Pine and Strawberry is awash in water, but there is a growing mountain of evidence the town’s water district governing board is badly split and bickering.
Proof of the caterwaul among Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board members exists in a series of e-mails and correspondence obtained by the Roundup.
The e-mails are to and from board president Bill Haney, former PSWID interim general manager Harry Jones, district hydrologist Mike Ploughe, board member and treasurer Michael Greer, former district engineer Garrett Goldman of Tetra Tech, operations manager Dean Schaffer and others.
Much of the turmoil appears to have its roots at a May 25 board meeting in which Greer asked fellow members to terminate the contracts of Jones, Ploughe, Tetra Tech and asked for the resignation of Bill Haney.
In his terse statement, Greer accused Jones of being someone who is “peddling his own personal agenda” and Ploughe of being “more interested in drilling test wells and proving drilling theories rather than providing the necessary services we requested.”
He said of Tetra Tech, “we need an engineer who will follow the direction of the board and not the personal agendas of Harry Jones, Bill Haney and Mike Poughe.”
Asking the respected Haney to step down created waves in the tiny mountain hamlets mostly because he has long appeared to be the board member with the most water savvy and expertise having worked in the field, in Mesa, before retiring.
But Greer’s e-mail took a swipe at Haney saying, “This is not the City of Mesa, we’re a small town, this is a small water company and we should operate as such.”
After Greer supplied a written copy of his statement, to the board, Haney responded by e-mailing Jones and Ploughe saying, “I don’t intend to take this lying down either. It is truly disgusting and demonstrates some of the very worst in human behavior when someone feels empowered.”
“I would like to see a public apology and a couple of resignations — probably won’t happen but it would be a good starting point for any future action.”
Ploughe, who is also the Town of Payson hydrologist and the man who found water at the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow well sites, was also disturbed by Greer’s attack.
After listening to a recording of Greer’s statement, Ploughe sent a June 3 e-mail to Jones saying, “the recordings are certainly disgusting… the whole thing just makes me sick…this is a corrupt mess.”
He also calls Greer’s charges “BS and slanderous.”
Ploughe indicates in another e-mail that he is seeking legal counsel. The least he and his company, High Water Resources Consulting, is due is a “public apology for the statement and false accusations made.”
He also asks an apology be given to Tetra Tech.
The volatile situation on the board heightened about June 10 when Greer and fellow board member Gary Lovetro submitted a written request for Jones to resign.
Greer wrote in the letter, “Your input has become more of a hindrance than a help. I have been very vocal about my disappointment regarding your lack of action on the directives given you by the board.”
At first Jones refused to step down, e-mailing Haney, “I do not intend to do anything like that until I think the majority of the Board makes that recommendation for the betterment of the District.”
But later Greer threatened a special meeting if Jones didn’t tender his resignation by 5 p.m., June 11.
Eventually accounting manager Rebecca Sigeti and Schaffer got into the act, e-mailing Greer with charges that Jones’ lack of clear action plans led to confusion and inefficiency.
Jones has indicated he thinks the two were pressured by Greer to make the statements.
At the June 19 board meeting, Jones turned in his resignation.
After stepping down, Jones e-mailed to Haney, “I don’t believe you or I together can fix it (the board turmoil) with the current board in place.”
He also says “there has irreparable harm done to the district” and “the district itself, the bank, property owners and remaining staff are in big trouble without our guidance.”
Jones also expresses concern that the possibility of the district re-financing its current debts in the near future could “become very difficult and the results could be very costly to the District in terms of reduced bond ratings and higher interest rates.” He said banks will be looking for clients with a stable management team and that is something PSWID does not now have.
Jones, and others in P-S, have also expressed concerns that Greer and others on the board are “hell bent” on buying the two deep wells at the sellers’ asking price whether fair or not. Also they allege that Greer and the others do not know whether the wells actually perform to municipal standards and what the costs will be to tie them to the system.
Although water users in the two towns are delighted with the ample water supplies this summer, they admit to being disgruntled and peeved over the discourse occurring on the board.
Board critic Sam Schwalm and other residents say the board is split into two opposing sides. Or at least, that is the way it seems.
On one side is Haney and board members Don Smith and possibly Tom Weeks.
Smith has shown strong support for Haney and how the board was conducting its business before the May 25 meeting. Weeks has been mostly silent, but has admitted he is concerned with the direction the board has recently taken.
On the other side are board members Ron Calderon, Richard Dickinson, Greer and Lovetro. Some, including Schwalm, refer to the second group as the “conspiracy” faction referring to the May 25 board meeting when Tetra Tech wrote one of the reasons it was resigning is because some members had charged the company with participating in a type of conspiracy to slow the purchase of the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow Wells.