Growing Pains

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What’s the right metaphor here?

Growing pains?

Crawl before you walk?

Suffice to say that we don’t envy the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District’s struggle to cope with the consequences of Brooke Utilities’ years of neglect of the water system on which the community depends.

The district has encountered one unpleasant surprise after another since it bought out Brooke. The board has acted aggressively to expand the water supply, but keeps unearthing new problems. Brooke went years without maintenance of a never-robust system. The private utility seemed perfectly content to let the whole system deteriorate and stood by as a building moratorium caused by the lack of an adequate water supply stretched on year after year.

Granted, the district made unreasonable promises about boosting the water supply without affecting rates. Further granted, fumbles in the purchase of the Milk Ranch Well, problems with leaky pipes and failing pumps and unsettling amount of silt in the water all roiled the community and spurred controversy. Newly elected board members struggled with their proper role and the necessity of operating in a transparent fashion.

Still, the moratorium is long gone and the water supply has increased dramatically.

Now, the board must confront the full cost of providing enough safe, reliable, clean water to support the community’s present and future needs.

Fortunately, former Gila County administrator John Nelson has offered some guidance — and some sobering budget estimates. The board must now cope with a big budget deficit — and the need to invest heavily in overhauling the whole system in years to come. Moreover, board members have to cope with part-time residents’ irritation with the 3,000-gallon minimum water standby charge.

We hope the community will remain involved — but tolerant of the board’s struggles on their behalf. The preliminary figures suggest a water rate increase of maybe 20 percent this year and a substantial increase in the tax rate as well. The district is also considering dropping the minimum monthly charge — although it will need to find a way for everyone to pay their fair share of the cost of building a system that can handle peak demand when those vacation-home owners turn on the tap.

Moreover, as Nelson pointed out — the board needs to develop a reasonable, long-term infrastructure plan instead of reacting endlessly to crises.

In the meantime, we hope that residents will continue to appreciate the mounting gains — even if it means tolerating the growing pains.

Proud as punch

We want this on the record now — before the most awesome kids in the world win any more games.

We’re so proud of the young athletes in this town we can hardly stand it — with four teams bursting into the state championship playoffs.

Now, maybe the Longhorn softball, baseball, track and golf teams will go all the way. Maybe they’ll battle through the daunting competition between now and May 11 in an unprecedented blaze of guts and glory.

Then again, maybe the kids who have already worked their hearts out for a spectacular season will fall in the first playoff round or two or three.

But truth be told, we won’t be any more proud of these splendid young people if they win all four state championships than we are right now — with four teams in the playoffs.

So we hope you’ll enjoy our celebratory special section, which recounts the brilliant season these kids have already had — against all odds.

And we hope you’ll consider taking a trip to the playoff sites to cheer on the track, baseball, softball and golf teams. You can find the complete schedule and brackets in our special section.

We hope you’ll also show your support by contributing to Credit for Kids, the tax write-off system that allows a couple to contribute $400 to the schools, which comes right off the state income tax bill. Thanks to the Legislature’s shameful lack of support for our schools, the Payson Unified School District relies almost entirely on community donations through Credit for Kids to support all of its athletic programs.

Now, as our own hometown champions play these tough, high-pressure games, you can bet we’ll yell ourselves hoarse every time they score.

But make no mistake: No matter what happens next — we couldn’t feel more proud.

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