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It was a sight to see as Elbert County residents piled into the
exhibit hall at the fairgrounds in Kiowa.
About 1,000 people showed up to the Aug. 24 county
commissioners’ meeting to show their opposition to an amendment to
a service plan that would allow a 150-mile pipeline transporting
water from Lamar to the county in an effort to provide a renewable
But before any voting could take place, it was announced that
the applicant, Karl Nyquist with the Elbert and Highway 86
Commercial Metropolitan District, had withdrawn his petition.
People, holding “vote no” signs, cheered as a letter was read by
commissioner Del Schwab from Dianne Miller, legal council
representing the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan
The letter stated that the district had withdrawn the petition
and sincerely appreciated the work of the Elbert County staff and
the consideration of the Elbert County commissioners in processing
the petition to this point. Nyquist and his team did not attend the
Although the public’s excitement was apparent after the
announcement, many residents continued to voice their
disappointment in the commissioners for allowing the petition to
reach this far during public comment. Bill Frangis, former Elbert
County Sheriff and a county resident, said the assembly of people
at the meeting was the largest the county had ever seen and he felt
gratified knowing that Nyquist and the metro district chose to
withdraw their application, but believes the applicant should have
“I don’t thinks it’s proper for any entity to run the county
through this emotional roller coaster and just end up being done
with it in the end,” he said. “I think they should be billed for
all of the hours and all of the costs incurred by this county.”
For long-time resident Maria Soderberg, witnessing a community
come together as a unified front was an emotional experience. As
she spoke to the board, she held back tears and said she was truly
moved by the people of Elbert County.
“Elbert County is an example for this country and this is
exactly what needs to happen in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
“People in this county have spent at least 400,000 hours on this
issue and this is not a small thing. We do have a voice and I
appreciate being in a county where you have a voice.”
A big issue among residents was the lack of communication
between county staff and the public. Complaints about not knowing
the issues until the last minute was a constant gripe from
residents after the potential amendment to the service plan landed
on the July 13 agenda. Because of the lack of information the issue
was continued twice by the commissioners, once to the July 27
meeting then to the Aug. 24 meeting.
Schwab apologized for the county’s website and lack of
information posted in a timely manner and said the county will work
very hard on the website to get the issues worked out. Community
and development services director Richard Miller also commented on
the website and the desire to have better communication with the
“One thing that came out of the meeting is, as soon as an
application is accepted by us, we will post it on the website,” he
said. “That way you will get notified of it before hearing dates
are set and you are welcome to come in and a look at all the
Even though commissioners Schwab and Kurt Schlegel dodged the
vote, they were prepared to make a decision. Commissioner John
Shipper wasn’t present. The commissioners were accused of not
communicating enough with the public about the issue by residents
in the county. Schlegel came to the board’s defense during the
meeting and said due to the law, the board cannot voice their
opinions on land use issues with the public.
“People have said there is no leadership shown from the county
and as commissioners we sit in a quasi-judicial role when we are
looking at these issues and we are unable to speak against or in
favor of any issues that come before the public regardless of our
feelings or beliefs,” he said. “If we say anything publicly against
or in favor of any issues we would then have to recuse ourselves
from making a decision on that issue.”
Schwab also said he was prepared to vote and did not know the
board would be receiving a letter. The focus is doing the right
thing for the county and listening to the people in the county, he
“I didn’t have the opportunity to vote and I’m saddened by
that,” he said. “We take our jobs very seriously and we want to do
the right thing. We have followed the rules and this board has not
hidden anything at all. If you want to talk to us we do not deny
that opportunity to do so.”
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