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Florence, Deforest family in water fight

Florence, DeForest family in water fight

Staff writer

For 98 years, clear and sparkling water has flowed from Crystal Springs to Florence taps.

Whether that will remain the case in June 2019 is anyone’s guess after city council members on June 4 rejected a contract proposed by the family that owns the springs.

The DeForest family and Florence are coming to the end of a 99-year lease that allotted water to Florence for $500 per year.

Alta Vista resident Linda Long, one of four siblings in the DeForest family, said the family offered a new 10-year contract at a rate of $6,000 per year.

Inflation rates since 1920 indicate that $500 in 1920 would equal $6,264 in 2018.

Long said the contract, approved by lawyers for both the city and the family, was given to Mayor Bob Gayle in April but not put on a council agenda until this month.

Instead of voting to approve the contract, council member Matt Williams moved to set aside all previous offers and offer to purchase Crystal Springs for $60,000.

Council member Reilly Reid seconded the motion. Council member Ken Hoffman voted in favor and council member Trayce Warner voted against.

“I was the lone council member that voted against the step the council decided to take,” Warner said.

Warner said other council members have not been forthcoming about any reasoning they have for declining the contract, although Gayle has said everybody will understand in about a week.

Warner said the 25 to 30 witnesses at the meeting were stunned and unhappy with the council’s decision.

“There’s a recall petition out for the mayor, and I have heard there are recall petition for three other council members,” Warner said.

Long said the DeForest family isn’t trying to take advantage of the city.

“We’re trying to be as fair as we can,” she said. “Water is a commodity, and access to it is something that doesn’t always happen.”

City Clerk Janet Robinson said she had heard that Michelle Hartnagel was circulating recall petitions. A call to Hartnagel’s phone number went to voicemail, which said the mailbox was full and could not accept messages.

Gayle declined to comment on the situation.

“I really don’t have a lot of comment just yet,” Gayle said. “I don’t think this is going to go away any time soon.”

The next council meeting will be Monday.

Last modified June 13, 2018

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