Sun, Dec. 15

We are broke and out of guardian angels

As past chairman of the Board of the Verde Lakes Recreation Corporation, I must object to the tone and content of your article in the Nov. 21 Bugle.

So that others in our community may understand what we at Verde Lakes Recreational Corp. have been enduring for the last few years, let me give you some facts:

When Park Central Properties filed the suit to stop our water from coming into our two ponds at Verde Lakes, we had 20 days to respond. It is true that we did not respond in the time ordered by the suit. A restraining order was issued for us to "Cease and Desist" from taking water from the ditch for which we have paid ditch fees for over 20 years and has filled our lakes for over 100 years.

Why didn't we respond in a timely manner? Money. No one in Verde Lakes had an extra $40,000 to give to attorneys. While many people in our community benefit from our beautiful area, at that time, we had less than 20 members. Our membership is $25 a year. With taxes of over $300 and a $300 ditch fee, we could not afford legal representation. As a corporation, we, by law, must have an attorney represent us in court.

Here is the content of your article to which I object: You quoted Shield Ranch and Park Central Properties as saying, "According to Shield Ranch and Park Central Properties, the former board failed to respond."

We responded with a motion to set aside the default. We started this action well before the current board was voted in. Besides personally paying attorneys fees from my own pocket, here are some things that we tried to do to get help. These are all part of the Motion to Set Aside the Default filed with Judge David L. Mackey on which he will rule any day.

First, at the time the VLRC was served with the suit, we were led to believe that if the suit was settled the Wingfield Ditch group (which we are a part), we would be included in the settlement. When it was evident that this was not going to be the case, we began efforts to have the corporation adequately represented. Since we did not have the $40,000-plus to defend ourselves, here are a few contacts we made to try to get help:

1. Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. (Not interested in water right issues.)

2. Community Legal Services, Inc. (Not responsive.)

3. Yavapai County Attorney's office (Declined to help)

4. Snell and Wilmer (They wanted a $10,000 retainer expecting over $40,000 to complete the lawsuit.)

5. Egelman/Berger (They declined.)

6. Justin Vaughn, of Vaughn/Ledbetter, P.L.L.C. (He declined.)

7. Arizona Fish and Game (Not their job.)

8. Audubon Society

9. The Nature Conservancy.

10. Green Peace.

11. Several officials from the Town of Camp Verde including Fire Chief Phillip Harbeson. Chief Harbeson wrote a letter about the need to keep the lakes to provide fire protection for the residents of Verde Lakes.

12. The Arizona Department of Water Resources. (We obtained a confirmation of Assignments of Statements of Claim of Rights that indicates that the water rights of our predecessor in title has been assigned to VLRC.)

13. Salt River Project.

In May 2004, we were out of options when I met John G. Gliege, an attorney from Flagstaff. He agreed to help us out of the goodness of his heart. He has been a godsend. So far, he has donated over $5,000 in legal services to help us get the default judgment dismissed. We can no longer impose on his generous nature.

\We have had a garage sale, bake sale, pleaded, begged and had membership drives. Our residents have been tireless in trying to fight for our water. The former board failed to respond? I don't think so.

Who are the winners? The attorneys. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on this water grab. We are part of the Wingfield Ditch group, which has spent tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves in the Shield Ranch V. Park Central Properties suit. They are billing VLRC for over $3,800 in attorney's fees for our part of the larger suit. But, if we lose the default judgment, we lose everything. We will not have representation at the Jan. 11 trial for the settlement. We are broke and out of guardian angels.

I guess I am a little insulted that on the front page of your paper it seems that a big sign that says "Private Property, No Trespassing, Members Only" represents our struggle to you.

Why don't you come out here and take pictures of the three pairs of roosting wood ducks. Or, the widowed disabled veteran who comes every day with his little dog to feed the geese. (By the way, he is not a paying member.) Or how about the kids whose faces light up when they catch a bluegill? Or the mentally challenged girl who walks her dogs around the ponds in the mornings? Or the many other individuals and families who enjoy this beautiful oasis whether they are members or not? Why don't you tell this community what they will lose if we lose?

We in Verde Lakes are a community of hard working, honorable people who, we are told, represents one-third of the voting population of Camp Verde. How about some help?

Jim Young is the past chairman of the Verde Lakes Recreation Corporation.

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