Pine, Strawberry Recall Voters Face Vital Choice

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Voters in Pine and Strawberry grasping their water district recall ballots in trembling hands must be scratching their heads.

What a bewilderment.

What's going on?

How is a conscientious voter supposed to decide whether to recall the four board members who approved a deal to use $300,000 in taxpayer funds to pay for the K2 test well, which will be owned by a private company if it actually hits water?

Where does the truth lie?

Believe us, we feel your pain.

For proof, just look at today's front page where we do our best to straighten out the confusion we unhappily spawned with an inaccurate front-page story earlier in the week.

You can get all the gory details of our mistake -- and read a clearer account of the situation in today's news columns.

And we can only add here how badly we feel any time our best efforts to report the facts honestly and completely gets tangled up. In this case, we even sent the article to several people involved in the debate hoping they would spot any mistakes -- but they somehow missed the whopper in the lead.

But that's not the purpose of this editorial.

Instead, we just want to urge the voters in the 2,000-customer Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District to embrace their vital role as voters and take the lamentable amount of time necessary to cast the most informed vote they can in the mail-in election now under way.

The issues couldn't be more important -- although they're so layered and complicated they could confuse even a beat reporter.

Consider the stakes.

The privately owned Pine Water Company, which is regulated by the corporation commission, says that it has hit the limit in its shallow wells and cannot serve any more customers.

That means the owners of the many undeveloped lots in the district cannot build unless they sink their own, expensive private wells -- which will only increase the water woes for everyone else.

Moreover, the company said it ran out of groundwater and had to truck in water from Star Valley, at a high cost to homeowners.

So now the taxpayer-funded Water Improvement District wants to spend $300,000 on a test well to reach a much deeper water table, which could ultimately provide enough water for new uses, while safeguarding existing customers. If the deep well comes up dry, district taxpayers foot the bill. If it hits water, the Pine Water Company will spend another million to dig a deep well, then pay back the $300,000 over time through water sales.

The devilish details of that effort and the complicated relationship between the taxpayer-supported district and the privately owned water company constitute the substance of the recall effort.

District board members say they're acting wisely and prudently to find a vital new source of water. You can review a Web site presenting their side of the story at pswid.org.

Recall supporters accuse the district of putting the well in the wrong place and cooking up a sweetheart deal that amounts to a public "gift" or loan to a private company. You can study their side of the story at rimcountrywater.org.

You can also find lots of articles detailing these issues on our Web site by searching the archives. In addition, yesterday we posted on our site the four contrasting legal briefs debating the legality of the deal filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

We hope that the voters of the district will take this vital opportunity to cast a vote that will influence the growth of the area for years to come.

And we say this in full knowledge of how difficult it is to winnow the facts from the allegations -- and to get the story right.

Believe us: We know.

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