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Gazette opinion: Time for the Heights Water District Board to shape up

Gazette opinion: Time for the Heights Water District Board to shape up

Heights Water Board

Newly elected members of the Billings Heights water district board held their first meeting in the parking lot of the district's headquarters on May 12.

The Billings Heights water district is trying to stop a process as inexorable as water running downhill.

It won't work, but the tactics of the remaining fragments of the old board's power structure — the board's offices were locked in an attempt to prevent new board members from convening Wednesday — are an indication of sheer desperation.

The last-gasp effort was ineffective: A quorum of the new board met anyway, in the parking lot, and vowed to conduct its business with professionalism and transparency.

Which would be a change.

The board has rebuffed any involvement from outside entities — like the City of Billings and Yellowstone County, who are tasked by ordinance with providing one board member each. The city and county nominees to the board have been told they wouldn't be seated, and the district has sought to delay the seating of the reform slate of board candidates that defeated three incumbents.

Those three new members, Ming Cabrera, Laura Drager and Dennis Cook, were the ones meeting in the parking lot along with City-appointed member Jeff Engel and county-appointed member Pam Ellis.

Voters' intentions were clear. They ousted the three incumbents after a shocking series of events, including the refusal to pay for $1 million of water that the district obtained at a rate far below its worth, then sold to its customers.

Earlier Wednesday, attorneys for the city and county successfully requested a restraining order preventing the district from taking action to delay the new members taking their seats.

We don't know what the old staffers and board members are trying to hide.  But the disregard for the electoral process and the continuing efforts to dodge the obligation to the city certainly raise questions. We urge the new board members to make good on their promise of transparency to both the district's customers and its partners in local government.

The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes President and Publisher Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber, and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.


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