Brooke Are You Listening? Enough Is Enough

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Enough already. What the heck is going on with Brooke Utilities?

Does that company have some sort of corporate death wish? Dark, unresolved weaning issues? Borderline personality disorder? An aggressive Napoleonic complex?

Just what sort of deep-seated dysfunction causes the people running the private water company that serves a great swath of Rim Country to make such bizarrely persistent efforts to look bad and alienate their customers?

We’ve all watched the long, sad melodrama in Pine and Strawberry as residents have begged, pleaded, threatened and finally organized to force the company to provide the water necessary to lift the crippling building moratorium and avert costly hauling charges.

Now the drama has shifted to the 400 homes in Mesa del Caballo — where Brooke has imposed two Stage 5 water conservation restrictions in the space of a month — followed by abruptly cutting off the water supply of people allegedly violating the restrictions.

Now, it’s possible the company had no choice. Before imposing a foolish, no-comment, news blackout, company spokesmen had said a rise in full-time residents there, coupled with a dry summer, had forced it to impose water use restrictions.

Of course, the company provided no details, no figures on water use and no specifics of its operations. Still, the company gained no financial benefit from imposing water restrictions, especially because in Mesa del it can’t recover the cost of hauling the water by imposing a surcharge.

So the conservation level dropped back down to three for a week or two, before jumping once again to Stage 5 this week. This time the company began abruptly shutting off water service, apparently with inadequate notice and little explanation. Residents pay a punitive $600 to turn the water back on if cut off for ignoring use restrictions.

What would a sensible and responsible company do in such a situation? Confer with residents? Explain the need for the restrictions to the news media? Lay out the need for such a stern response? Provide figures on water use? Makes sense.

But not in the wacko psychodrama that passes for company policy at Brooke. Instead, company spokesmen have refused to speak to the news media, ignored customers’ phone calls and generally acted in a paranoid and high-handed manner. Unfortunately, that’s the company’s typical response to a crisis that requires just the opposite approach.

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Kirstin Mayes has promised to investigate this latest uproar. That’s nice.

No doubt the commission will prove as useless in restraining the behavior of this seemingly rogue company as it did in Pine. In that case, the commission imposed a years-long building moratorium then did nothing at all to force the company to earn its monopoly by providing an adequate water supply.

So Mesa del Caballo residents are probably on the right track in getting organized and seizing control of their own destiny.

The ultimate solution to their water woes probably lies in securing rights to the water that will flow past their doorstep in a few years in Payson’s Blue Ridge pipeline. We don’t think they should trust Brooke Utilities to secure and deliver that water to them, given the company’s sorry history of neglected infrastructure and miserable communications.

We wish that residents could rely on Brooke to behave reasonably and the corporation commission to act responsibly and on Gila County to intervene usefully, but that’s really just asking how long you can tread water after falling into a well.

Alas, we fear that like the residents of Pine and Strawberry, homeowners in Mesa del Caballo must get organized and get busy.

Because enough, finally, is enough.

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