Residents in the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District started getting their ballots in the mail this week for the election of a brand new water board.
The Roundup sent questionnaires to the eight candidates for the seven open seats. Tom Weeks did not respond prior to press time, but here is what the other candidates had to say.
Donald L Smith, DDS
I have lived in Strawberry for the past 33 years. I have a dental practice in Strawberry. I moved my practice from Payson to Pine-Strawberry 13 years ago and practiced in Payson for 21 years.
I am married to Mella Smith, CEP and have two children, Andy and Liesl. We have enjoyed 40 years of marriage and have six grandchildren.
I served with the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department as a volunteer and paid on-call reserve for 30 years. I was a firefighter, IEMT-C (99), and paramedic.
The opportunity to serve my community and its citizens began in 1981 when I was elected to the Pine-Strawberry School Board. I served on this board for two terms (eight years). I then had the privilege of serving on the Pine-Strawberry Fire Board for 3.5 years. My services were then needed by the Pine Ward Board for two terms (eight years).
I believe that my training in Open Meeting Law and budgeting may prove useful as I run for another term on the PSWID Water Board.
Besides raising a family and playing with the fire department, I have served our local Scouting units as Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, merit badge counselor, and unit commissioner for 28 years.
My service in my church and to the Scouts has taught me integrity and honesty. I believe these traits are paramount in proper community service.
• Full-time Pine resident for 40-plus years.
• I have worked in the construction business for most of my working years.
• Was the last plant operator for the Childs power plant with APS until the plant was shut down.
• Presently, I am the owner of Mid-State Asphalt Services.
• Reason for running for PSWID Water Board: I became interested in the district after hearing about the previous board wanting to borrow $7.5 million and raising the tax assessment on our property taxes. I felt that these decisions were not in the best interest of our community. I also didn’t care for the way the previous board treated the public and felt a lot of decisions were being made without the board listening to the public’s concerns.
I would like to see the district be self-sufficient, operating with the revenues generated by the base rate and water usage, and not putting a huge financial debt on the community homeowners by borrowing and spending. We also need to upgrade the existing system and continue to develop water sources to meet the demand of the community, but I feel this needs to be done at a pace that doesn’t incur a large amount of debt and keeps our water bills within reason.
I would like to see the new board be more open and receptive to community input, concerns, and ideas to create a water system that is dependable and at a cost we all can live with.
- My wife and I purchased a home in Pine in October of 2000. We were part-time residents until 2005 when we took up full-time residence. I became interested in the water situation in 2006 when the K2 well was announced. Since then I have been very involved with the issues surrounding the water system. I served as a PSWID board member from January 2013 to November 2013. I work from my home as a systems engineer for Nokia Solutions and Networks, with an educational background in electrical engineering.
- Over the years tracking the issues and then being a PSWID board member I have come to understand the areas where there is a need for improvement. My personal goals for being a board member are:
• To have spending decisions made in public by all seven board members.
• To provide the public with as much information about what is being done, to answer questions graciously and to the fullest extent possible, and to listen to the ideas and concerns of the public.
• To get the best value possible for each dollar spent; treating each of my neighbors dollars as carefully as I do my own.
• To weigh my decisions based on what is best for the community as a whole.
- In the short-term the new board will have to address increasing the information available to itself and the public about the operations and spending in the district. The new board will also be working to increase the value that CH2M Hill brings to PSWID, from both a cost and customer service point of view.
The bigger challenges for the new board will be two longer-term items, how to respond to the master plan that will be available this July and the refinancing of the current loan, which has a $6 million balloon payment in 2018. For the master plan, the new board will need to spend time understanding the content of the master plan, educating the public about it, prioritizing the recommendations, and then the hardest part will be figuring out the spending pace which the community can afford. For the refinancing, the new board will need to investigate the possible refinancing options and determine how best to proceed.
My name is Trent McNeeley. I have lived in the Pine community for about 20 years. What brought me up to this community was the job opportunity with UMOS and then went to work for Brooke Utilities which I had gained my grade 2 water operator certifications in treatment and distribution. After leaving the water company I went into civil constructions where I was a superintendent for 10-plus years overseeing small jobs to multimillion dollar jobs. Now I work for Etc Builders, a local remodeling contractor.
If elected I would bring some knowledge of the water system and an open ear and mind to listen to the wants and needs of the community.
As a new board I think the first priority would be regaining the community’s trust and input. Second would be acquiring the master plan and prioritizing what we can afford and achieve with the funds on hand and finding funding and resources for future projects. Third, to see the water district to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
One of the biggest reasons I am running for the PSWID board is because of the lack of trust and confidence in the previous board, brought on, in my opinion, largely by their own actions. During my attendance at board meetings I saw board members who were defensive, anything but transparent, and in some cases disrespectful to the constituents they were elected/appointed to serve. That is not what the rate and taxpayers of the district expect or deserve. What they do deserve is a reliable supply of safe drinking water delivered at a competitive price.
My goals, if elected, will be to restore confidence in the new board through open and honest communication about all actions and decisions. I want a thorough review of all accounting practices and controls and to establish customer service guidelines to ensure that customers are treated courteously, fairly, promptly and in compliance with approved policies.
When the master plan is complete, the board, together with the community’s input, should prioritize needed improvements and develop a financial plan to fund those improvements at a pace the district can afford with tolerable property tax and water rate funds.
My education and work background include a BS in electrical engineering and an MBA. I worked at Salt River Project for 23 years, owned and managed a metal framing and drywall company. I spent the last 10 years prior to retirement in 2010 as a municipal lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. I was in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969 and served a tour in Vietnam. I believe my background and experience, along with the other very qualified candidates, can bring improved oversight, direction and decision making to the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District.
- I retired from IBM in 1992 with positions in manufacturing, as electrical technician, and later as new product coordinator. My wife and I have lived in Strawberry for more than three years. I have been involved in community volunteer positions for church, various management positions with Boy Scouts, and with small town government needs to get important issues attention and change.
- If elected, I hope to help with keeping the direction of efforts to community needs that we need and can afford. I believe that issues need to be kept out in the public’s view, not secret moneymaking ideas for board members.
- The new board needs to gain the support of the community by direct communication of what is happening and how the expenses affect each of us. The office staff, repair personnel, and management for CH2M Hill will have a new working arrangement with board members, in that their contract and our needs of the people will be public knowledge, not yearly but monthly and such that our needs are met.
We need good clean drinkable water, in the amounts we need (with pressure not dribbles), and at a price all can afford. This can happen with community support, that means showing up at meetings, with ideas, corrective thoughts, or compliments. Our direction will not be to micromanage CH2M Hill, but to keep them on schedule to a master plan, that the board that you elect, approves of. The budget for CH2M Hill, will be managed on a weekly evaluation, such that we get what we pay for, and what we can afford.
I signed the original petition for establishment of the water board and voted for its existence. I attended water board meetings since its establishment whenever possible and also corporation commission meetings. I studied reports concerning drilling of exploratory stratigraphic tests for water in the district. My wife and I conducted a personal study of existing water wells in Strawberry for depth and production records. I became involved in the recall efforts when I realized that the majority of the water board members were not responsive to the needs of the people it served after they raised rates and taxes drastically early in the summer of 2013 after a meeting where nearly all the attendees expressed their disagreement with the spending.
Reason for running for the board: I would like to inject honor and integrity into the PSWID board, I would like to see the board have members that are totally honest and have the best interest of the community as their goal.
Goals: See the master plan finalized. Finish resolving the distribution infrastructure problems. Help the people it serves achieve plentiful and quality water distributed as cheaply and efficiently as possible.
The special election to select the new board will be held May 20. The county recorder’s office began mailing out special election ballots April 24.