New Members, Old Faces

Pine water board meets to pick Pugle, seat Schwalm

Newly installed PSWID board member Sam Schwalm

Newly installed PSWID board member Sam Schwalm Photo by Andy Towle. |

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The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District governing board Thursday night seated two new members very familiar with the water woes that have swirled through the two mountain hamlets for years.

The newcomers include newly appointed real estate developer Ray Pugle and newly-elected engineer Sam Schwalm, a former spokesperson for the watchdog group Water for Pine-Strawberry. Pugle has played a key role in the complex politics of the water district for years, most recently in developing the Milk Ranch Well — which the district bought.

Schwalm replaces Don Smith, whose term expired at the end of 2012. Pugel takes the seat of Mike Greer, the district’s former treasurer, who resigned after admitting to misusing a Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) credit card.

Moments after joining the board, members elected Pugel the new chair, replacing Gary Lovetro, who will stay on the board as vice-chair.

Also at the meeting, the board elected Ron Calderon treasurer and Ron Dickerson secretary.

Calderon was the only board officer who faced opposition for his seat. During nominations, Tom Weeks nominated Schwalm, saying he had the expertise to handle the job requirements. In the board’s voting, however, Calderon won out.

It was Weeks who exposed Greer’s misuse of a district credit card, prompting Greer to step down.

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Contributed photo

New PSWID Chair Ray Pugle

Among the biggest challenges the board faces is solving a turbid water problem apparently caused by water pumped out of the Milk Ranch Well I and into the PSWID system.

Since last summer, when almost the entire water system in P-S was shut down due to turbidity, residents have complained about the water. Some complained they would not bathe or wash their clothes with it, much less drink it.

At Thursday’s meeting, PSWID’s district manager outlined three options to deal with the issue.

They included:

Option one — An automatic well shut-off that would stop the flow of Milk Ranch Well I water into the system. An automatic well shut-off is estimated to cost $11,639 per well. However, some have suggested that shutting down the well motors during turbid events could cause the pumps to lock up with sand. When that occurs, workers must remove the pumps and clean them — a costly, time-consuming process.   

Option two — Divert turbid water into a flush pond and Pine Creek. Diverting water to Pine Creek would cost an estimated $23,539 for each of the three well sites.

Option three — Install a filtration system, which ranges in price from $28,200 to $50,000.

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