A closed-door meeting involving the seven-member Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board and three officers of Brooke Utilities has tongues a wagging in filling stations, cafes and watering holes around the two tiny mountain hamlets.
But what went on July 8 in executive session is being kept secret.
Brooke Utilities spokesperson Myndi Brogdon would not comment on the meeting and PSWID board president Bill Haney said only, “It was a very positive meeting. Very cordial. We made progress.”
He did, however, tell the about 20 water users who attended the meeting, held at the Pine Fire Station, “we are going to continue to talk and meet on an accelerated basis.”
Representing Brooke in the meeting was President Bob Hardcastle and Lee and Tom Jamieson, who are both officers of Jaco Oil, the parent company of Brooke.
The topic of the executive session, as listed on the agenda, was to “discuss the acquisition of Pine and Strawberry water companies” by PSWID.
Taking over the two water utilities has been the goal of the district since a successful recall election more than a year ago.
Some in Pine and Strawberry are reasoning that the best chance for the district to acquire the two water companies might be for Brooke Utilities to finance the purchase.
That reasoning is possibly because Compass Bank’s commitment to loan the district the money to buy the two companies expires July 31. Meeting that deadline appears virtually impossible, unless the bank extends the deadline.
Board critic Sam Schwalm in an e-mail he sent to water users mentioned the possibility of Brooke financing the purchase.
While Brooke officials and board members huddle behind closed doors, a legal war is being waged in Yavapai County Superior Court.
Brooke lawyers are asking that the court take sanctions against the district for failure to post $3.2 million bond by May 22 as agreed upon in a stipulated agreement between BU and the PSWID board.
The bond, if it had been posted, would have allowed the district to take immediate possession of the two water companies.
On June 15, board attorney John Gliege responded to Brooke’s motion for sanctions by saying there were legitimate reasons why the district did not post the bond and take over the companies by the agreed upon deadline.
At the crux of the entire legal debate is whether or not the board has the money to purchase Pine and Strawberry water companies.
Hardcastle and his lawyers have argued from the beginning of the controversy that the board does not have the financial commitment it would take to complete the purchase.
Gliege argues in one of his motions that the board did have the financial backing and produced a letter from Compass that he says proves the bank was willing to fund the purchase until mid May when several problems arose, including a Strawberry man claiming he owned one of the wells Brooke was using.
Also in the legal wrangling, Brooke has asked that when, and if, the case goes to trial, it be in front of a jury.