By Naomi Hatch–
Snowflake Mayor Kelly Willis opened discussion of a water use agreement between the town and the Flake family July 19 by asking, “Do you want the water or do you not want the water on your property?”
Norman, Jay and Mark Flake were present, and Norman’s response was, “If the town decided to leave the water where it was, with the long term plan we are pursing with our gravel, we would be able to take that water for the next 20 years and use it and then … there’s been some talk a lake could be constructed when the mining is completed.”
In at least two e-mails from Jay Flake, he states the Flake family, in an effort to help the town, would reduce the amount of compensation from $3,000 to $1,800 per month, but noted that would require “a long term agreement” and that the town would “agree not to pursue the line to put the water into the wash.” If the town would not agree to stop pursuing other alternatives for disposing of the water, the amount would be $3,000 per month.
“Has the Flake family paid the town for the water they’ve used for almost 40 years?” asked Mayor Willis, noting there has been no compensation to the town and no compensation to the Flake family.
“What you’re telling us now is that in your minds and in your hearts and through your feelings, that the water Snowflake has put on there, given to you, has not benefited you and your family more than slightly, it’s been a hindrance more than its been a help?” asked the mayor.
Norman said that several years ago they lost many of their cattle from a disease that could have been from the water, but it might not have been from the town water, the cause was never determined.
There was disagreement as to whether the town had asked the Flake family to take the water or whether they asked to use the water.
Mayor Willis noted that the town has delivered about 216 gallons of water per day and stated, “Over the last 40 years, the cost of delivering, not including the reclaiming of it, make it close to $1.2 million in what it’s cost the Town of Snowflake to deliver water.
“The other thing I feel strongly about is, however it happened, whether we came to your father or he came to the Town of Snowflake… there has been some compensation and great use on your property,” the mayor continued, noting that if not, they would have come to town officials a long time ago and asked them to pursue other options.
“We feel as a town, we know you feel differently and we respect that, we feel that the water has been a blessing to your lives,” said the mayor. “We will get that water off, if you will give us a few months.”
Town Manager Paul Watson summarized how this agreement came about, stating, “We were having discussions because you (the Flake family) were pursuing mining and we needed to look at what we were going to do with the water. We did approach you with a long term agreement. The first concept was, we were going to lease the land, because that would give us some control over the use. We were not trying to eliminate the cattle operation, we would lease the land and let the operation continue as it currently does and we came up with a lease amount of $2,400.
“The first response we got was, ‘No, we’re not going to lease the land and now we want $3,000,’” said Watson, noting that without the lease there would be no real value for the town’s money.
An e-mail from Jay Flake stated, “Either get an agreement or get it off tomorrow,” according to Watson, who responded that he understood they wanted the water off immediately, but it was going to take some time, “because that’s how it works when you go through a public process.”
When the agreement came to the council in April, council members did not understand why something that had been going on for 40 years would now cost them.
Councilman Chris Brimhall did some quick calculations and it would cost the town roughly $400,000 to use Flake land for 20 years or, “We could get the water to the wash for $170,000.”
“What we’re saying is, we want you to have the water, but if you don’t want it…,” said Mayor Willis. “I believe you want the water.”
The council agreed that the alternative system was needed even if they could take the water to the golf course or to the Flake property. “It wasn’t our intent to do the alternative and the motive was to get it off your property,” said Watson.
“If there’s no monetary exchange, do you still want the water or do you want it off,” asked Vice Mayor Jason Whiting, who received no definite answer.
“It boils down to one thing, we’re fine either way,” said Mayor Willis. “If you don’t want it, you just give us a few more months and we’ll have it off. I think we owe that much to each other.”
The closest to an answer from the Flake family came from Norman Flake, who said, “If the city decides to go through with the agreement and the $2,800 or some negotiated amount, then we want the water. If the city is not willing to go through with that, then we do not want the water.”
Councilman Tom Poscharsky suggested the item be tabled, but Mayor Willis stated he did not want this item on the agenda again. Poscharsky withdrew his motion.
Watson said he felt there should be some agreement in place and staff was asked to work on that, and, in the meantime, work on getting an alternative disposal system in place.