Well Proposal Fuels Possible Recall

Corporation board hearing requested

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The opposition to the proposed K2 well in Strawberry could lead to a recall campaign against members of the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board.

Many Strawberry and Pine residents remain opposed to the agreement between PSWID and the Pine Water Company to drill a deep well in Strawberry. Several of these residents and landowners of Pine and Strawberry have formed a group called, Rim Country Water, to fight the proposal.

The group has a deep concern about the agreement, which they feel is both controversial and discriminatory in nature.

It is the position of the group that the agreement is a joint problem of both Pine and Strawberry and it is best to address the water issues together.

After reviewing the well agreement, a consultant's report concerning the well, financial reports of the various parties, statements made by the various parties, and conduct of parties involved, Rim Country Water has decided to take a more aggressive position, said group member, Fred Krafczyk.

A meeting of Rim Country Water is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in the Pine Senior Center, to discuss options by which they can better protect their water and financial resources.

One of the items under consideration is the recall of PSWID board members who supported the agreement without requesting or receiving proper legal advice. Another issue is that PSWID agreed that Brooke had the right to approve the legal counsel to represent the board.

PSWID Chairman Gary Sherlock said legal advice on the matter has been received from both the county and district attorney, William Sullivan.

As for "the right (of Pine Water Company) to approve legal counsel," Sherlock said, the water company never exercised this right.

The county recommended Sullivan to the improvement district, he said.

Regarding the possibility of a recall, Sherlock said everyone has the right to take whatever action they choose.

Briefly stated, according to Rim Country Water, anyone can review the K-2 Agreement and realize there are many instances where the water resources and financial assets of the residents are or will be at risk. It is Rim Country Water's contention that there are several instances where potential conflicts of interest by members of the PSWID board have been questioned in letters and statement at meetings of the improvement district.

The conflict has to do with the purchase of property from the Pine Water Company by board member Jim Richey.

According to Sherlock, a new board member made the real estate transaction before coming on the board. "This was addressed in the June meeting," Sherlock said.

The PSWID authorized spending $300,000 of taxpayer money in the drilling of a bore or test well.

This bore is a high risk and speculative endeavor that should never be used on a basically wildcat drilling effort, according to the Rim Country Water group, with the initial risk resting with the taxpayers. The well is to be drilled in Strawberry and the water, if found, will be routed to Pine. There are little to no benefits for Strawberry, according to Rim Country Water. Only excess water may be routed back to Strawberry.

The group contends, "It is apparent that appropriate due diligence was not performed in a number of areas. For example, the well is within 100 feet of a septic tank; the necessary easements had been abandoned or the company may not be granted access; the legal description of the well site was in error; a consultant's report stated that the site was inappropriate for several reasons, deep water wells already drilled in Pine have water, but the owners were not contacted to negotiate the purchase of their water. They are just beginning other studies such as electromagnetic tests now. This should be initial due diligence."

Members of Rim Country Water are structuring an action plan to protect current water resources and structure a means to provide water now and for future generations.

All interested parties can participate by attending a meeting on Sunday, July 22, at the Senior Citizens Center at the Pine Community Center.

Questions may be submitted by e-mail to rimcountrywater@yahoo.com. The group is in the process of building a Web site, rimcountrywater.org, which should be online by Monday, Krafczyk said.

Dina Galassini, another Strawberry resident with concerns about the well proposal, has taken her questions to the Arizona Corporation Commission urging it not to give its approval to the deal.

Writing to corporation Commissioner Kristin Mayes, Galassini said, "I object to this agreement as it is extremely one-sided and a raw deal for Strawberry residents.

"I truly believe that PWCo (and the district) intend to intentionally do harm to Strawberry's residents with this agreement."

Because the ACC has received so much correspondence from area residents concerned about the proposed well and the agreement between the water district and water company, Mayes has requested the ACC hold a public hearing on the financing application Pine Water Company has submitted for the K2 well project.

Mayes said such a hearing will "allow members of both communities to participate in the proceedings if they so wish, and to give Commissioners the opportunity to ask additional questions regarding the planned K-2 well, including how water from the well would be dedicated between the two communities."

A date has not been set.

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