On a 2-1 vote, the Gila County Board of Supervisors on Friday (Jan. 17) called a May special election for the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID).
The PSWID customers will elect seven new board members in May. Three of those newly elected board members will then have to go through another election in November, to get the district back in synch with the regular election schedule with four year terms and an election every two years.
The decision came the day after the supervisors traveled to Pine to hear 150 Pine water customers comment on the troubles the community has with the water district. Supervisor Tommie Martin said that meeting changed her mind.
“As you know, my preference is for the community to wait until November because decisions made in the heat of battle are not the best,” she said by phone at the 4:00 p.m. special meeting Friday. “But the furor that I found last night with what to do and who was right and who wrong...My fear is that those folks are not together or interested in letting the furor settle down and it will continue to simmer over the months… I am recommending calling for a May election to end the furor.”
Michael Pastor voted against the May election.
“I got comments that it was pretty much 50-50 in that community. There is obviously something going on up there, so I would prefer to wait until November,” he said.
Three of the board members elected in May could find themselves facing the voters again six months later – and the district will have to pay for both an $18,000 special election and about $5,000 for a spot on the general election ballot in November. According to state statute, the first thing the board must do, is separate itself into two groups. One group would have a two-year term, the other group, four-year terms, according to County Attorney Brian Chambers. Since the law says board members of special districts may not serve more than four years, the district will have to have another election in November to get in synch with the election cycle.
So, those who take on the four-year term will need to face a second election in November, said Eric Meriscal, Gila County Elections Director.