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BoCC recommends Ford for SJWCD board

With the San Juan Water Conservancy District still struggling to fill a board position left vacant since May 2009, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) stepped in Tuesday and offered a recommendation of their own.

In a letter to District Judge Gregory Lyman, the commissioners recommended that Lyman appoint J.R. Ford to the water board.

Lyman makes the final decision regarding who serves on the conservancy district board.

“J.R. Ford has extensive experience in water resources matters and has served on the Southwestern Water Conservation District since February 2008 and in the past the same County representative has served on both boards. He is a long time community leader and is active in many local organizations,” the letter reads.

According to Ford’s resumé, his company specializes in ranch and range management and developed Hidden Valley Lake in 1996. Ford’s company also owns or manages water rights in the San Juan River, Four Mile Ditch and the Pine River Canal. In addition, Ford serves on a variety of area boards and works with a number of organizations, including: the Southwestern Water Conservation District, Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo, Pagosa Mountain Hospital Finance Committee, Club 20, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Mercy Regional Hospital board, the Mercy Regional Hospital Strategic Planning Committee, and the Archuleta County Citizen’s Financial Oversight Task Force.

Archuleta County Commissioner and board chair Bob Moomaw explained that recommendations for conservancy district board appointments typically come from the conservancy district board itself; however, and in light of Ford’s qualifications and the lingering vacancy, the commissioners endorsed Ford’s application and recommended that Lyman consider Ford for the post.

The conservancy district board vacancy was created in April 2009 with the abrupt resignation of former director Fred Schmidt. Schmidt served on the board in excess of 18 years. His departure came with nearly three years remaining in his current term.

During a May 11 meeting, two prospective replacements approached the board — Trout Unlimited water attorney Mely Whiting and Archuleta County Director of Community Development Rick Bellis.

In a letter to Lyman however, Whiting withdrew her application May 15 because of Trout Unlimited’s litigation against the conservancy district and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Dry Gulch Reservoir plans. Although Whiting was not directly involved in the litigation she acknowledged that her appointment may be perceived as a conflict of interest.

By contrast, Bellis’ application hangs in limbo, as it remains unclear whether he meets essential residency and property ownership requirements necessary for a board post.

According to conservancy district rules, board members must have lived in the district at least one year and own property in the district. At the time of his application, conservancy district board members could not ascertain whether Bellis met either of those requirements.

SUN staff writer Chuck McGuire contributed to this story.