A BLAST FROM THE PAST 2:
This is Part 2 in our history lesson on how the City Council handled the public in 1986 when the public disagreed with the City’s water policy.
In 1986, when Greeley’s Water Board and City Council wanted to sell Greeley’s High Mountain Reservoirs, the public objected and started a Charter Change Amendment Petition Drive to require a vote of the public before Greeley’s water assets could be sold. The City Council actually delayed their vote on the sale by two weeks to give the public and the Council more time to study the issue. The public was able to obtain the required number of signatures to bring the Charter Change Amendment to a vote. However, on August 19, the City Council turned down the proposal by Thornton to buy our reservoirs by a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Markley breaking the tie. With that vote the public was satisfied and never did get a vote on the Charter Change.
The main reason that the Charter Change Amendment was not presented to the public for a vote was that the then City Attorney incorrectly declared the petition not legally binding because there was no ordinance attached to it. Looking back and knowing what we know today, it is clear that there did not need to be an ordinance attached. There was a ballot question presented on the petition and it should have been put to a vote of the public.
In the above Greeley Tribune article there are many statements by the City and the Water Board that turned out to be in error. For instance, it was stated that in order to use the water from the high mountain reservoirs, Greeley would have to build another pipeline. In fact, Greeley was, at that very time, using water from these reservoirs and has continued to use that water over the past decades. It took another 30 years before Greeley started building that additional 60″ Bellvue pipeline, that just recently started carrying water to Greeley.
It was also stated that if we retained and did the maintenance on those five high mountain reservoirs, that Greeley would have to raise water rates by 20%. In fact, the water rates, due to the long term financing of the reservoir maintenance, rose by about 2%.
So the point is that, the public can be emotional about their drinking water, and that doesn’t make them wrong in their views. The City can skew the truth for the public’s consumption so that they can do what they want to do, and that doesn’t make them right. The City of Greeley did that in 1986 and they did that in 2021.
However, in 2021, the City Council was more ruthless and actually moved their vote up by two weeks to give the public less time to study the issue. In confidential meetings staff expressed the need to “control the narrative” since they expected a “strong public reaction” to the purchase of the Terry Ranch aquifer. This showed a blatant disrespect of the public’s views. The City did not provide an extension on the public’s referendum effort to overturn the ordinance allowing the City to accept water credits from Terry Ranch, even though we were under the veil of Covid and a large an unusual snowstorm occurred during the approximately three week period we had to collect signatures. The citizens were not accorded the same allowance that the City gave to a bunch of developers of the Double Tree Hotel, when they were exempted from paying their assessment of over $200,000 to the City because of Covid. In the end, the citizens collected over 2,000 signatures but were not able to collect enough signatures to bring the referendum to a vote. The City closed on the Terry Ranch deal on April 6, 2021.