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Future of backup well uncertain for Welches Water Company posted on 09/01/2020

At the Saturday, Aug. 22 annual meeting of the Welches Water Company, held over Zoom, president Ray Miller noted the non-profit, which serves 130 households, could not resolve problems surrounding access to its backup well through mediation.

The backup well, which has seen heavy use over the past two years, was built in the 1990s on property then owned by Doug Saldivar and his wife, but the property was sold two years ago to Mark Tobias and Monica Taylor. An agreement between the Saldivars and the water company from 2001 gave the company access to the well and a shed, but an easement was never filed with the county and a copy of that agreement did not surface until this past spring.

Jennie Bricker, an attorney representing Tobias and Taylor, noted at the meeting that they do not believe they are bound by that agreement.

“The bottom line is Mark and Monica took title to the property with no knowledge of the agreement,” Bricker said, adding that her clients had been informed of an informal agreement when purchasing the property and had wanted to craft a written agreement with the water company. “Things could have been much different. I regret that they have gotten to this point.”

Bricker added that the couple did not feel they were getting cooperation from the water company, including a “threat” that the company could convert into a district and take the property via condemnation.

Tobias and Taylor sent a letter dated Aug. 14 to the members of the water company, explaining their side and outlining their terms for continued use of the well.

Saldivar, who still lives in the area, also attended the annual meeting to respond to aspects of that letter, including the contention that Tobias and Taylor were not aware of the fact that the well was intended for the water company’s use.

“It surprised me a little bit,” Saldivar said. “I have a feeling with the stress and everything that’s going on, they remembered things differently.”

He noted that when the property was put on the market, he created a website that included a page with information on the well and the water company, including three associated easements, while also explaining the situation when interested buyers toured the property. He also provided a three-ringed binder with zoning and other information to Tobias and Taylor after the purchase and in the disclosure forms when the closing on the property took place.

Saldivar also added that the well was discussed during the process when he and his wife considered keeping part of the property that included the well and when he recommended that Tobias and Taylor serve on the water company’s board, noting there was “no motivation to keep info from them.”

Saldivar did take responsibility for not recording the 2001 contract with the county.

The standoff on the well leaves the water company unable to make changes to the shed, preventing them from upgrading to a UV filtration system. Miller noted that they are operating as if under the 2001 agreement, but that future steps are up to Tobias and Taylor.

“They have threatened us with the closure of the well and the closure of the shed area,” Miller said. “The next move is up to them.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

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CONTACT US: Garth Guibord, Editor  / Frances Berteau, Publisher
The Mountain Times, PO Box 1031, Welches OR 97067 
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