Three Mesa del Caballo water users have filed a formal complaint with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) alleging Brooke Utilities defrauded homeowners this summer in the way it imposed water hauling charges.
Corporation Commission staff cleared the company of wrong-doing in reviewing essentially the same charges made several months ago in an informal complaint, but advised the homeowners they were free to file a formal complaint anyway, said Rebecca Wilder, a spokesperson for the ACC.
Stephen Gehring, on the other hand, said the commission staff had upheld the informal complaint, which was why he and Bobby and Lois Jones filed a 14-page formal complaint, backed by about 50 pages of exhibits.
Wilder suggested Gehring may have misunderstood the process, if he concluded the commission staff had validated his informal complaint.
“With Mr. Gehring’s informal complaint, the commission staff found that the company did not violate any rules or tariffs.
The commission did not tell Mr. Gehring to file a formal complaint. Staff did inform him of the process.”
Meanwhile, Gehring and other homeowners continue to circulate petitions seeking to form a water improvement district, which they hope will first obtain water rights to the Blue Ridge pipeline and then perhaps buy out Brooke Utilities, which currently has the exclusive right to sell water in the roughly 400-home subdivision off Houston Mesa Road.
Gehring said the group seeking to form a water improvement district has so far gathered the signatures of 51 percent of the property owners, but only 31 percent of the residents — since some residents own more than one lot.
The group needs at least 51 percent of property owners and 51 percent of the residents to seek county permission to form a water improvement district.
The resulting water improvement district would not automatically gain the right to sell water in the district or even to contract with Payson and the Salt River Project for a share of the Blue Ridge water. However, the water improvement district could seek grants and seek voter approval of a property tax, which might provide the money needed to buy out Brooke Utilities. That’s the strategy homeowners in Pine and Strawberry pursued.
The formal complaint filed with the Corporation Commission claimed that Brooke Utilities charged homeowners far more than the rules allowed this summer when it had to haul water it bought from Payson to keep Mesa del’s system operating.
The company had dismissed similar charges in Gehring’s informal complaint as baseless and malicious.