Controversy Bubbles In Pine Water District

Election date alternatives spur debate

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Controversy has continued to simmer and build in the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District ever since the mass-resignation of five of the seven board members intended to dampen controversy.

The faction that once supported the recall of four board members had continued to lobby the Gila County Board of Supervisors to call a special election in the spring to pick a new board.

However, others have argued the district should save money and let that controversy die down by letting the board of supervisors run the district until the General Election in November.

As soon as the five Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWD) board members resigned, the Gila County Board of Supervisors dissolved the board — which put the two members of the board who hadn’t resigned out of a job.

“All seven positions are up for re-election,” said Gila County Elections Director Eric Mariscal, “There was no quorum so the board was dissolved.”

Arizona state statute 48-1016 allows the board of supervisors to assume management of the district. Without a quorum, essentially no board exists, which means the board can’t approve any ap­pointees, said Mariscal.

The statute says the supervisors may call a special election to fill board slots.

That has everyone wondering what will happen next, with the general election not slated until November. At that time, voters will decide several countywide, school district and special district positions.

If the supervisors do want to call a special election before then, they must make a decision by Jan. 20.

The elections director said the supervisors would have several things to consider.

“Districts pay for stand-alone elections,” he said, “The Town of Payson pays for its elections.”

He said a special election would cost the water district $18,000 to $20,000. By contrast, a November election would cost the district about $5,000.

Elections have a menu of behind-the-scenes costs, said Mariscal, including processing, printing, registration, and postage. Elections use two different county departments, the election and recorder’s offices.

Moreover, it’s possible that if the district did call a special election — it would have to do it all over again in November, he said.

“We must consult with the county attorney,” he said, “We could have language to include the extra five months in the term.”

All three Gila County supervisors will meet in the Pine Cultural Hall on Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. to discuss options.

The meeting is open to the public and the supervisors welcome input, said Mariscal.

Arizona statute 48-1016: Revocation of Authority of Elected Board of Directors

The board of supervisors of the county in which a domestic water improvement district of domestic wastewater improvement district is located may at any time revoke the authority of an elected board of directors in order to protect the residents of the district. Any district in which the authority of an elected board of directors is revoked pursuant to this section shall be governed by the board of supervisors as provided by section 48-908 and the board of supervisors shall have the option of calling for new elections for the district board of directors.

- Arizona State Legislature

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