When we elect people to represent our interests, there are certain basic things that we expect from them. Our elected representatives should serve with integrity, should be honest with us, and should treat our tax money with care. The PSWID board is falling well short of those basic expectations.
To represent with integrity means hiring people who can serve the interests of the community. The PSWID board hired John Gliege as the district’s lawyer. Mr. Gliege is also the lawyer for Ray Pugel, whose Milk Ranch well plays a central role in Pine’s water drama. Mr. Gliege is the lawyer for Rim Country Water.
Mr. Gliege’s conflicts of interest are so extensive that his contract has the district specifically waiving any concern about those conflicts. Clearly there is reason for concern that the community’s best interests are being served by employing Mr. Gliege.
To represent with integrity means following the rules. For the last 12 years, the community and Gila County has known PSWID to be a water improvement district, chartered to study the water needs of the community.
The board avoided the legal path to conversion to a domestic water improvement district, which allows operation of a water company, by having Mr. Gliege write an opinion stating that they had always been one.
More recently, the board applied for money for a wastewater feasibility study. Installing sewers is well outside the board’s charter and this was done with no public discussion or vote by the board.
Being honest means being straight about what is happening. The board made several multi-million dollar offers to Brooke without any financing behind them. When they were criticized for this, the board began to claim last August that they had obtained financing from Municipal Leasing Credit Corporation, when in fact, they had only received a letter that the possibility of financing could be discussed.
Being honest means providing the public with sufficient, timely and accurate information. The Economists.com rate analysis claims that there will be no need to increase rates for two years. When Economists.com and the board were provided with substantial evidence of six major errors in the analysis, the response was to stonewall and deny. It is not believable that, with the credentials and experience of Economists. com, that they would not know how to correctly account for water transfers and sales taxes. The board has been successful in stalling these problems past the point where the information would be useful to the community. By promoting information that they know to be false, the board has done a terrible disservice to us all.
Being careful with our money means, not having to rely on Brooke Utilities’ good graces to avoid bankruptcy. At the end of December, PSWID had $23,000. In January, PSWID was looking at expenditures of $37,000 and another $60,000 for the arbitration hearing. The board would have gone bankrupt in January if Brooke hadn’t thrown them a lifeline by agreeing to release the $288,000 in the K2 escrow fund. The board is projecting that by the end of the fiscal year in June that they will have spent well over $400,000, against their budget of $190,000.
Being careful with our money means spending each dollar wisely. In eight months Star Valley spent $15,000 in legal fees on the effort to condemn their water company. PSWID is spending twice that every month.
The board projects legal fees for this year will be $280,000. The board ran up legal costs by making multiple offers without financial backing. When hiring an interim general manager, the justification was that the general manager could do work at $51 an hour that they were paying Mr. Gliege $300 an hour for. It is irresponsible for the board to have been paying Mr. Gliege for tasks that did not require his legal expertise.
PSWID is about to commit the community to spending $6.4 million, with at least $3 million more in the next five years. PSWID is about to take control of the water that comes out of your faucets and the size of your bill.
The board has demonstrated trouble with planning, managing to a budget, spending wisely, and being straight with the public. If that isn’t corrected, we will be paying more and getting less than we do now.
PSWID will soon be setting water rates and property tax rates for next year. Let the board know what questions and concerns you have: Chairman@pswid.org.