Snohomish farmer, water district spar over $11,000 charge

SNOHOMISH — A dispute over a water meter has resulted in the taps running dry at the Hagen Family Farm.

Jay Hagen has been hauling water for 37 sheep, 12 pigs and his home since last Monday. The Snohomish School Board president said his bill is paid but the Cross Valley Water District still shut off the water at his 220-acre farm.

Hagen, 56, said he has been in a feud with Cross Valley over adding a third water meter to his East Lowell Larimer Road property since last summer. The utility has been sending him notices that he must pay $11,178 to install it, he said. Hagen wants an explanation of the connection charges before he hands over the cash.

“They won’t do it,” he said. “You don’t just turn someone’s water off when you’re in the middle of a negotiation.”

Hagen currently has one meter for his barn. There is a second meter for his home and for two houses he uses as vacation rentals.

“It’s been that way for 50 years,” he said. “We didn’t do anything in the darkness. But all of a sudden, now, they’re not going to tolerate it.”

Cross Valley’s policy requires the vacation houses to be on a separate meter. Hagen wants the utility to allow an exception for his 65-year-old farm.

In an email, Cross Valley Water District Commissioner Mark Cassell said that unapproved connections that go undiscovered — no matter how long — are not exempt from the rule. Everyone using the water system is expected to share equally in the costs, he said.

Enforcing its policy, Cross Valley shut off one of Hagen’s meters last week after sending him a 10-day notice. That left him without water for half of about 100 animals on his farm. The barn meter is still operating, so he is able to water his 47 head of cattle.

Hagen wants to know why Cross Valley’s $11,178 connection fee is higher than neighboring districts he’s checked with.

A representative from the Silver Lake Water District estimated that it would charge about $7,600 to hook up two meters, which it would require — one each for the two vacation houses.

An Alderwood Water District employee said it would require a single meter for the two houses that would cost about $5,600. Both districts noted that those amounts can vary depending on certain factors.

Cassell said Cross Valley’s fees are regularly evaluated to ensure that they cover the costs of building the water system and are reasonable. To be fair to the rest of the district’s customers, the Hagens will have to pay up before service can be restored, he said.

Still, Hagen hopes to work something out with the utility before the travelers he and his wife, Barbara, 51, are expecting arrive for their vacations. He is considering taking legal action.

“Our main goal is to get the water back on,” he said. “You can’t just shut off water on a farm.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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