The Pine-Strawberry Water Improve-ment District has approved the hiring of controversial Flagstaff attorney John Gliege.
His hiring, which occurred last evening, Thursday, at a PSWID meeting held in the Pine Cultural Hall --was approved by a 5-1 margin with only vice chair Barbara Hall casting the no vote.
Prior to the meeting, some Pine-Strawberry residents had questioned employing Gliege as PSWID legal council claiming a conflict of interest existed because he had previously represented Loren Peterson and Ray Pugel, two major water players in the area.
Prior to the board going into executive session, Pugel addressed the board and about 50 residents in attendance telling them there was no conflict.
Local well owner Ray Hill also spoke calling Gliege "one of the few good water attorneys in the state of Arizona."
Hill also supported hiring Gliege because the attorney has had a string of successes in lawsuits against the Pine Water Company, owned by Brooke Utilities, the private water company currently serving the two mountain hamlets.
"He's 3-0 against (Bob) Hardcastle," Hill said. Hardcastle is the president of Brooke Utilities who has drawn the wrath of many Pine Water Company users as being unresponsive to the water needs of Pine and Strawberry.
Pugel and Hill have filed complaints against the Pine Water Company to leave its service area.
While addressing the board, Pugel also spoke about clearing up a misunderstanding that had arisen at the last board meeting.
He said that his lawsuit was to remove his well, located directly behind the old Ponderosa Market, from Hardcastle and the Pine Water Company, a regulated monopoly, not from the PSWID.
Pugel has said if Pine-Strawberry residents decide to form their own district and acquire the Pine Water Company -- he would drop the lawsuit and remain in the district.
"I'd sell the water, at a fair market price, directly to the people of Pine," Pugel said.
The board, after a lengthy executive session, returned to discuss agenda items that included short and long-term goals.
Board member Terry Schleizer, one of four who won a seat during the recent recall election, said a goal should be to keep water flowing in the pipes and to set up real conservation practices that could save up to 20 million gallons of water a year.
Members also discussed a standardized water agreement for all well owners.
Those in the audience at the meeting remarked how the rules of order and decorum had changed from the previous board.
Among the changes were a call to the public for items on the current agenda at the beginning of the meeting and a call to the public for non-agenda items at the conclusion.
"It looks like they want more public input," an audience member said.
Also, the board set the next meeting for Saturday, April 12, in an apparent effort to attract even more residents and water users including those who own weekend homes in the area.