Pine-Strawberry Buys New Well

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Gary Lovetro

On Tuesday, the Pine Straw­berry Water Improvement Dis­trict voted to approve the purchase of the Strawberry Hollow Well for $450,000, which will boost the district’s water supply by 30 percent, according to some estimates.

The district did not decide whether to purchase the Milk Ranch Well, which has been shut off since June. Board members said they are waiting to see what quality of water the well produces once the pump and motor are fixed.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Gary Lovetro was voted the board’s new president. Lovetro takes over for Bill Haney, who unexpectedly resigned July 24. In his resignation, Haney said he disagreed with the direction of the board.

In the last few months, the board has lost its president, engineering firm, hydrologist and interim general manager due to differences of opinion on where and how the district should proceed. Many of these questions centered on the purchase of the Milk Ranch Well.

While board members did not always agree and sometimes vocally expressed their dissent, at Tuesday’s meeting, it was smiles all around.

Strawberry resident Ginger Kauffman praised the board for a restriction-free summer.

“I didn’t have to haul water once this year,” Kauffman said.

Before the district purchased the Pine-Strawberry water companies from Brooke Utilities, Kauffman had built two water storage tanks because she never knew how much water she could use. Now, she does not need the tanks.

“I really appreciate it,” she said.

With the addition of the Strawberry Hollow Well and improvements to the existing system, the district should boost production from 400 gallons per minute to 500 gallons per minute.

Strawberry Hollow Well

For $450,000, the PSWID not only bought one of the area’s deepest wells, it also got access to a 140,000-gallon storage tank adjacent to the well’s pump that could come in handy should an especially busy holiday weekend tax the system.

That tank not only hooks into the Strawberry Hollow Well (SH3) but also a secondary well that currently supplies Straw­berry Hollow’s 20 customers.

Water attorney Steve Wene, who represents seller Loren Peterson, said the tank is “tremendously oversized” for the small community. For this reason, Peterson has no problem selling the district additional water during peak times, as long as it does not affect the Strawberry Hollow residents.

“We are willing to share almost all of it,” Wene said.

Peterson originally asked $475,000 for the well, land, building and filtration system. The well is currently pumping at 20 gallons per minute, but is capable of 120 gallons per minute, Wene said.

Since June, Peterson said he has had the pump on continuously and delivering water to a pond.

“I am very proud of it, it is fully automatic and delivering great water,” he said.

The Strawberry Hollow Well is already connected to the PSWID water supply through underground pipes. Getting the well on line, once approved by the lender and attorneys, should be “pretty quick,” Lovetro said.

On Thursday, the board met with lender Compass Bank to go over the purchase agreement.

Milk Ranch Well

The purchase of the Milk Ranch Well is still up in the air, Lovetro said.

Back in May, the board came to a tentative agreement to buy the well for $400,000 from owners Ray Pugel and Robert Randall.

By some tests, the 1,045-foot well can produce 100 to 120 gallons per minute.

Adding the well onto the district’s system, would boost total delivery capacity to 600 gallons per minute, which would meet the needs of the community for at least the next two to three years, Lovetro said. Currently, the PSWID system collectively pumps 400 gallons per minute.

Purchase of the well is currently hung up after the district asked its district manager to pull the pump and motor from the well to identify problems in the system.

The district has already invested $114,000 in the well.

Lovetro said they have asked their engineer, Verde Engineer­ing, to make sure when the pump is put back in, it is done correctly.

“Before entering into negotiations, we asked for 30 days due diligence to work on the well to get it programmed correctly,” Lovetro said. “And then we will turn it back on and see what kind of clarity we get. At that time, we will make a decision. Until the work is done, we are not going to entertain any offers.”

Although Lovetro was not on the board at the time, he defended the board’s action to spend $114,000 to get the well up and running, saying it had to determine the water quality.

Critics have argued it is risky to purchase a well that has not been appraised.

Lovetro said they know the value of the well based on its pumping capability. In addition, when compared with how much it cost to build the Portal IV well, $825,000, which is only pumping 30 gallons per minute, purchasing Milk Ranch for $400,000 is a good deal.

“If we can get both wells on line for a million or less, that is a pretty good deal,” Lovetro said of the Strawberry Hollow and Milk Ranch wells.

Restrictions

Lovetro said since the district took over control from Brooke, it has gone through Fourth of July and Memorial Day holidays with no restrictions.

In years past, restrictions jumped from Stage 1 to Stage 3 and 4.

Lovetro credits the work of operations manager Dean Schaffer, who found leaks in the existing system. Since fixing those leaks and making additional improvements, the district has captured another 60 gallons per minute.

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