The Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Douglas County
Reuter-Hess Reservoir, which was completed in 2012, is owned and operated by Parker Water and Sanitation. It has a capacity of 75,000 acre-feet. Credit: Elliott Wenzler

One of the names in the spotlight among those who could serve on a new arm of Douglas County’s government appeared to have a path to being appointed now that county officials have publicly discussed the names of the applicants they previously refused to release.

The new government body, the Douglas County Water Commission, will help the county’s elected leaders shape the future of water supply, a pressing question in a county that is expected to keep growing.

The new entity is expected to help create a plan regarding water supply and conservation, among other aspects of water in the county. It will consist of unpaid volunteers and George Teal, one of the county’s elected leaders.

The forming of the new body comes against the backdrop of a controversial proposal to pump about 22,000 acre-feet of water per year to Douglas County from the San Luis Valley, a region of Southern Colorado.

An acre-foot is the equivalent of a one-foot-deep pool about the size of a football field.

Renewable Water Resources, or RWR, is the private company that proposed the project.

Last year, elected leaders Abe Laydon joined Lora Thomas in opting out of the project, while Teal has continued to support it.

“Everything’s on the table as far as I’m concerned,” Teal told Colorado Community Media in early August. “We get another five or six years of rainy summers, OK, maybe then we can start to be picky and choosy.”

Sean Tonner, one of the principals of RWR, attracted media attention for throwing his hat in the ring to serve on the water commission.

In a Sept. 19 meeting of county officials, Laydon and Teal expressed support for appointing Tonner.

Teal had previously given Colorado Community Media Tonner’s name regarding applications to serve on the water commission, but the county would not confirm names of dozens of other applicants.

In August, county officials had maintained that the names would be kept private. Colorado Community Media had filed a public-records request for the names, but the county’s response said the names would not be released unless county officials decided to do so.

Later, Teal publicly announced his preferences in a mid-September meeting. Laydon, Teal and Thomas then discussed preferences further in the Sept. 19 meeting.

Long list of applicants

A total of 49 people have applied to serve on the water commission, according to county officials as of Sept. 19. Many are current or former public officials, including some who serve on local water providers like the Parker Water District.

The county asked for applications by Aug. 11 but later waived that deadline.

The three county leaders plan to appoint three members per each “district,” or area, of the county, along with two selected “at large,” meaning from the county as a whole.

They also plan to appoint “alternates” who can serve if a regular member is unavailable.

On top of that, the county plans to appoint a “technical advisory committee” of those with water expertise to help the water commission do its job.

The applicants who garnered some support from at least one county leader at the Sept. 19 meeting included the following. This list includes information about some applicants, generally based on how the county leaders described them.

District I

From District I, or northeast Douglas County:

• Merlin Klotz, who served as the county’s clerk and recorder, or top election official, and is a Parker Water and Sanitation District board member

• James Myers

• Donald Langley, who also serves on the Parker Water board and was listed as a possible technical advisory committee, or TAC, member

• James Eklund, listed as a possible TAC or at-large member

• Hal Pranger (county leaders said they need to confirm his interest in serving)

• William Wasserman

District II

From District II, including central and south Douglas County:

• Clark Hammelman

• James Maras, a Perry Park Water and Sanitation District board member

• Roger Hudson, a Castle Pines city councilmember

• Max Brooks, a Castle Rock town councilmember, listed as a possible alternate

• Randy Reed, a former Castle Rock town councilmember and mayor, as a possible alternate

• Mike Freemire as a potential alternate

District III

From District III, or northwest Douglas County: 

• Frank Johns

• Evan Ela

• Scott Ludwig

• Christopher Fellows

• William “Mickey” Conway

• Andrea Cole, general manager of Dominion Water and Sanitation District, whom some but not all county leaders suggested for the TAC; Thomas said she wanted Cole for the water commission rather than the TAC

• John Kim, who Teal says holds a seat on the “Ravenna water board”

• David Simonson

Others in running

From the list of those in consideration in general, at least some of whom may possibly be selected at large:

• Sean Tonner

• Tricia Bernhard

• Malcolm Biddel

• Harold Smethills, a member of the Dominion Water and Sanitation District board

• Craig Broughton

• Pete Smith, but Teal and Laydon later expressed desire to remove Smith

• Kurt Walker

• Kim Haarberg

• James Yates

• Edward Adkins, listed as a possible TAC member

• Dean Lewis

• William Thomas

Process unfolds

Laydon said he wants to hold off identifying potential alternates until he has the opportunity to speak to them.

“Let’s come prepared next week” to whittle the list down further, Laydon said.

Those who join the water commission may include local elected officials, those with experience on water district or metro district boards; others with management oversight or with a professional background in water; and at least one representative who can serve as the “voice of rural Douglas County,” according to a county news release.

Metro districts are a type of government entity that carries out some government functions, such as the Highlands Ranch Metro District that oversees some services in that community.

The county’s water commission was expected to commence in the third quarter of this year and meet six to eight times during the first 12 months with the focus of developing a Douglas County Water Plan.

The county had envisioned that the water commission will integrate existing water provider plans into the Douglas County Water Plan.

Colorado Community Media had also filed a public-records request in August for all of the applications from those who have applied to serve on the water commission.

The county did not release the applications, saying in response to the request: “Once the Board of County Commissioners has formally selected Water Commission finalists we will release all of the applications per 24-72-204(3)(a)(XI), CRS,” referring to Colorado Revised Statutes, asserting that state law supports that policy.

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