Water Districts 101
What You Need To Know Today
There are a lot of questions in the air in regards to the issue of the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District. I am not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, and so to understand the ramifications of the current situation before the Elbert County BOCC, I felt I should do some in-depth homework and find out the answers to some of these pertinent questions that are plaguing the residents of our county. I share this information in hopes that you too will seek answers. Since our county government rarely provides information to the public, it is incumbent upon the citizens to do the research to keep from being misled in these crucial decisions.
Under Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, the State of Colorado outlines how it can authorize the creation of special districts. Title 32 can authorize the formation of ambulance, mosquito control, water, sanitation, fire protection, parks/recreation, safety protection, solid waste disposal facilities, solid waste collection, street improvement and metropolitan districts.
These special districts are given the status of being "quasi-municipal corporations." These municipal corporations are then viewed by the State of Colorado as a political subdivision of the State that were initiated to provide necessary public services that the county or municipality cannot supply. In short, it is a tax-exempt body that is formed to build, operate and maintain infrastructure for the public benefit. These districts can wield great power, and should never be granted the right to form without first careful examination of their proposed purposes and verifiable needs.
The way a special district is governed is generally by a Board of Directors, typically including five or seven members, presumably to avoid tie votes. (The Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District has ten members.) Directors are elected by the registered voters who reside within the district. The members are elected to four-year terms that are staggered. If you are a registered voter in
A special district is a political subdivision of the State, and so it is required to follow the open meetings laws of Colorado, meet public bidding requirements, have regular audits, etc. Since Elbert County has struggled with meeting some of these requirements in the recent past, it is probably an area that will require that residents will have to demand that their government officials adhere to the laws of the State of Colorado.
Special districts are able to raise money in a variety of ways. They can levy taxes and issue debt. They can issue General Obligation Bonds or Revenue Bonds. They are able to impose a Mill Levy. They can require fees and impose charges. They are able to borrow money. Of course the amounts are generally set by election according to Colorado TABOR laws, but since the voting on such matters in special districts is generally light and the constituents rarely have adequate information upon which to make proper decisions, districts often take on huge debt loads. Much to the chagrin of the uninformed citizens, they are then bound to meet these financial obligations. According to my research, the best and often the only time that the public can insert itself into the means by which revenues can be raised is during the period of time when a special district is going through the approval process of its Service Plan. The Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District is now going through such a process.
Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District wants a fast track approval of their plan. Close inspection of their documents reveals an ambitious plan to place itself in a position to essentially dictate water policy in Colorado. Being that special districts in Colorado are non-profit organizations,
One need only look at the articles of Karen Crummy in the Denver Post to see how a water district can quickly amass hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from its constituents and build a no-bid reservoir. Upon close examination questionable personal enrichment is occurring. One of the members of the Elkhorn Ranch Metropolitan District, its director Robert Lembke, appears to be benefiting in the Chambers Reservoir Project currently under construction at E470 and Chambers Road. It should be a concern to all of us that nobody seems to know where Mr. Lembke is getting his water. We do know members of ACCWA have been asked to step down because of conflict of interest. Lembke has control or a financial stake in 38 entities and special districts. He is arguably one of the most controversial figures in our State.
We have to get this right. People in the ACCWA District have seen as much as a 500% increase in their water bill in a five-year period. Another development paid $726/yr. per household as an ACCWA customer. What is perhaps most concerning is when a district goes rogue with grand schemes, and then the district fails to meet its financial obligation and cannot perform on contracts for services.

One need only look at the $153,000,000 Chambers Reservoir Project to see the dangers to a community. According to legal experts, if the plan goes bust, ACCWA (its constituents) are on the hook for the costs. It is time to turn on the lights, slow down and examine this deal over an extended period of time.
Write your county commissioner today and tell them to postpone the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District's plans for unprecedented expansion.
Colorado and you reside within the boundaries of the district or you are person who owns taxable property within the district you may serve on the board. The Board of Directors may hire a manager and employees to carry out the work of the district.
there exists the tendency of some to dismiss the importance of what can go wrong when a district forms in a slovenly manner or dubious participants become involved.
by Robert Thomasson
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