Incumbent county officials who have gone for years without a challenge at the polls will have their hands full this year.
That’s good news for the residents of northern Gila County, who have long been treated like second-class citizens by many county officials. Unfortunately, the only time we do get first class treatment comes when its time to mail out the tax bills — since the bulk of the money the county spends comes from property taxes collected in northern Gila County.
The good news started with redistricting, which, after a struggle, resulted in a real balance in district lines for the three seats on the board of supervisors. Previously, Globe-area voters dominated two of the three seats. Now, redistricting has created a genuine north-south swing district.
But we’re heartened to see real contests in all the races — assessor, sheriff, treasurer and recorder. In some cases, the voters won’t have a real choice until we get to the Nov. 5 general election. In other cases, the key struggle will take place in the Aug. 28 primary.
Either way, we hope that the candidates will finally tackle the lopsided distribution of county services, a long-time irritant for north county residents seeking even the most basic county services.
In many cases, all the employees from key county departments work in Globe and just occasionally visit Rim Country, which has more than half of the population and the bulk of the assessed value.
We certainly understand the economic efficiencies involved in basing many county offices in Globe. And we’re so far not swayed by the arguments that north county ought to commandeer the county. Such a move could prove costly — and leave south county suffering from the same disenfranchisement so long inflicted on the north.
However, we hope the candidates will grapple seriously with these vital issues and act to ensure equal access to vital services in both ends of the county.
That’s why we hope you’ll pay close attention to all of the county races this year and that north county residents turn out in numbers sufficient to make sure whoever wins these races attends to their legitimate, long-denied needs.
Truth reassuring, but less entertaining
The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District continues to mature through adversity, as evidenced by its effort on Saturday to answer a welter of questions about a recent water outage.
The district’s investigation blamed the apparently coincidental failure of two pumps on the lack of an automated shutoff system after weeks of continuous operation during a bone-dry June took its toll on the equipment.
The outage left 1,000 customers without water for days and prompted scary warnings not to drink the water, which were required by the state.
Despite the alarming warnings not to drink the water, the pump failures that emptied the storage tank serving nearly half the district’s customers never caused any contamination or health threats.
The initial lack of clear information on the cause of the outage provoked an alarming swirl of rumors — some of them connected to the apparently coincidental firing of several key employees. The disgruntled employees monkey-wrenched the equipment, said some. No. Someone else sabotaged the water system. The rumors came embellished with fictional accounts of supposed confrontations between workers and board members.
The truth proved reassuring — but much less entertaining. Clearly, the district learned some expensive lessons — about both fail-safe systems and rumor control. The tab for fixing the burned-out pumps and installing automatic monitoring and shutoff equipment will cost about $170,000, which works out to about $50 per resident.
Then again, the cost remains a fraction of what residents faced every summer when Brooke Utilities tacked on water hauling charges as a result of its year-after-year-after-year refusal to upgrade the water system. Water customers continue to pay the tab for those years of neglect — and the water district continues to gain hard-won experience in the complexities of running a water system through the vagaries of drought and equipment failure.
Next time — and you know there will be a next time given the fallibility of pumps and people — we hope the district moves more quickly to get clear and accurate information out to the public.
And we also hope that people will minimize the rumor mongering, knowing that the district remains committed to transparent operations and customer service.