Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board members Don Smith and Tom Weeks are denouncing fellow board member Mike Greer’s verbal public assault of the district’s interim district manager, board chairman, Highland Water Resources and Tetra Tech.
Greer’s accusations came in the form of a written statement he read at a May 26 board meeting. In it he accused manager Harry Jones, chairman Bill Haney, Mike Ploughe of HWR and Tetra Tech engineers Garret Goldman and Tanner Henry of “moving the district in a direction that goes against the public made to purchase the existing wells in Pine and Strawberry and put them into service.”
He also charged Tetra Tech and Highland of being “somewhat hostile to some of the board.”
That is nonsense, argue Smith and Weeks, who in mid-week refuted Greer’s other claims that those he accused had created “obstacles, roadblocks, issues and expenses” to purchasing the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow wells.
“(Jones, Haney, Ploughe, Goldman and Henry) were all doing the the right thing,” said Smith, a longtime Rim Country dentist, who has also served on the local fire board. “They were going forward getting this (operation of the two existing wells) done.”
Smith also calls all those Greer accused of wrongdoing “honorable men.”
The accusations, which resulted in HWR and Tetra Tech, submitting their resignations, came as a surprise to Smith.
“I had no idea he was going to do this,” Smith said. “It was a slap in the face that I personally think was wrong.”
With the resignations, the district is now without a hydrologist or engineer.
Smith and Weeks also contend the accusations that resulted in the resignations have harmed the district’s effort to secure new water sources for the two water-starved towns.
“I’ve got real concerns about the direction of some of the board members and what they want to accomplish,” said Weeks.
Smith agrees, “This has stopped the progress, we were getting pretty close to hook ups.”
Some water users do not consider Greer’s attack the act of a lone board member saying at least two others, possibility three, went along with the barrage.
Haney, Weeks, Smith, Ploughe and Goldman all contend that Greer and any constituents he might have do not understand the long process it takes to acquire, hook up and license a private well into a public water company.
“(The process is) long and extensive and best not hurried,” said Haney. “This doesn’t happen overnight.” The board president also says the purchases and hookups must be deliberate and well thought out because the board is dealing with public dollars.
“We must be frugal with how they are spent.”
With the district currently without a hydrologist or engineer, efforts to purchase and put into service Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow wells have slowed almost to a standstill.
Which means, the most immediate challenge facing the board is to find a new engineer and hydrologist, which could be on the agenda at the next meeting June 19.
Although the district board is in an obvious upheaval, the good news for water users is that the water restriction stage in the two towns remains at “1” or no restrictions.
During past years, the stage often fell to more severe “2,” “3” or “4” the week after Memorial Day.
Weeks credits the new supply of water to the district’s maintenance staff who have — since PSWID purchased the two water companies — been upgrading and putting back into service some of the existing shallow wells that previous owner Brooke Utilities allegedly allowed to fall into disrepair.