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New CRW officials promise 'mutual respect'

Regardless of how the recall election for Clackamas River Water turns out, three new board members say they’re helping the organization solve problems to serve customers better than it has before.

In November, Clackamas County stepped into bitter disputes on the water district’s governing board by appointing Hugh Kalani, Ken Humberston and Larry Sowa. The three men say they had never met before interviewing with county commissioners, but since taking office, have developed a rapport that’s allowed them to pass a series of measures in less than four months, frequently despite 3-2 votes.

They all plan to file for election in May prior to the March 21 deadline. They also have kept arm’s length from the recall effort of Patricia Holloway and have declined to take formal positions on it.

But based on their other statements and actions, it’s clear that the three are seeking to break with the reputation that CRW’s infighting board developed as being embarrassing and dysfunctional.

“We are trying to work with the organization’s management team, rather than trying to work against them,” Humberston said.

Sowa, using his experience leading meetings of Clackamas County commissioners and CRW’s budget committee, has enforced a ban of commissioners talking directly to one another.

“It’s called mutual respect, which I’m not sure was there a year ago,” Sowa said.

Kalani and Humberston said they supported the new policies, even if they also have to be reminded sometimes to follow them, because meetings are less than half the length that they had been.

“You don’t get arguments back and forth because the chair keeps that tight gavel,” Humberston said. “It’s not a circus any longer.”

In separate conversations outside of public meetings, the three new board members have developed a “laundry list” of achievements and goals for CRW. During their time on the board, they have annexed Johnson City into the district, required that commissioners work through General Manager Lee Moore in order to talk with contracted vendors, and placed the district’s attorney on a retainer they hope will save $60,000 annually when compared with past burgeoning annual legal bills.

“We looked at years of accusations by spending hours and hours poring over reports and audits to find that every one of them was untrue,” Humberston said.

Next they hope to finalize a water-supply agreement with Milwaukie so the city doesn’t have to build wells.

“We have the surplus water, and they need the water,” Kalani said.

Sowa plans to consider asking CRW taxpayers to approve a bond measure to repair recently acquired pipes that are reaching the end of their lifespan. Within the past couple of months, there were two large breaks near Redland Road in Oregon City where CRW lost thousands in spilled water and emergency repair costs.

All three candidates have more than 35 years of experience on volunteer and elected boards. For their service, CRW board members receive $50 per meeting, plus up to $50 at $15 per hour for other local public meetings they are expected to attend.



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