County Loses One Round Over Water Hookups

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A Greenlee County Superior Court judge has ruled that the Strawberry Hollow Water Company cannot make any additional service connections.

The ruling, by Judge Monica Stauffer, represents a partial decision on the lawsuit filed Aug. 20, 2001, against Gila County by Pine Water Company. In the suit, Pine Water Company maintained that the formation of the new Strawberry Hollow Domestic Water Improvement District was not in the public interest and asked the court to declare the Gila County Board of Supervisors action in forming the district invalid.

The area served by Pine Water Company, which includes the 72-parcel Strawberry Hollow development, has been plagued by a water shortage for many years -- the severity of which has caused the Arizona Corporation Commission to impose water service moratoriums of varying degrees in the area. Pine Water Company maintains that the Strawberry Hollow district, which is not under the jurisdiction of the ACC, was created to circumvent those moratoriums.

Bob Hardcastle, president of Brooke Utilities, the parent company of Pine Water, said the Strawberry Hollow district was "clearly the developer's attempt to pull an end-run around the (ACC's water service) moratorium."

Hardcastle expressed satisfaction with the latest ruling.

"We have maintained and argued from day one that Strawberry Hollow Water Improvement District was serving water illegally," he said.

Strawberry Hollow developer Loren Peterson said he plans to appeal the decision, and that the battle is far from over.

"The judge's decision hasn't been written yet," he said. "It's just been verbal. Due to the fact that (Pine company) has lost so many court battles, they're trying to make a big deal out of this one. This is going to be a very temporary thing in my opinion."

The next phase of litigation will deal with the Strawberry Hollow district's application to possess the part of Pine Water Company's certificate of convenience and necessity that applies to that subdivision only.

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