Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board president Bill Haney unexpectedly resigned at a July 24 board meeting, citing not wanting “to be associated with actions of the board that have been and will likely be detrimental to the property owners within the District well into the future.”
He calls the resignation “an extremely difficult decision and one that was made only after a great deal of thought and second-guessing.”
The resignation was the fourth in the last two months of professionals who once played leading roles in PSWID purchasing the Pine Strawberry Water Companies from previous owner Brooke Utilities.
Prior to a May 25 board meeting, Tetra Tech engineers Tanner Henry and Garrett Goldman and hydrologist Mike Ploughe of Highland Water Resources submitted their resignations citing an inability to work with current PSWID board members.
At a June 19 board meeting, interim general manager Harry Jones resigned after board members Gary Lovetro and Mike Greer called for him to step down or face a special meeting.
Haney’s loss could be the most severe since he is a professional engineer with years of experience in municipal utilities, especially water.
Haney, in an e-mail Monday, July 26, to county supervisor Tommie Martin and others, wrote, “Unfortunately, several of these board members have taken it upon themselves to rid the district of any professional with knowledge and experience that runs contrary to their agenda.”
Sam Schwalm of the group Water for Pine Strawberry is among those who question the board’s often-contentious relationships with the professionals and hints at what the board’s “agenda” could be.
“The current board has succeeded in driving off many of those who were fundamental in getting us to where we are at all for the crime of questioning if the Milk Ranch Well is a good value for the community,” he said.
In May, the board agree to buy Milk Ranch for $400,000 but the deal has not yet been completed prompting some to suggest Tetra Tech, Plough, Jones and Haney were in a so-called “conspiracy” to slow or stop the purchase.
All have denied a conspiracy and said they were proceeding with due caution to protect the interests of water users.
Haney predicts in his e-mail to Martin that some decisions the board is currently making will have a long-term negative impact on water users and “things currently look pretty shaky for the district.”
In an interview with the Roundup, Haney said he’s concerned that a low bond rating could come back to haunt the board when it tries to refinance the current loan with Compass Bank.
“One of the things lenders look at is a stable management team and the district cannot say it now has one,” he said. “If an interest rate is just one percent higher, that could cost taxpayers $900,000 over the course of a 20 year loan.”
Haney urges in his letter of resignation for water users to “continue to monitor the actions of the board, ask a lot of questions and do not simply accept any board actions that you believe are not in the best interest of the entire community.”
With his tenure on the board at an end, Haney says he will donate more time to his semi-retirement employment in the Valley and to his work as a high school swimming official.