Water line dispute divides Parachute mayor, challenger | PostIndependent.com

Water line dispute divides Parachute mayor, challenger

The mayoral race in Parachute is heating up as the days wind down to the April 2 election.

Incumbent John Loschke is facing off against challenger Judy Hayward for the seat.

The candidates have squared off on either side of an issue that has divided this town of 1,000.

Since a new high school bond was approved by the voters last November, members of the Grand Valley Parks Association and the Parachute/Battlement Mesa Parks and Recreation District have spoken out against the town’s plan to loop a water and sewer line across the town’s ballfields and rodeo ground.

The Parks and Recreation District owns the property.

Both groups have accused the town of pushing through a decision on the lines without finding an alternative.

In addition, Hayward has questioned whether Loschke has a conflict of interest.

She questioned his motives because he sat on the school board when the high school location was approved.

And Loschke’s employer, Gary Dean, owns land for development that would benefit from the new water and sewer lines. Loschke is the general manager of the Super 8 Motel, which is owned by Dean.

“The high school water line, as it sits right now, is a dead end,” Loschke said. “If something goes wrong, the school won’t have water. It’s in the best interest of the school, the kids and the residents of Parachute to loop that water line.”

Construction on the line is set to begin next week.

Hayward said the parks association and recreation district were not consulted about the location of the water and sewer lines. Hayward is an association board member and served as its president two years ago.

“We were told what was needed to do by the town council. We were told the water and sewer lines had to go across the ballfields and rodeo grounds. We were never asked,” she said.

Loschke said the parks association and recreation district boards are close to agreement with the town over the location of the lines. The lines will occupy the same trench and will cut behind the ballfields, across the parking lot.

“I feel we’re making progress,” he said.

Hayward also said Loschke clearly has a conflict of interest over the location of the water and sewer lines.

“A person does not vote, does not negotiate, if he or a person he works for receives financial benefit or the potential for benefit (from a development),” she said.

“People see a water line across the street from the piece of property Gary Dean is planning to develop. There’s this perceived benefit he will receive, and John Loschke works for him. In my opinion John should not be out there pushing for it,” Hayward said.

Loschke took issue with the accusation. In all the years he’s been involved in the town board, the school board and the planning commission, he said, he’s never been accused of having a conflict.

“How come it was never an issue until now?” he asked.

He also pointed out that Dean has offered to pay half the cost of the water line.

“If it was some other developer, would it still be the best thing for the town? Yes. Is the developer willing to pay his way? Yes,” he said.

Both Loschke and Hayward say they have sound reasons for wanting to be Parachute’s mayor.

Loschke, who has served on the town board for 17 years and been mayor for eight, would like to continue because he feels he’s built a good team of town trustees and staff.

“We debate, but we defer to the majority. We disagree but still manage to be friends,” he said. “The staff and board have a good comfort level between them.”

Loschke also has a personal reason for serving on town government.

“The reason I do it, and my family allows me to do it, is because it’s a good way to give back to the community.”

Hayward believes she can bring people together in the community.

“We’ve got to get people involved in the community. I want to make this the best little town in the state,” she said.

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