Pine Water District Struggles With Repair Bills

Board asks for priority list as PSWID slips into the red

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Like a beleaguered family breadwinner, the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) board listened to a litany of needed, budget-busting repairs listed by District Manager Brad Cole at its meeting Sept. 12.

More money, more time, more repairs.

The board then grappled with how to pay for the upkeep of an aging, neglected system

after having recently imposed a second, significant rate increase since buying the system from Brooke Utilities. Making the job more difficult? PSWID still must finish an assessment of the pipes, pumps and storage tanks before a master plan of attack.

The long discussion of needed repairs by the end of the meeting prompted board member Sam Schwalm to ask for a prioritized list of repairs, pending coming up with an overall master plan. His motion passed on a 4-3 vote.

The discussion of an accumulation of unbudgeted repairs dominated the meeting.

“The Johnson well No. 1 failed due to corrosion,” said Cole. “We must replace the pump before it starts sucking sand into the well.”

Estimated cost: $3,280.

To keep corrosion to a minimum, Cole suggested switching to a different type of chlorination.

He gave no estimated cost, but would like to change the process from dumping tablets in tanks, to putting the chlorine in after the water comes out of the well.

Moreover, a Gila County storm drain upgrade uncovered a PSWID water main.

“It’s right in the middle of their drain,” said Cole, “We’re going to have to move it.”

Estimated costs: $17,000 with parts at $2,000.

“The two things you mention are not budgeted items — they are unexpected events?” asked Ray Pugel, board chair.

Cole confirmed they were unplanned repairs and expenses.

Later on in the meeting, a board member asked about the repair of a truck damaged in an accident — another unplanned hit to the budget.

Without a master plan, the board seems to be dog paddling to keep up with the repair demands — and they have no problem expressing their complaints.

“Without a master plan, we don’t know what we need,” said Ron Calderone, the board treasurer.

Calderone reported the bank account went into the red in July and will continue to deteriorate until the district finds more funding.

But PSWID has already started to make extensive repairs, starting with replacing old, inaccurate water meters. As of September, half have been swapped out.

The district has completed drilling on the Milk Ranch Well and will soon install a new pump. The well has had problems with pump-damaging sand and murky water when run too hard.

The district started a leak detection survey the first week of September and almost immediately found a leak in a pipe near board chairman Pugel’s home.

The chairman said, “on our Web site, we have three videos to give information to the public. Some of the misconceptions about turbidity can be put on the Web site.”

Schwalm asked Cole about turbidity issues, but hit a snag.

“We had some turbidity events recently in January and February when we approved adding filtration. What’s the progress and when will we get to the finish line?” Schwalm asked Cole.

The manager said he’s having difficulty finding a lab that can measure particle sizes and take frozen samples.

Schwalm then discussed options for financing some of the many projects PSWID has pending.

“I have been talking to RCAC (Rural Community Assistance Corporation) folks,” he said, “... (but) WIFA (the federal Water Infrastructure Finance Author­ity) is the gold stand of capital projects.”

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