Star Valley Moves Forward With Condemnation Suit

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With any luck, Star Valley will get a court date within the next month to advance its bid to buy the local water company.

The court date will trigger the potentially long process of condemnation, in which the town seizes control of the facilities for public use at a price set by the judge.

Town officials say the whole process should take three to six months, but Brooke Utilities officials say it could drag on for years.

The town filed a complaint in Gila County Superior Court more than a month ago and is now waiting on a judge to set a court date, said Town Manager Vito Tedeschi.

Tedeschi said if the town does receive the water company, it plans to install fire hydrants, extend water lines to homes and upgrade the system.

The Hellsgate Fire District has asked the town to add up to 10 fire hydrants. Tedeschi said he did not know how many hydrants the town currently has.

Repairing any leaks in the system, cleaning the water tanks and servicing the pumps is also a priority because, "Brooke Utilities has not made any improvements or maintained the system," he said.

The town estimates it will have to invest $200,000 to improve the water system in addition to the $475,000 it will take to purchase the system.

Star Valley offered Brooke Utilities $475,000 for the water company based on an appraisal of $400,000, plus $75,000 for the cost of condemnation.

Brooke Utilities rejected that offer, but has said it is still open to reasonable offers.

"The companies are not for sale," said Myndi Brogdon, Brooke Utilities spokesperson. "But anything is for sale at the right price."

To pay for the improvements, Star Valley will take out a low-interest loan from Arizona's Water Infrastructure Finance Authority that it must pay back within 20 to 30 years, Tedeschi said.

The current water facilities serve some 300 customers, who will pay back the loan.

However, customers should not see an increase in their water bill because Star Valley plans to use the current profit margin to pay off the loan, Tedeschi said.

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