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Lake Rockport Estates seeks consensus on water supply crisis

Lake Rockport Estates is a neighborhood with 178 water hookups above Rockport Reservoir. But it sources its water from wells, not the lake.
Bryan - stock.adobe.com
Lake Rockport Estates is a neighborhood with 178 water hookups above Rockport Reservoir. But it sources its water from wells, not the lake.

A Rockport neighborhood could join Summit County’s public water company—if all the property owners buy in.

Lake Rockport Estates, a neighborhood in the hills across state Route 32 from Rockport Reservoir, has a water shortage from a failing well.

As more residents opt to live in the seasonal cabin community year-round, they’ve had to truck in water during winter, when their shallow pipes freeze.

Among the possible solutions is annexation into Mountain Regional Water Special Service District, the county’s public water company.

Members of the Summit County Council, which governs Mountain Regional, say they’re supportive—as long as Lake Rockport residents want to foot the bill.

The council’s support for Lake Rockport’s discussions with Mountain Regional pleasantly surprised property owners association board member Skyler Kershner, who sits on a committee focused on sourcing new water.

But Summit County is imposing a high bar: 100% consensus from all Lake Rockport property owners.

“We're optimistic that we can get there,” Kershner said. “We're not so delusional to where we're not also looking into other options.”

That’s because annexation could be expensive. Since the council gave the greenlight at its meeting June 12, Mountain Regional’s engineers are studying how to connect to Lake Rockport.

That study won’t be ready until early 2025, but it will provide a better estimate of how much annexation could cost.

“That is going to be a big part of getting community consent,” Kershner said. “If the cost is just extremely burdensome, I think we'll have a harder time getting consent.”

Mountain Regional Water Executive Director Andy Garland has ballparked annexation at $20 million, or potentially $300 per month. That would include connecting Lake Rockport’s old pipes to Mountain Regional and winterizing them.

Kershner said there are other cheaper paths forward. Lake Rockport could simply buy water from Mountain Regional, before it improves its pipes, spreading out costs over a longer period of time.

“But it's hard to get 100% of people to say whether it's day or night,” Councilmember Chris Robinson said June 12.

Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas said getting consensus is important because of Summit County’s experience taking over water service in Pine Meadows, across Interstate 80.

“Because there was not 100% unanimity, that turned into an absolute disaster,” Thomas said during the council meeting.

Nowadays, the county water company needs 75% support to annex an area. Back then, there was no such requirement.

When the county annexed Pine Meadows, Thomas said, it spawned multiple lawsuits that lasted nearly a decade. Eventually, the state legislature passed a special law allowing Summit County to de-annex the area.

That’s what county officials want to avoid in Lake Rockport.

But, there could be reasons to consider annexation without unanimity. Councilmember Tonja Hanson has friends in the neighborhood who she’s seen struggle to source water—but it's not just them.

“My concern is not just the Rockport residents, it's a wildfire going somewhere else that's going to impact other areas of our county,” Hanson said. “I think we need to think about that.”

Lake Rockport’s property owners association discussed the water crisis at its annual member meeting this June, but likely won’t take a final vote until the engineering study is complete.

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