to address key questions, according Heron.

Flood Water Task Force committee chairman Ray Lyons said after reading the original proposed ordinance without the suggested changes he would not take part in it, because it is too undefined and requires too much of its members.

“It would require a lot of time and we have such a limited number of volunteers and we are working them to death,” Lyons said.

“I can’t take part in it because I wouldn’t have enough time.”

Heron asked what the alternative was to the commission.

Council member Nathalie Stroup suggested the town hire people to help the volunteers complete all the tasks, which include monitoring well data and rain gauge, manage groundwater and surface water resources and to assist in water conservation measures and education.

Heron said water task force member Coon and chairman of the committee, Chris Benjamin, created the duties.

“The two people on the task force wrote them, so I thought they knew what they were getting into,” Heron said.

Coon said the duties were created to be rough and general.

Coon agreed to meet with town attorney and manager Tim Grier to rewrite the ordinance and present it at the Nov. 18 council meeting.

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