The state of Colorado has threatened to dissolve the metro district providing water, sewer and road maintenance to hundreds of homes in Durango West 1 subdivision because it has failed to properly file its budgets, audits or election information for years.
The Division of Local Government sent a letter to the metro district and La Plata County officials in June informing the district it could be dissolved because it has not filed budgets or financial audits with the state for at least two years. The district also failed to inform the state of its elections in 2016 and 2018, the letter said.
The failure to file documents led the state to conclude the metro district was no longer serving the more than 250 homes in the subdivision.
“The district has failed to demonstrate to the Division that it has provided or attempted to provide any of the services or facilities for which the District was organized for at least two consecutive years,” the letter says.
However, the district continues to collect monthly fees and property taxes to provide services that residents rely on, such as water and sewer, said Durango West resident Chris Hamilton.
Hamilton said he pays $150 to $160 a month to the district.
Hamilton discovered the metro district was in trouble by accident this week at the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office while exploring other concerns, he said.
Residents were never informed of the threat of dissolution, and “as far as anybody can tell,” the metro district manager and officials have ignored the certified letter, he said.
“That’s enough to cause a complete lost of trust from the residents,” he said.
Hamilton said he would like to see the manager and board of directors held accountable for failing to fulfill their obligations.
“I think they need a full house cleaning; I think the county should appoint a new board,” he said.
The last time the metro district filed election documents with the state was in 2012, when the board’s election was canceled for lack of candidates and three residents were designated board members until 2016, according to documents.
Hamilton said he can’t recall voting for board members and he doesn’t know who is on the board.
Metro district Manager Janet Anderson wrote in an email to The Durango Herald that she was “stumped” by the letter informing her of the possibility of dissolution that arrived while she was on personal leave.
“Obviously, the notice is distressing, but everyone who is familiar with Durango West 1 knows this district is far from being inactive, and I cannot imagine anyone at the state level or the county level would want it to dissolve,” Anderson wrote in the email.
She said the metro district’s audits to the state are late because qualified accountants are expensive and many accountants struggle with governmental accounting.
The metro district expected to submit its 2017 audit Thursday, she said. If it is submitted this week, it will be a full year late, she said. The 2018 audit could be finished by the end of the year, she said.
The metro district also has outstanding debt for wastewater treatment plant updates and water service debt, she said.
A metro district with outstanding financial obligations cannot be dissolved by the state, according to the “Colorado Local Government Handbook.”
To dissolve the metro district, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office must file a request in court, the letter says.
At this time, the Attorney General’s Office has no plans to file a petition and metro district services are not in danger, said Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesmen for the office.
The last known representative for the metro district will be given a chance to demonstrate compliance before the state files to dissolve the district in court, said Natriece Bryant, deputy director of the Department of Local Affairs, which oversees the Division of Local Government.
She did not respond to other questions, including whether the metro district could be reformed under different leadership.
The dissolution of a metro district by the state is rare, said Ann Terry, executive director of the Special District Association of Colorado.
“This is highly unusual and not taken lightly,” she said. “It’s an action that state statute allows for after a district has been given notice about several or many missed filing deadlines.”