Update: Family farmhouse shut off, district goes silent
Jay Hagen, whose water was shut off in the latest turn of events regarding a water meter hookup fee, looks over his farmland
SNOHOMISH — The water meter fight at a 65-year-old family farm took another turn last week as the water district shut off water at the Hagen Family Farm.
The Hagens are suffering without water, they told the Tribune. They also have not heard back from their water company, Cross Valley Water District, since their water was shut off on one half of their properties last Tuesday. The shut off was to their main house and a small barn.
The executed shut off Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. was the latest step in a dispute that began last year with the water district demanding a $11,178 hookup fee to add another water meter at a property that had service for 50 years. The Hagens were appalled and wouldn’t pay.
The two small houses and a small barn with sheep and pigs had been getting water from the main house’s water meter for 50 years until the shutoff.
“We’re suffering, what else can I say?” Jay Hagen told the Tribune on Thursday, Aug. 14. “It’s wrong, but we’ll survive. I’m really disappointed with Cross Valley and the way that they’ve behaved. They’re not responding to our emails, or to our lawyer.”
Cross Valley seems to have gone “radio silent” to the Hagens since the Tribune’s story on the water meter dispute was published last week.
A reporter’s calls to the water district’s general manager, Curt Brees, for this follow up story went unreturned; however, Cross Valley personnel said Brees was out of the office until Aug. 21 and they said only Brees could speak about the matter and wouldn’t provide anyone else for the reporter to speak to.
“They’ve shut off our water, then run and hid,” Jay Hagen said of Cross Valley’s silence last week. “They run their own little show – they want to make sure the public knows not to mess with Cross Valley. This is the way they manage, through threats and intimidation. That’s my opinion.”
Currently, the Hagens are getting by without water in their main house, their two smaller vacation rental houses and the smaller barn.
The larger barn across the road still has water on a separate meter. The Hagens have to haul water up and down the hill – between the large barn and the smaller barn – to get water to their animals in the smaller barn that houses their sheep and pigs.
Jay Hagen calls the shut off retaliation for going to the press.
“Talk about retaliation,” Jay Hagen said. “That last story (The Tribune’s story last week) came out and the next day, our water is shut off. We were still in negotiations and there was no final settlement. Nothing was settled. But I guess that’s the way they manage – through intimidation.”
A difference of perception on water meter placement seems to be the crux of the issue.
Cross Valley believes the Hagen Family Farm should have a separate water meter for two vacation houses located on the family’s property on a separate tax parcel.
The Hagens say the existing water meter for the main house and vacation homes, which used to be farmhand houses, has been that way, with Cross Valley’s knowledge, for 50 years without any sudden demand for change until last year.
The Hagens want to know why this connection is not being grandfathered in.
They claim to have spoken with three other water districts who told the Hagens it would be a no brainer to grandfather a connection like this in, Hagen’s longtime girlfriend Barbara Carlson told the Tribune by email.
The other districts were “shocked to hear (Cross Valley) would even pursue this,” she said.
Jay Hagen said for now, all they can do is hold on and hope for negotiations but he was not enthusiastic about it due to lack of communication.
Hagen said they had made an appeal of the shut-off notice, which was mailed to them on Aug. 1, but nothing was said about the appeal.
“They didn’t honor the appeal process, and their lawyer is not responding to our lawyer,” he said.
The water district’s board discussed the Hagens issue again at its Thursday, Aug. 7 meeting, but the meeting minutes were not available by press time.
“We’re not a charity case here, what I need is advice from somebody that’s been through something like this before,” Jay Hagen said. “Who do we contact? They won’t respond. No response. What we need is somebody that may have some good advice and maybe that has been through this – we’re so close, but we’re missing something. I need that water turned back on.”
But not, Hagen said, on Cross Valley’s terms. Not at the tune of $11,178.