Maxwell Water Supply unseats board members
By Paul Turner
SPECIAL TO THE POST-REGISTER
The Maxwell Water Supply Corporation (MWSC) held a special stockholders meeting Monday night at the Maxwell Social Club to vote on the retention or termination of four presiding board members who faced conflict of interest charges involving Cooper Land Development Corporation, a company whom MWSC was in negotiations wi
The charges were brought against the four members when Cooper, who plans on building a 3,000 home subdivision in the Maxwell area, paid for the four to take a trip to Tennessee to inspect a completed housing project similar to one Cooper plans to build in Maxwell.
The four board members facing the charges were Ronnie Duesterheft, Elsie Croley, Jo Anne Germer and Milton Koch. All four members were voted off of the board.
The meeting, scheduled to commence at 7 p.m., did not start until 8 p.m. due to a long line of voters eagerly awaiting their chance to cast their ballots. As the meeting began, tensions were already high when Director Dale Rodgers recited charges he filed against the four members in January.
“The trip was not authorized by the board, it was paid for by the developer,” Rodgers said. “… if it had been approved by the board and paid for by the board, then we would have no problem.”
Each board member facing the charges was allowed five minutes to speak in their defense. Croley spoke first.
“I was not told of any kind of conflict before I went, and I went because I felt like the presiding issue that went on in January was justifiable,” she said. Croley said the trip was in the best interest of the customers and the board.
For Duesterheft, five minutes was not enough time to say all that was needed. Duesterheft said MWSC had two meetings where everyone involved with the corporation had a chance to discuss the trip.
“No one in those two meetings said anything about it being illegal,” he said. “Do we really wanna go and just sign a contract with these people without knowing who they are, [or] what they are?”
He also stressed the importance of the contract with Cooper and how much the corporation stands to benefit from it.
Germer defended the four board members” actions.
“Did we do what we felt was the best thing for Maxwell Water?” she asked. “…the answer that I can honestly tell everyone of you out here is yes, I truly felt like that was the best thing to do.”
Koch, who was ill and did not go on the trip, said he had nothing to prove or to say.
Issues other than the conflict of interest charges were on the voters” minds during a question-and-answer session with the board members. Members asked about high water rates, and how MWSC plans to supply water to 3,000 homes when water is scarce for current customers.
According to Duesterheft, the rate increases were necessary due to legal fees brought on by a lawsuit with Saddle Brook housing in 2004 under a previous board.
“The only way to get us out of debt was to raise the rates,” he said. “Had [MWSC] not spent $595,000 on lawyers, we wouldn”t of had to do that.”
Del Tally, a MWSC member, feels that the existing customers were primarily concerned with availability of water in the future.
“The issue is whether the existing members have adequate water,” he said. “That”s why the vote turned out like it was, because most of the members appear to be unhappy that this board had sold too many meters without having adequate water already bought or at least contracted.”
Four new board members were elected to the board by the 130 voters present on Monday evening: Shelly Brewer, Lorenzo Silva, Bill Stuebing and Bob Cook
Brewer, a member of MWSC for 28 years, was the first person elected.
Silva, who has lived in Maxwell all his life hopes to aid in lowering the water rates, but also feels that finding more water is an important issue.
Stuebing has a background in banking and finance.
Cook was the final member elected to the board. Cook has been with this water system for 22 years and has served on one of MWSC”s previous boards.