Last Ditch Talks Set For Buyout

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A last-ditch, Feb. 5 meeting to discuss the sale of the Pine-Strawberry Water Company to the water district has spawned a fresh swirl of rumors.

Both sides have agreed to put assorted legal actions on hold and try once more to negotiate the sale of the water company and the return of $300,000 advanced to fund the canceled K2 well project.

The community this week buzzed with misleading rumors that Brooke Utilities president Bob Hardcastle had given up the fight to retain the two towns’ water companies and sell to the Pine and Strawberry Water Improvement District Board.

“There are obviously rumors,” PSWID board member Ron Calderon said. “All we have is an agreement to sit down and arbitrate.”

Brooke Utilities spokesperson Myndi Brogdon said the company has agreed to one last meeting to discuss the possible sale of the Pine and Strawberry water companies, before the contentious issue goes to a panel of arbitrators and assorted courtrooms.

“There is a lot of rumors because there is a lot of emotion,” Brogdon said. “I will agree we are working on alternatives.”

Another rampant rumor had Hardcastle agreeing to return about $300,000 held in escrow for the K2 project to PSWID.

Brogdon says that is not exactly true, and board chairmen Bill Haney agrees.

The return of the money would require both sides to end all litigation. That would mean the district would have to drop its request to the Arizona Corporation Commission to have Brooke’s CC&Rs revoked. In return, Brooke would have tcancel its request to invoke the arbitration clause in the K2 contract.

The upcoming Feb. 5 meeting, which is not open to the public, will take place in the offices of Stone and Youngberg in Phoenix.

The financial consulting firm has been studying financial options for the PSWID since last summer.

Calderon said he and Haney would be present at the meeting, along with PSWID interim manager Harry Jones, board attorney John Gliege, representatives of Stone and Youngberg and at least one other PSWID board member.

Hardcastle, Brogdon and BU attorneys will also attend.

Haney said Hardcastle “wants to know how we plan to pay for it (the purchase of the two companies), and I understand that.”

Only last week, Hardcastle told the Roundup that he would not discuss a purchase price until PSWID had the necessary financing. Another hot topic at the meeting will be the purchase price, which has long been a bone of contention.

In November 2008, PSWID offered Hardcastle $2.55 million, but he refused to negotiate or name a purchase price until the board had secured financing.

“What difference does it make what an asset is worth if you don’t have the ability to buy it,” he said. “It’s just rhetoric.”

The price, Haney said, could be the final stumbling block because financing is slowly falling into place.

“Hopefully, we can get something done by July 1,” he said.

Brogdon is also hopeful an agreement can be reached, but added, “we are not there yet, and we have a long way to go.”

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