Wes Suhr, chairman of the Pine/Strawberry Water Improvement District's Water Development Committee has taken issue with an advertisement published in the Oct. 12 edition of the Payson Roundup.
The ad, "Concerned Special Interests Alert" should have carried the line "Paid for by Milk Ranch LLC," but only said "Paid advertisement" in the Roundup. The missing text was the result of a production error.
At the Oct. 19 meeting of the P/SWID, Suhr read a printed statement, "First, we want all taxpayers in the Pine/Strawberry Water Improvement District (P/SWID) to understand that the meeting flyers posted as ‘Concerned Citizens Alert' ... did not originate with and were not approved by P/SWID. The statements represent special interests within our community. The allegations and implications stated are contrary to the recently approved motions of the Board, and are intended to destroy the progress P/SWID has made to acquire additional water for the overall benefit of this District. For that reason, I must respond with my viewpoint, in as simple a manner as possible."
Suhr's statement went on to address 10 points made in the advertisement.
He said the water group is negotiating with Brooke Utilities regarding the drilling of a deep water well in Strawberry, but it is not yet finalized. It is only hoped the agreement can be completed this year.
According to Suhr's statement, P/SWID is assisting in the development of the deep well for three primary reasons:
- This site has immediate access to available power, storage and transmission facilities.
- The site allows for gravity flow to the distribution system in Pine
- The site has good potential for drilling to intercept the deep aquifer, according to three separate hydrogeologic reports.
These reasons should significantly reduce the cost of well development and operation, as compared to other sites, Suhr said.
Ray Pugel, who is one of the principles with Milk Ranch LLC, said plans to drill in Strawberry go directly against what the group's hydrogeologist Mike Ploughe recommended to the P/SWID. Ploughe was also Pugel's hydrogeologist for his well site in Pine.
"In his report, he said deep water wells in Strawberry need to be at least 2,000 feet, while in Pine deep water can be found at 1,500 feet," Pugel said. Additionally, wells in Strawberry run the risk of possibly drawing from water that feeds Fossil Creek and other surface water sources.
Suhr said the $300,000 in tax dollars the ad claims is being given to Brooke Utilities "is part of the present budget of P/SWID, accumulated through the fiscal year by an approved tax rate of the District's taxpayers. The responsibility of the Board is to utilize these tax dollars in the best interest of the District which is to find new water, to assure water year-round, and to stop the hauling of water."
If the money goes to Brooke Utilities and the system is improved, with access to new water, the utility will raise rates to pay back P/SWID. With the money returned, Suhr said the improvement district's tax rate would drop for its property owners.
"That doesn't even make sense," Pugel said.
"The District has determined that working with the present utility is the lowest cost alternative and therefore, would be less of an obligation to the taxpayer," Suhr said. He went on to say the agreement with Brooke Utilities "is not a ‘giveaway' of taxpayer dollars. This is a blatantly (false) charge. If an agreement between the District and BU/PWC can be achieved, resulting in a productive well, it will be an achievement for both Pine and Strawberry, and the first time in 10 years that P/SWID has procured new water."
Pugel said he stands by the information that appeared in the advertisement. He attended the Oct. 19 meeting to discuss his well and why it was drilled, to share the hydrogeologic report and have Ploughe answer questions about it.
Suhr said the district exists to best represent all interests to acquire additional water in the most cost-effective manner.