Pine/Strawberry Water Problems Must Be Addressed


This is in regards to the letter by Sue Green stating the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board should be recalled. Perhaps that would settle some people’s emotions but it would not alter the financial and infrastructure facts that must be addressed. Most of us do not appreciate an increase in rates or property taxes, however, denial about the challenges that we must tackle could lead to disaster.

I would question the writer as to which parts of the 2012-2013 budget we should eliminate and would welcome suggestions as to where we get the funds to do improvements that are imperative.

Our primary 300,000-gallon water storage facility in Pine that serves Pine and Strawberry is in danger of collapse. Should we delay repairing this?

A storage tank in Strawberry has 17 leaks. Should we close our eyes to this?

We lose over 31 percent of our water pumped to leaks or faulty water meters. If you lost over 31 percent of the gas that you put in your vehicle’s gas tank, how long would you neglect this? Lost water costs us all money not to mention the affront to water conservation.

Industry standards suggest replacement of water meters every 12 years. We have meters in some areas that are over 40 years old and are virtually unreadable and do not correctly register water consumption. The purpose of the meter replacement program is to ensure that everyone gets a fair and accurate account of their water usage. Should we abandon this project?

Our contingency fund has been depleted due to Gila County’s road improvement on Pine Creek Canyon Road, and then again because of the mechanical failures of the system that happened last summer. Do you think we should neglect replenishing our reserve fund? Where would we get funds if another cataclysmic event occurs? Unlike our federal government, we must pay our bills. Our water system has been described as a system at risk. Over 30 miles of water main is thin wall sewer pipe that does not even meet sewer pipe standards today. A utility employee has suggested that the only thing that holds the pipe together is the dirt compacted around it.

The budget calls for a master plan. The master plan will give us the information the community needs to make decisions as to how to address decades of neglect in the most economical fashion. Should we eliminate this and continue to lose 31 percent of our precious water and constantly repair main line breakages that occur with regularity? Acting in a reactionary matter will not solve our challenges and in the long run, may actually cost us more.

The board in the past could have also turned a blind eye to our water supply problems. They did not, and honestly, isn’t it reassuring to know our water supply challenges have been resolved? No more stage 2, 3, 4, and the dreaded 5, not to mention water hauling charges. You can turn on your tap and know water will be there, unless we have failures in our tenuous infrastructure.

It is unfortunate that our water system has been piece worked together and neglected for decades. Sadly, there is no one other than us, the citizens of Pine-Strawberry who can bring it back to at least minimal standards and sadly to say, there is no one else to pay for the required improvements.

Ms. Green, I do not recall you attending our periodic board meetings. I do not believe I have ever met you or discussed with you the challenges our community faces. I can understand your anger over increases, however, I would welcome a one on one meeting with you, or for that matter, anyone who may have practical solutions to the water challenges our communities face.

It may be of interest and education to read the article by Mike Koba of CNBC on the PSWID Web site. — navigate to Water Industry Articles. It describes water challenges that we face not only as a community but as a country.

Being in the real estate business makes me deplore tax increases, however, when you serve on a board you must look pragmatically at issues, set aside charged emotion, and do what is right for the long term betterment of the community.


Pat Randall 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I would fix the tanks first if you are really losing that much water. Don't sit and wring your hands. Do something. After the tanks are repaired then start on one section of pipe at a time. No, not everyone will be happy with which ever pipe you start on but they will get over it as long as it is all repaired. If everything you said is true, and I am not doubting you, but I am surprised the state or health dept. has not shut down the whole water system. Who tests the water coming from the well, pipes and at different places? I was on a well with 5 other people and it had to be checked often. I think every month. Some of the water was used at a motel, a restaurant, trailer park and private homes. It was not always checked at the same place. As for the price of meters. When I had the water shut off at my house in Pine, they not only shut it off but took out the meter and said it would be $700. to replace the meter, plus a hookup fee. That was about 5 years ago. The water meter was over 50 yrs. old but working fine.


Bernice Winandy 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Approving a $7.5 million bond issue with no master plan is putting the kart before the horse. PSWID has had too many horses put before the kart. Like buying a well for full asking price after spending 100's of thousands of dollars to repair it. Then refusing to put on a filter to take out the sand. Wasn't a sand blockage the cause of last summer's water outage that cost PSWID some about $175,000. Then drilling 2 more wells with potential sand problems. Maybe we have to go back to Flagstaff to see how they handle the sand problem.

Let's get a master plan first that all the taxpayers and water users know about and approve, then let the taxpayers and water users vote to approve the bond issue. Approving and enacting a bond issue without voter approval is taxation without representation. Seems that the Revolutionary War was fought over that issue some 200 years ago. Recalling some board members just might be needed.


Pam Mason 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Tut Tut Bernice, you are not supposed to remember details like the sandy well was co owned by Ray Pugel. Ms. Green does not have to attend meetings to know what is going on, she probably listens to audio recordings of PSWID meetings on


Deb Schwalm 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr Pugel, one doesn't have to know you or meet you or discuss anything with you to have an opinion. The budget is too aggressive and the board is DEFINITELY proposing more than just the minimum. Fix the leaks as they happen and then move forward. The people of Pine Strawberry simply cannot afford the increases. Oh, by the way, get Mike Greer away from anything to do with PSWID! He is contracted of CH2MHill for cleaning the tanks. It's UNETHICAL and the board and management company should know better!


Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I tend to agree that the PSWID should take a less aggressive approach to fixing the problems we all inherited when we took local control of the water system from Brooke Utilities. The district has made significant progress relative to the previous owners. Having said that, I see little value in the carping, finger pointing, and character assaults used by many who have contributed nothing to the problem except their insults and complaints. I too sense it is troubling to many that since it's formation, those who have served their "friends and neighbors" on the PSWID board have been less than "transparent" in their dealings. Not sure as to what lies at the root of this instability within the two communities, but I do know one thing. There has never been any issue in the West as contentious as water.


Pam Mason 9 months, 1 week ago

Those of us who have tried to monitor the actions of the board have done so in the hope that the board would become more open in their dealings.

Our efforts have been focused on the reasonable expectations that the PSWID board provide complete and accurate information on their activities to the public, that they spend their neighbor’s money with the same care that they would spend their own, that they operate in an ethical manner and are transparent with their actions.


Ronald Hamric 9 months, 1 week ago

Ms. Mason, I actually appreciate that there are fellow residents up here who are intent on keeping the PSWID accountable to their constituents and watching their undertakings. I have neither the inclination nor time to be that involved in every matter that comes before that board. At some level I trust that they are all well intentioned and honest. After all, as residents, they also are personally affected by each of their decisions. They were each elected to oversee the management of the water system up here. I would be okay with letting them do that very thing without the micromanagement by a few of our neighbors. The adversarial relationship that has been formed through that approach has simply caused an entrenchment on the part of both sides. That approach serves no one's particular interests as much time is spent arguing over who's information and facts are the most believable, while the water infrastructure continues to need serious attention.


Pam Mason 9 months, 1 week ago

As you say we need more transparency and a careful measured approach when dealing with the water system.


Bernice Winandy 9 months ago

Ron, Ray Pugel, Gary Lovetro, and Mike Claxton were not elected by the public. They were chosen by a sitting board to fill seats that had become empty due to resignations. Sam Schlwam also was not elected. He was the only person running to fill the vacancy created when Don Smtih did not run for reelection.

What is the purpose of the presence of an attorney at all PSWID meetings? How much is spent on attorney's fees because of this attendance? Could this money be better spent fixing water system problems?

As I have said at other times, PSWID Board is possibly as disappointed by the MRW as are other members of the community. Since, by design , the MRW is only producing 45 gallons when prepurchase talk predicted something over 100 gallons. I think it would be best if they admitted their disappointment so that the community could get on and come up with a workable, affordable plan to fix the many problems.


Ronald Hamric 9 months ago

Stand for office at the next opening Bernice. That way, like Sam you can have direct input as opposed to simply voicing your frustrations. I don't find fault with any of your observations or points. I do sense that after the first few years of experience, few will want to take a position on the board due to all the ill feelings, some deserved, others not so much. After all, these two communities are small and little goes on that others are not aware of if they take the time to listen. Personally, I'm not convinced that it is the best situation to have members of the community actually overseeing the system. As we've seen, all that has led to are divisions within these communities and hard feelings among neighbors. Not a good result any way you spin it. And just how many people living up here have that much direct experience overseeing a water delivery system? They are flying by the seat of their pants and learning as they go along. So what's next? Vandalism of the system due to the anger and frustrations on some people's part that are growing more intense every week? As to the attorney's presence at the meetings, certainly you are aware of the litigious society we currently live in are you not? I simply cannot comprehend the amount of rules, regulations, and laws that pertain to the actions of that board. I see it as CYA since none of the board members I am aware of are legal beagles themselves.


Bernice Winandy 9 months ago

What is "CYA?" Ron, it is regrettable that you could not attend meetings when Lovetro was chairman. In my opinion he was very aggressive toward anyone who had the temerity to ask a question. I stopped going to meetings because of the atmosphere. Now I just read the minutes and listen to the recordings. Granted, PSWID Board members might be tired of questions, but it is the right of the public to ask them, if they are asked in the proper manner. I had never observed and public member speak to the board disrespectfully. Some of the public might have got a little heated at the meetings dealing with the dirty water and with the misuse of a credit card. But then, maybe the public had a right to be upset.

PSWID has to start listening to the public. The new water rates impose a hardship on more than a few residents.

P.S. I have no hard feelings toward my neighbors. However, I will present the "other side" if someone is not telling the whole truth.


Ronald Hamric 9 months ago


The CYA is an acronym, For lack of a more discreet wording, it stands for "Cover Your A--(behind)!" As I stated in an earlier post, I actually appreciate that we have residents watching the goings on at the PSWID board. They do us all a service. But somewhere along the way, whether it was those on the board being to thin skinned to have their decisions questioned or the way those questions were presented, I don't know, but an adversarial relationship has developed and it doesn't serve any of us for that to exist. I could not agree more that the board is supposed to represent the interests of the system's customers and should be, now here's a word that has lost it's meaning in todays political environment, transparent. I think some of the hubris is carry over from the divisions that occurred during the whole process of acquiring the water system from Brooke Utilities and the whole K2 well issue. People need to let that go and move on. I simply don't know if ,as regards the relationship between the servers and the served, the well has been poisoned. If so, it will most likely take some time and many changes in board members to right the situation.


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