By Mark Barnes
The annual Board of Corrections met last Tuesday, March 19, 2013, to discuss issues regarding the Kuna Municipal Irrigation District. With recent corrective measures to resident’s irrigation assessments many Kuna residents saw an assessment bill for the first time this year. According to Kuna city officials, some residents should have been paying for almost 20 years. Instead, the city has been paying the annual water bill from the Boise Kuna Irrigation District without reimbursement from water rights. This year’s meeting took steps to correct that.
The Kuna Municipal Irrigation District Board of Corrections is made up of the current sitting city council members and the mayor. Effectively, it is the city council and mayor, just wearing different hats. They met on Monday evening for a work session to get up to date on the city’s irrigation water issues and to develop a working plan for future improvements.
The Board of Corrections addressed several agenda items. First was what to do about the Plateau and Oasis Subdivisions. When these subdivisions were annexed in to the KMID in 1992, the resident’s were supposed to pay the annual irrigation assessment. This fee was, in turn, supposed to pay for Kuna’s purchase of water from the Boise Kuna Irrigation District. Pressure irrigation lines were not constructed at the time of the subdivision’s construction, and are still unavailable.
Similar to the subdivision’s irrigation issues, the Swan Falls Business Park was annexed in 2001 but irrigation access was never developed for the property owners. There is an underground gravity fed irrigation canal through the park, but no property owners access it. Hence, property owners have not been paying and the city has been picking up the tab.
Gordon Law, Kuna City Engineer recommended to the Board that, due to the city having no plans in the near future to develop access for residences or businesses in neither the business park nor the subdivisions, that they be de-annexed from the KMID. This will return them to the jurisdiction of the Boise Kuna Municipal District who will then bill those properties for the irrigation assessment.
While it may seem that the Board is passing the buck on billing over to another irrigation authority, the BKMD has the power to remove the water rights of the property owners, who do not have access to irrigation water anyway, through the billing and petitioning process. If the city were to maintain these subdivisions within the KMID, and residents do not pay the irrigation assessment, those properties would become subject to liens and seizure by the city. This decision by the board begins the process for residences to remove their water rights.
During discussion of de-annexation, a concern was brought up that if a water right is released to the BKMD by KMID then could it be more difficult to get it back in the future, precisely when the city might need it? Law explained that the city does not use the full amount of water it purchases anyway with an average of 29 percent of the water remaining unused or wasted every year. Mayor Greg Nelson said that after doing the numbers, unless there is a severe drought of more than three years, the city has plenty of irrigation water rights to spare based on current growth. The Board voted 3-1 in favor of this plan.
Other items on the Board of Corrections agenda included review of the deeds of properties who were three years delinquent on their irrigation assessments. Properties three years delinquent in their billing are subject to liens and possible property seizure by the city. The Board voted to eliminate a few properties from the list due to improper billing or record keeping.
The board also voted for city employees to research and notify the note holders of properties that were delinquent on their irrigation assessment. This is intended to inspire the property owners, who have already been notified of their delinquent assessment, to pay their bills by the July deadline. In a situation where the city puts a lien on a property, that lien takes priority over a mortgage note. It was agreed by the board that it is in the best interest of property note holders to encourage property owners to pay their bills. There are approximately 30 properties in Kuna that are on the three-year delinquent irrigation assessment list. It was made very clear by several city officials in the meeting that the goal is to get these properties up to date on their billing as the city has no interest in owning or seizing delinquent properties.
The Future of
Irrigation In Kuna
While working to fix old problems was the primary concern of Tuesday night’s Board of Correction meeting, the city is working to expand irrigation to many areas of the city, a much cheaper option than providing city water for a growing demand.
During Monday evening’s work session, the city council discussed future plans to expand the pressurized irrigation system. While the city cannot hook everyone up at once, it is limited to the geographic reach of the water lines and it’s own budget. Over 90 homes in the Butler subdivision on the northeast corner of School Avenue and Boise Street were singled out as the best option to make pressurized irrigation improvements. Currently, Butler residents are paying a reduced rate of 33¢ per 1,000 gallons of city water. The full price to other residents is $1.57 per 1,000 gallons. The goal is to get the subdivision hooked up to pressurized irrigation water. This is much cheaper for the city than providing filtered and treated city water for watering landscapes. The city council discussed how to go about working with the subdivision’s residents in developing the plans on how this process will work.