Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle’s application to the Arizona Corporation Commission to borrow $2.69 million to fund two water company improvement projects caught most Pine and Strawberry water users by surprise.
Residents say it was a shocker mostly because Hardcastle seems to be on the verge of losing control of the two small-town water companies either by selling or condemnation proceedings.
Making improvements to the companies at this point in time makes little sense to water users because the infrastructure of the two water companies has long been neglected and the pleas for improvements have largely been ignored, residents say.
Some water users argue Hardcastle is asking for the money because he wants to increase the value of the water companies to make them more expensive for the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District to purchase.
Some others say the request is only to impress the ACC, which is now carefully scrutinizing BU and its operations in the two tiny mountain hamlets.
Brooke Utilities spokesperson Myndi Brogdon defended the requests, “Our applications speak for themselves. It’s Pine Water Company’s intent, and always has been, to provide a long-term water solution to the community that is economically reasonable to the people that live here.”
The funding, if approved, would come from federal stimulus money awarded Arizona Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA).
In Brooke’s March 12 request, Hardcastle lists the two funding projects as being for the completion of the K2 well and the acquisition and connection of an existing water source.
Brogdon would not reveal the site of “an existing water source” saying only it’s in Pine.
PSWID board president Bill Haney said Hardcastle’s applications to the ACC will have no impact on the board’s efforts to seize control of the two water companies unless the request is granted.
There are those, however, who believe Brooke’s request to WIFA has only a slight possibility of being granted.
“The applications are a long shot,” said Brogdon. “There is about $550 million in applications and about $30 million available for distribution.”
The WIFA federal stimulus funding Hardcastle is applying for is the same source the Town of Payson recently asked to supply $10 million for the Blue Ridge pipeline.