We obviously disagree with Mr. Christensen and many of his views about water.
The truth is, he is not as informed about water issues in Pine and Strawberry as he should be. Based on our own operational experience, and after conducting regional hydrological research that Mr. Christensen claims hasn't been done, we concur with the Arizona Corporation Commission, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and not less than six independent regional water studies conducted since the 1960s that conclude Pine does not have the water resources necessary to support the summer population.
Mr. Christensen believes as much as $20 million should be spent developing alternative water supplies. We agree. Clearly, this statement points out the seriousness of the problem.
The result of this investment, regardless of who makes it, will result in monthly water bills of $500 or more. We have no intention of creating that kind of burden for our customers--especially to expand Gila County's tax base.
Every other reasonable alternative must be considered first. To date, Brooke Utilities has invested more money in the water systems in Pine and Strawberry than all previous owners combined.
For Gila County to continue to develop water improvement districts to support an increasing tax base is foolish.
Every time a water district is formed, the cost of water to Brooke's customers is greater because the increasingly scarce water is being taken from the same place. This is nothing more than self-serving planning.
It makes no difference whether there are 8, 18, or 98 developed lots in Pine's water improvements districts. If a sufficient year-round water supply does not exist more growth just exacerbates the problem.
We believe that is a high price to pay for continued growth.
The Strawberry Hollow Water Improvement District is a political subdivision of Gila County. As such, Strawberry Hollow is currently serving water to customers without the authority to do so. Strawberry Hollow exists in the middle of Pine's regulatorily defined water service area.
The water being served without authority to do so, is water that now can't be served to Pine's customers. Strawberry Hollow has not paid for the water being taken to serve its homeowners. In this country, Mr. Christensen, you still can't take someone else's property without paying for it.
Brooke will continue to make prudent water system investment. No matter what we do, water will likely cost much more in the future. This is, however, no reason for it to cost more than is has to. By taking a conservative investment approach and focusing on the customer, we will provide the best service at the lowest rates.
Robert T. Hardcastle, President, Brooke Utilities, Inc.