The Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board has come to a tentative agreement to purchase the Milk Ranch Well from owners Ray Pugel and Robert Randall for $400,000.
But the pact has not come without a controversy. In a vote on the issue during a May 5 special PSWID board meeting, chairman Bill Haney cast the lone dissenting ballot, saying he voted “no” because the board did not have a current appraisal, and issues of pumping particles of sand had not been completely solved.
“We just don’t know what the well is worth, and we have a fiduciary responsibility to the water users,” said Haney.
He also said he was not opposed to purchasing the well in the future if a current appraisal was in the board members’ hands and the sand problems were solved.
Board secretary Richard Dickerson was among the six board members to go along with the purchase, saying he voted “yes” because he was satisfied with recent test results and “it is time to move forward.”
Dickerson is also defending the purchase price, saying it was a fair amount considering the inflated value of deep wells in the area.
Milk Ranch was dug to 1,045 feet and is one of only two deep wells near Pine and Strawberry.
Pugel contends the purchase price “is just about what we have in it, including all the legal costs.”
The purchase has been controversial in the two mountain communities, partly because the district has fronted $60,000 to the well owners to get Milk Ranch up and running.
Sam Schwalm of the watchdog group Water for Pine Strawberry has complained “Pugel has the district paying to fix his well to make it more valuable before it is purchased.”
Schwalm also argues the well is unproven.
Dickerson disagrees, saying the well and the water it supplies “could go a long way in supplementing the demands of summer.”
He also calls the well a “very, very good one” that has produced 100 to 120 gallons per minute during recent tests.
When the well first began producing in the fall of 2006, Pugel estimated it could supply at least 300 homes a day.
The shortcoming of the well, however, is it produces sand, which has been an ongoing problem since it was originally dug.
“The faster it is run, the more sand,” Dickerson said. “When you back off, (the water) clears up.”
A solution to the problem could be to install filtration systems, which would remove sand particles.
Another problem that must be overcome is how to transfer the water into the existing system.
Due to the well’s location, in a field south of Pine Hardware, a lengthy pipeline must be built to transfer the water into the district’s system.
The board has considered an above ground, temporary pipeline called “RainForRent” which could be used until a permanent system can be built.
Dickerson is stressing that although the purchase appears promising, no formal contract has been signed and many details need to be ironed out.
Among the purchase agreements that still must be settled on is the adjoining well property that must be transferred from Pugel and Randall to PSWID.
Pugel says that can be solved because he and Randall are ready to “allocate about $75,000 in land (to the district).”
Before that can occur, the board’s attorney, Stephanie Gilege, must review and OK the contract before board members sign it.
Also in the proposed agreement are stipulations that the district will supply water meters to Pugel and Randall for any future housing developments the two might be involved in. Dickenson said that would occur, “if either decides to build homes or condominiums in the area.”
The board is continuing to study the possibility of purchasing the area’s other deep well — at Strawberry Hollow.
The board is studying recent appraisals knowing the well has been besieged by a stuck pump and also has some sand issues. It is in a favorable location where it could readily and cheaply be hooked to the existing system.