In an article in the Feb. 21 issue of the Payson Roundup, local realtor Ray Pugel argues that it would be in the best interest of Pine and Strawberry for the PSWID to purchase and operate the local water company.
Contrary to his representations, such an action does not have broad community support, would bring no benefits to Pine and Strawberry, would increase taxes and water bills for local residents and would redirect the efforts of the PSWID away from finding more water to operate a severely strained water system.
At the PSWID meeting in which Mr. Pugel sought funding to study the purchase of the water company, many more residents spoke against this action than in support of it. They pointed out that the PSWID was currently devoting all of its resources to finding additional water and had neither the time nor the expertise to undertake the repair and maintenance of a deficient system.
In addition, the current manager of the water company, Mr. Robert Hardcastle, has reported that although the utility lost about 36 percent of its production to leaks during the year in which it was acquired, last year this lost production was about 3 to 4 percent. He stated that further reductions in this loss would not significantly improve the communities' water shortage problems.
The cost for purchase of the water utility could be far in excess of what these small communities could bear. Estimates have gone as high as $11 million based upon similar company sales. When this cost is added to the millions which would be required to repair the infrastructure, resident's taxes and water bills would become prohibitive.
Finally, the PSWID is just now finalizing a strategy for drilling a deep well that could yield a long-term solution to the Pine/Strawberry water shortage. To distract the district from this effort would not be in the communities' interests. Contrary to Mr. Pugel's statements, the PSWID has revealed no intention to give such water to the utility, but a board member indicated in the article that it could be sold to them. Such an arrangement would not increase the future purchase price of the utility. Realtor Pugel believes it would be an advantage for the community to be free of regulation by the Arizona Corporation Commission, when, in fact, the only advantage falls to the realtors and developers advocating this purchase. They would then be free to add new water hookups and expand water usage without restriction.
Steven Scott, Citizens for an Adequate Water Supply