WATER group dissatisfied with meeting, Mayor sees positives

Skye Kinkade

Members of the WATER group say they were unimpressed with the city’s meeting last week during which presentations were made about Crystal Geyser and its planned use of the Ski Village Drive facility to manufacture juices and teas.

Mayor Tim Stearns, who presided over the five hour meeting, said he felt it was “good... in terms of getting new information to the council and the community that we didn’t have before” and it “showed us areas where we need more information.”

WATER group members said they felt “insulted” and “have no interest in helping the city amble down a path it has already clearly chosen” in regard to its inaction demanding an Environmental Impact Report for the facility.

“We deserve an apology for such behavior,” they said in a collaborative statement after the March 24 meeting, which included presentations from Richard Weklych, Crystal Geyser’s executive vice president of manufacturing; Judy Yee, the company’s executive vice president of marketing; Paul Reuter with PACE Engineering; Drew Braugh from California Trout; Pete Rude and Martin Barackman from CH2M-HILL; and Tonya Dowse, Monte Mendenhall and Eric Levesque from SCEDC.

The WATER group is composed of concerned citizens who believe a full and impartial EIR is critical before Crystal Geyser be allowed to operate. Representatives for the group include Vicki Gold, Bruce Hillman, and Roslyn McCoy.

During the meeting, dozens of questions from the audience were fielded via slips of paper, and Stearns read selected questions aloud to panelists.

Not all the questions were asked to keep the meeting on track and to avoid redundancy, Stearns said.

“There were so many, we would have been there probably until today if we read them all,” Stearns joked on Tuesday morning.

All the questions, even those that weren’t voiced last week, will be sent to Crystal Geyser, and the city has decided to make them all part of the public record, Stearns said.

“If Tim (Stearns) couldn't decipher the handwriting, he could easily have just asked the person to stand up and ask the questions,” said the WATER group in a statement. “Many important and specific questions we know were submitted were passed over by Tim.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t make everyone happy,” Stearns said. “I did try to take a good cross section and I think we selected some fairly pointed questions.”

A public comment period was held at the end of the meeting. Comments were cut from three minutes to two minutes per person in the interest of time.

Stearns said changing the length of public comments was a “discretionary call” that is typical when large numbers of people wish to speak.

“The intent was not to cut people off, but to allow more people to speak” within the meeting’s time restraints, Stearns said.

Some members of the audience expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of information presented by Crystal Geyser during the public comment.

The WATER group said some left in open disgust, vocally objecting. They pointed to at least 20 people they know who stayed home to watch because they didn't want to participate in a “mock public hearing.”

The group called attention to poor quality picture and audio via MCTV-15, which broadcasts Mount Shasta City Council meetings live in a streaming feed. This has been a persistent problem for many months.

They were also upset that the public comment portion of the meeting came at the end, rather than the beginning, because many panelists left before it began.

They were perturbed because the city didn’t allow them to bring in large displays when Crystal Geyser had room for theirs.

The group asked why the city’s attorney, John Kenny, and city planner Tuli Potts did not contribute to the meeting, though they were sitting at the table.

“We taxpayers pay (John Kenny’s) salary, so why was he allowed to sit there mute?” asked the group. “It is not as if this question is new to him and he couldn't have been prepared in advance to answer!”

Of Potts, the group said, “Isn’t she paid to review and investigate such planning matters on her own? This isn't rocket science, and for someone who is tasked with such a responsibility, why did she also sit mute throughout the meeting? She is new, we know, but should have been encouraged to contribute in a meaningful way.”

Stearns said neither Kenny or Potts were scheduled speakers and were instead there to get educated on the Crystal Geyser issue.

As for the quality of the information presented, Stearns said the meeting wasn’t a necessity.

“(Crystal Geyser representatives) showed up voluntarily. They were our invited guests,” said Stearns. “They had no obligation to do so. I think the fact that they showed up and participated was a good sign.”