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What if your toilets didn’t flush?

Nicole Frey
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyWhile county residents often complain about water issues, few people vote in elections for Eagle River Water and Sanitation District's board of directors.
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VAIL ” When surveyed, Eagle County residents listed “water” as one of their top concerns, said Ray Merry, the director of the county’s environmental health department.

But when it comes time to vote for the men and women who will make decisions affecting the Vail Valley’s precious resource, many voters are conspicuously absent.

In the past, voter turnout to choose the board of directors of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has been low. But with 11 candidates vying for five seats, those passionate about water are calling more strongly then ever for people to get out and vote.



“Water issues are at the forefront of all our critical finite resources,” said Maria Pastore, the project manager of the Eagle River Watershed Council, a environmental watchdog group. “Water issues are important now and will be even more important in the future, and people need to be aware of the issues and of the election.”

Merry, who hears many of the many water squabbles in the area, said he’s telling people to put their votes where their mouths are.



“Community involvement is necessary to drive community decision making by those officials,” Merry said. “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”

Not that there’s a lot to complain about, he added.

Environmentalists like Merry and the members of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation Board have been pleased with the job the board has done in the past.



They’ve been proactive about leaving water in the rivers to support the fish, plants and bugs that live there, which also translates into water for the kayaking, rafting and fly fishing industries that fueling the summer economy.

And most agree they’ve done well at the basics ” making sure residents have clean water to drink and a little extra with which to bathe and flush toilets. And after all those toilets are flushed, they’ve made sure the raw sewage isn’t making its way into the valley’s rivers and creeks.

“We want someone who knows their duty is to provide the highest quality water at the lowest price,” Merry said.

While Merry feels this should be a director’s highest priority, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. To Rick Sackbauer, current board president, one of the new board’s priorities should be planning for future growth.

And although the candidates’ specific qualifications don’t impress Pastore, she said she would like to see the new board focus on environmental issues, including the excessive sand in Black Gore Creek at the top of Vail Pass.

“As long as they’re aware and are using their resources, that’s the most important thing ” being active enough in the community to know what the public’s needs are and the watershed’s needs,” she said.

While most aren’t specifying who they’d like to see win the five seats, George Brodin, the chairman of Minturn’s Water, Santiation and Recreation Activites Enterprise ” a group that works on wastewater problems ” said one of his votes will go to Darrell Wegert, a fellow Minturn councilman.

“We need someone that’s community-minded like Darrell,” Brodin said. “I think he’s well-balanced and fair. He’ll be fair with allocations and making sure everyone has enough.”

Minturn, a town seeking to build its own sewer plant, has not always had the most amicable relationship with the district ” it’s something candidates and others involved in water would like to see straitened out.

“There needs to be cooperation. You can hang together or you can hang alone,” said Sackbauer, though he conceded it’s better not to hang at all.

In addition to someone who’s able to work with the group, Sackbauer wants to see new directors who know how to “deal with big picture issues” ” meaning their interests and areas of expertise are diversified.

“They can’t micromanage, and they can’t think small,” Sackbauer said.

But the board can’t begin to tackle the issues until a new board is successfully elected, and all that depends on voters.

“It seems like it’s been a successful operation when you look at 12 years ago it was looking to go private,” Sackbauer said. “Success breeds success. Now vote.”

An eligible elector for this election must be:

Registered to vote in general elections in the state of Colorado and one of the following:

– A resident of the district for no less than 30 days

– The owner of taxable real or personal property within the boundaries of the district

– A person who is obligated to pay taxes under a contract to purchase taxable property in the district

– The spouse of someone who is the owner of taxable real or personal property within the boundaries of the district.

Voters can vote for one director from each district. For information about absentee ballots, contact Leslie Isom at 476-7480 or lisom@erwsd.org. For more information about voting or the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, visit http://www.erwsd.org.

Voters may cast their votes at any of four polling places:

1. Vail town offices, 75 South Frontage Road, Vail

2. Minturn town offices, 302 Pine Street, Minturn

3. Eagle River Fire Protection District offices, 351 Benchmark Road, Avon

4. Eagle County Health Service District offices/Eagle County Ambulance District, 1065 Edwards Village Boulevard, Edwards

Get to the polls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 with some identification. Approved forms of ID include:

– A valid driver’s license

– A valid identification card issued by the Department of Revenue

– A valid U.S. passport

For a complete list, visit http://www.erwsd.org.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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