Orchard City citizens speak out on water, marijuana, finance
By Hank Lohmeyer
Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 10:11 am
Orchard City constituents turned out for the town board's Aug. 9 meeting with comments offered to their government on management of the water utility, on marijuana businesses, and on the town board's fiscal responsibility.
Dave Stueck offered comments on the town water utility. He said the board's decision to increase rates partly because of higher rates charged by other area water providers was wrong. "This [water] system is as cheap as it gets to run," Stueck said. "You don't have to pump the water, it flows down hill. It's not fair to compare it with other towns."
On the topic of town finances, Stueck asked, "Are we hurting for money? I don't know." With some $5 million in capital reserves, getting another 1 percent of interest return on bank deposits "would be good." Stueck noted that elsewhere money is made generating electricity from water flow. "You shouldn't make excuses why you can't do it. It should be examined and [obstacles] overcome." He also suggested, "Why not sell water? It costs $1 a gallon in the store."
And, Stueck asked the town board if it wanted town workers to have THC (the mind altering substance in marijuana) in their systems. "Do you want people on drugs if they work for you?" he asked.
Julie Mixter, a practicing physician for 25 years, said that marijuana is a "very important issue in the town."
She said she has been "proud to be a part of a community that has rejected marijuana." She expressed concern that the current effort is a "back door to getting [marijuana ] in."
Mixter said that "marijuana is a mind altering drug that is considered a medication when it is convenient for the marijuana industry to do so," and added, "As a medication, it has not proved to be either safe or efficacious."
When medical marijuana was allowed by state voters, Mixter told the board, it started "a slippery slope" and now it is allowed for recreational use.
"It is a poor choice to allow marijuana in Orchard City for the all-mighty bottom line." She added that she is "strongly opposed to the town allowing it into Delta County."
Doug Keller said the town board displays "a lack of fiscal responsibility" in matters of water utility and finance.
He said specifically that salaries in the water department have increased 10 percent; water fund expenditures have increased over 40 percent; and that trustees have done nothing to rein in increasing costs in the water utility.
The town has $5 million in the bank, Keller said, and still raised water rates to get an addition $1 million in reserves. "Few cities have the funds in reserve as Orchard City does," he said.
Keller also offered a 16-page report on "guaranteed investments" where the town could place its cash reserves and receive more interest than it is now getting.
At the end of Keller's allotted three-minute speaking time and with still more to say, Mayor Ken Volgamore told him, "Sit down, or I'll call the sheriff again." Later in the meeting when Volgamore asked that constituents not threaten the town board, Keller said, "Then why don't you stop threatening us?"
Craig Busch told the board, "We don't want this [marijuana]." He said that marijuana revenue "is an important issue and the community wants to be a part of it. You are not a dictatorship. It needs a vote of the people."
Lorette Busch asked trustees, "Why are you pushing so hard [on the marijuana revenue issue]? What about the negatives?" she asked. She pointedly asked about medical marijuana product use and family links to the marijuana industry on the board.
At the meeting trustee Tom Huerkamp stated that he possesses a medical marijuana card. "I have a card," he said.
Trustee Gynee Thomassen said in an e-mail to the DCI that a daughter "was (employed) in that industry, in compliance. Thank you for asking."
Tim Hinz stated, "We don't want marijuana. Go back to work and get something else" to solve the town's financial needs.
He claimed that Montrose has seen increases in homelessness, theft, and stolen vehicles since recreational marijuana was legalized.
Hinz also raised the conflict that while marijuana is legal in Colorado, it is still illegal under federal laws.
Hinz said of the opponents to marijuana business in town, "We will produce a referendum" to keep the current bans [on marijuana business] in place."
Trustee Thomassen told the assembly that she had been given a letter by Orchard City resident Beth Suppes with the names of six women who oppose the cannabis revenue initiative. The letter states opposition based primarily on the negative effects of marijuana on impressionable young children.