County Session Is Curious, Curiouser

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“It would be so nice if things made sense for a change.” —Alice, from Alice in Wonderland

The Gila County Board of Supervisors this week went tumbling down the rabbit hole of the bewildering Pine Strawberry water wars.

A work session on water issues in the north county offered a bizarre “Alice in Wonderland” moment — the policy equivalent of playing croquet with mallets made of uncooperative flamingos.

And that’s a shame — since residents badly need the supervisors to exercise some leadership and creativity.

Initially, the session looked useful — since it included presentations from Payson, Star Valley, Pine and Strawberry. Oh boy, we figured, maybe the county’s going to help make sure some 15 communities along Payson’s pipeline will get the water they need to prosper. Heck, maybe the county will create some sort of legal authority to help residents of those scattered, disorganized, water-challenged communities.

No such luck. Instead, the meeting devolved into a Mad Hatter’s tea party.

The trip through the looking glass started with Chairwoman Shirley Dawson’s strange guest list. Instead of inviting members of the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board — she insisted on hearing from businessman Ray Pugel. Instead of hearing from Brooke Utilities, we had a trio of critics of the district’s attempt to condemn and buy the private water company.

As a result, the meeting turned into a political ambush that served to deepen divisions rather than foster solutions.

Granted, the speakers on both sides brought up important points. On one side, we had criticism of the district’s mounting expenses in a condemnation lawsuit. On the other, we had the chronology of Brooke Utilities’ persistent failure to provide adequate service.

But in the end, all the hearing did was to pointlessly interject the county into someone else’s crazy party.

The set up seemed like just another silly round in the battle between Dawson and Supervisor Tommie Martin in the complicated, but vital role consultant Harry Jones plays in the water politics of Northern Gila County.

Even if the supervisors wanted to ease Pine’s water woes, it made no sense to stage an attack on the water district without the board members present. Instead of mucking about in the business of another elected board, the supervisors ought to look to the welfare of residents of those unrepresented communities along the pipeline.

To once again quote Alice: “Of all the silly nonsense, this is the stupidest tea party I’ve ever been to in all my life.”

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