Residents in Pine and Strawberry have a decision to make in the recall election to remove four members from the seven-person Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) Governing Board.
Tuesday, March 11 is the final day for voters in the district to decide whether to remove PSWID Chairman Gary Sherlock, Treasurer Forrest McCoy and members James M. Richey and Wesley Suhr from the board in an all mail-in election.
Running against the four targeted board members are: Terry Schleizer against Wes Suhr, Richard Dickinson against Forrest McCoy, Michael Greer against Jim Richey and Ron Calderon against Gary Sherlock.
The Web site for PSWID claims the recall centers on the four current members' support of the K2 exploration well project, which is part of efforts to find a new, long-term source of water for residents in Pine and Strawberry.
The group pushing for the recall is the Pine Strawberry Citizens for the Prohibition of Providing Tax Dollars to a Privately Held Water Monopoly.
Their Web site, rimcountrywater.org, cites reasons for the recall as a lack of due diligence, conflicts of interest, and that the $300,000 K-2 loan agreement with the Pine Water Company violates the Arizona Constitutional ban on governmental entities loaning money to private companies.
The group contends that at least one of the four members up for recall have a personal interest in the K2 well because they would gain financially from the venture.
"One of the members we're recalling is a developer in the area," said Fred Krafczyk, spokesman for Rim Country Water. "So, obviously, he would like to see the deal go through."
Krafczyk listed the four main reasons for the recall.
He said consultant Mike Ploughe's review of the K2 site indicates it is an "OK" site for a well, but that others in Pine would be more practical and he didn't consider the K2 site as a good primary site.
Number two: Brooke Utilities requested peer reviews of the proposed site and those reviews also indicated better sites exist in Pine.
Additionally they contend that two of the board members failed to provide the peer reviews to the other five members, some of whom said they would not have voted for the K2 site, had they seen the reviews, said Krafczyk.
Number three: private agreements with private well owners, like the Milk Ranch Point Well
Well, would augment current water supplies enough to meet resident needs, he said.
Krafczyk added that expert opinions indicate that drilling near the site of an existing well, like the Milk Ranch Well with a capacity of 150 gallons per minute, has a better chance of hitting a reliable source of water.
And finally, he said that there is no need to drill the K2 well and spend $300,000 of taxpayer dollars when there is sufficient water available now.
Recall reasons unfounded
McCoy said the claims made by his opposition are unfounded.
In response to allegations that at least one of the members up for recall is a developer, McCoy said, "As far as I know none of the four members being recalled is a developer, however those behind the recall are Realtors and mortgage brokers."
He added that Krafczyk's claim that Ploughe's peer reviews were not supplied to all board members is not accurate.
"The peer information was provided to the public and the recall people in an open hearing, and we have already initiated a study for new well sites in Pine," said McCoy.
Finally, McCoy said the opposition is not being realistic in its assertions that relying on existing supplies and agreements with private wells like the Milk Ranch Well can provide sufficient water for the areas needs.
"Constant referral to Milk Ranch and available water from that well is futile because in recent Arizona Corporation Commission hearings the owners of the well have refused to sell water to the Pine Water Company," said McCoy. "If they won't sell the water, then it won't be available."
"The $300,000 is an investment by all seven members of the PSWID board for an exploratory well at the K2 site," said McCoy. "And if sufficient water is found, PSWID will be repaid and therefore provide funds for future water exploration in the Pine area."
In closing, McCoy said, "The present board selected the K2 site because it provides the quickest and most cost-effective approach to providing water. By quickly providing a new water source costly water hauling can be avoided."
Supporters of the recall also allege that the K2 site is impractical and doesn't comply with zoning rules.
Zoning requires that any well shaft must be at least 100 feet from septic systems to prevent contamination of the well.
They say a home that abuts the K2 site has a septic system within that 100-foot boundary. However, the Payson firm contracted to draw plans for the K2 site disputes that claim.
K2 well site meets requirements
"Based on our information, the K2 site meets requirements for separation from septic systems," said a representative with Tetra-Tech, Inc.
The drawings by Tetra-Tech show that the well site is right at the 100-foot line and the only thing within the boundary is a 100,000-gallon storage tank.
Residents opposed to the K2 site also have fears that the deep aquifer K2 shaft would allow water from the shallow aquifers supplying many of the private wells in the area to drain down the shaft into the deeper aquifer and rob them of water.
The PSWID Web site says the claim is unfounded because sealant around the shaft would prevent drainage.
Regardless who voters side with, deciding whether to recall the four members or not promises to be a difficult decision for area residents.
As far as the March 11 election itself, it is an all mail-in election, meaning there will be no polling places.
The last day to register for the recall election was Feb. 11.
Ballots will be mailed out Feb. 18
Registered voters in the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District will begin receiving ballots sometime after Feb. 18 when elections officials start mailing them out, said Gila County Elections Director Dixie Mundy.
Those residents who own property, but don't live in the district, are also eligible to vote in the recall and will receive a ballot request form in the mail beginning Feb. 18, which they need to fill out and return as soon as possible.
Voters may return their ballots by mail or drop them off any Thursday at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Public Library at 6124 N. Randall Place in Pine beginning Thursday Feb. 21 up to and including election day, said Mundy.
PSWID District voters who don't receive a ballot or need a replacement, should call the County Elections Office in Globe at (928) 425-3231, or pick one up from an election official at the library beginning Thursday, Feb. 21 from 1 to 6 p.m., or on election day from 1 to 7 p.m. Beginning Feb. 21, registered PSWID voters can drop off their completed ballots anytime during regular library business hours, added Mundy.
Business hours at the library in Pine are: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The library is closed Sunday and Monday.
All ballots must be received in the mail or at the library by March 11 at 7 p.m.
Candidates receiving a majority of votes win the election and any changes to the PSWID board will take place almost immediately.