Three Lakes

A blog for members and friends of Three Lakes Neighbors for Responsible Growth, dedicated to monitoring and maintaining the rural environment of central Snohomish County, Washington

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is Three Lakes Water Tanking?

In response to a notice received in the mail and a flyer stuck in my recycling bin, I went to the informational meeting of the Three Lakes Water Association on Thursday night. It turned into about 45 minutes of information and another two hours plus of shouting, some anger, and some seeming incompetence on the part of the Board members. (In their defense, it's hard to find Board members for an organization like this, because--let's face it--most of us just want the thing to work and aren't willing to spend the volunteer time necessary to make it work. So many of the Board members are new to the Board and don't have a lot of experience.)

Somewhere between 70 and 100 members attending the meeting, together with twelve Board members and the Engineer who is working on the tank project (more about that below).  That's more than 10% of the 762 members/customers of this cooperative water association. The meeting, intended by the Board to simply present information about the project in response to a member's request, turned into a sometimes angry discussion and ended with a vote on whether to put the project on hold until a second opinion could be obtained from the PUD as to whether this $1.5 Million project needs to be done.

A little history.  Three Lakes Water Association was formed many years ago when about 50 residents of the Three Lakes area formed the association and pooled their resources to buy water from the Everett water system and distribute it via a piping system to local residents, who become members of the coop and thus are entitled to vote and run for the Board.  The Board is the governing body, and makes the decisions.

Over the years the Association has been operated by a small staff (mainly the Operations Manager and a bookkeeper) who keep it maintained and supervise the upgrades and expansion.  Money from the members that we pay each month for our water is used to buy water, pay the staff, and perform the maintenance needed to keep the system running. A certain percentage of the income is set aside into a "Capital Improvements Fund" and income from the new connection fees also goes into that Fund.

The majority of the system was installed in the 1980's and there has been a lot of growth. Existing water tanks hold enough water to supply the users, but are not in compliance with County, State and National regulations that require additional capacity for standby reserves and to allow fighting fires. There are a few houses located near the main water tanks that don't have enough head available to supply water at the 30 psig required by law.

The Board has hired an Engineering Firm to do the engineering work necessary to support the work done, and he has been on the job for ten years or so. At the meeting he made most of the presentation that I've briefly summarized above.

After the presentation, there were questions from the audience, some of them presented very angrily. Most of the attendees were trying to understand what had been presented, but a few were very angry and had their own "solution" to the "problem" that they wanted to present. Eventually one member asked if the Board President would accept a motion from the floor, something that the Board had not expected but which is clearly allowed by the organization Bylaws (in my opinion as a Parliamentarian and Past President of five Boards, including one National organization). Eventually the President reluctantly accepted the motion, which was to declare a Moratorium on the Tank Project, and seek an outside opinion from the Snohomish County PUD about the need and plans for the project.

After some confusion about how to vote on the resolution, some suggestions for amendments and a mover accepted amendment, it was eventually concluded somehow by the Board that a vote, if taken, would only be advisory to the board. [Which, in my opinion, is not supported by the Bylaws]. So no formal vote was taken.  However, there was a show of hands as to which way people felt about the motion.  I voted against it, since even though I'd like to see an alternative solution to this, I don't really think that can happen given the circumstances. I think the motion failed, although I didn't write down the votes that were announced in my notes.

The Board meets once a month at the Three Lakes Fire Station on 171st. The next meeting will be this Monday at 7 pm.  If you care about this issue one way or the other, you should probably be there.

After the meeting I talked to one of the people on the Board, and several other members. It appears to me that the Board needs better communication with the members and  the members need better communication with the Board. One way to make that happen would be more use of the Association's web site at  Right now (unless they've added something in the last two days) the web site contains very little information, and nothing about the Tank Project. It should include full details about the Association, the Capital Improvements Plan, the systems in place for solving problems and getting maintenance done, and the activities of the Board.

I'm planning on going to the Monday meeting if I can get there through the snow. Hope to see you all there.

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