Troubled Cherokee Water board ousts member

BOB STEPHENS Updated: August 15, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: August 15, 2012

Trouble continues to plague the embattled Cherokee Metropolitan District, which has endured years of court battles, board coups, recalls and resignations as it tries to stabilize water service to 18,000 people in Cimarron Hills and other unincorporated areas east of Colorado Springs.

A May recall failed to oust three members of the district board of directors, leaving the panel split 3-2.

That split was on display Tuesday as board member Steve Hasbrouck was voted off for missing three consecutive meetings.

So, once again, applications are being accepted for the vacancy and a special meeting is scheduled Aug. 29 to appoint a new board member.

This is typical for 8,000 homeowners in the district. They’ve endured astronomical rate hikes, reaching 87 percent, and water rationing since the board took bad legal advice and used water from the Upper Black Squirrel Basin without proper water rights.

Cherokee lost a court battle and was ordered by a water court judge to abandon four of its 17 wells. Those wells provided more than 20 percent of Cherokee’s water supply.

To replace the lost wells, Cherokee has been forced to buy expensive water from Colorado Springs Utilities, causing rates to soar.

Click here for a map of the district.

Cherokee General Manager Sean Chambers said Wednesday the district expects to spend at least $3 million to lease water from Colorado Springs Utilities this year and is always looking for cheaper alternatives. Where to get that water has divided the board.

Hasbrouck’s ouster is another example. The majority on the board said he was absent from the three meetings since the recall, making it difficult for the board to take action, said Jan Cederberg.

“We couldn’t do our job,” she said Wednesday. “Now we can go back to doing our job, which is getting water for the district.”

Hasbrouck argued he participated in the board’s June meeting by telephone. But Cederberg said he didn’t fully engage and participate to the end of the meeting. Cherokee Metro attorney Kevin Donovan simply said Hasbrouck has missed three consecutive meetings.

“The minutes from the previous two board meetings reflected he wasn’t present,” Donovan said. “I’m sending him notice of what happened.”

The motion to dismiss Hasbrouck passed 3-0, with Hasbrouck’s ally, Larry Keleher, abstaining. Cederberg, Dave Hammers and William Beahan voted to dismiss.

Cederberg, Hammers and Beahan were the targets of the failed May recall.

“There’s been so much tension,” Cederberg said. “There’s been so much chaos.”

Though he insisted the board’s action wasn’t legal, Hasbrouck said he’ll resign before Aug. 29.

“I have to get away from this to protect my good name,” Hasbrouck said. “My gut feeling was to resign (Tuesday) before the meeting started.”

Keleher said he is “planning on continuing” on the board and abstained from voting because he agrees Hasbrouck hasn’t missed three consecutive meetings.

Even though Hasbrouck is leaving the board, he predicted the turmoil will continue as a group of residents works to get the region annexed into Colorado Springs in a bid to get cheaper water.

Already, opponents are predicting annexation would cost even more.

Here they go again.

Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens
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