Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Brooke president rips 'reckless' coverage


'It's why I stopped dealing with and
reading the
Roundup years ago.'

By Robert T. Hardcastle
Brooke Utilities, Inc.

When one reads a piece of published journalism there are basic assumptions the reader makes. We assume the core facts are accurate. At the very least we assume the writer made a reasonable attempt to learn and corroborate the facts. We assume the use of names is accurate. We assume what we read is not just ink spread on paper to fill space. And certainly not just because of some emotional reaction. "Fill in the blanks" journalism has surely risen to a higher level.

The Editorial published in the August 2, 2013 Payson Roundup ("Another Fine Mess ....") completely disregards these basic assumptions. For years, it is something I have marveled at, wondering why readers didn't demand higher levels of professional integrity in the Rim Country media. It's why I stopped dealing with and reading the Roundup years ago. When you can't even get headlines accurate, much less the story content, what is the point in reading it at all?

A few mis-stated facts, easily verified, should suffice as an example:

• "...[The Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District] bought out Brooke two years ago...".

FACT: The voluntary condemnation transaction of Pine Water and Strawberry Water closed in September 2009.

FACT: Brooke Utilities has never been bought out.

• "Its possible Brooke charged Mesa del residents extortionist rates for water they didn't need".

FACT: Brooke didn't charge Mesa del Caballo residents for anything. Payson Water Co. serves the residents of Mesa del. 

FACT: Under sworn testimony, Corporation Commission staff have long since testified that Payson Water charged the water augmentation rates approved by the Commission.

FACT: Under the same sworn testimony Commission staff has stated that the method of calculating water augmentation rates is accurate and consistent with the methodology previously developed by the Commission.

FACT: Water hauling occurs only as dictated by a system of staging levels developed by the Commission. Water hauling MUST occur pursuant to the established system - it's not a matter of choice for the water company.  Alternatively, ..... Mesa del residents could easily run out of a water supply.

• "..... quickly struck an agreement with the owner of the disputed well .....".

FACT: Efforts were regularly under way over a year previously to reach an even more favorable agreement with the disputed well owners.

FACT: The disputed well owner was paid for every gallon of water supplied to the community during the period of agreement negotiations until the new owner's water agreement was reached.

• "..... took advantage of the state-granted monopoly .....".

FACT: This is a conclusionary statement with no basis, whatsoever, in fact. There has never been a sanction, penalty, fine, assessment, or finding by any Arizona regulatory agency against any of Brooke's water companies. And, certainly not because of some mis-use of state-granted privledges. To conclude otherwise is slanderous, misleading, and representative of a poor media work product.

FACT: The journalist cannot cite a single instance of such a finding in nearly 20 years.

• "The water company made no effort to develop water sources the community needed .....".

FACT: In light of Roundup journalists being present during several water supply development community meetings in 2011, this statement is laughable.

FACT: Simply, the ability for Payson Water's current owner to even consider a water supply connection to the Cragin Project came as a result of work started by the Company more than three years ago. 

FACT: The possibility of connecting to Town of Payson's transmission pipeline, at all, came as a result of work started by the Company two years ago.

FACT: Several water sharing agreements with private well owners were entered into for the specific purpose of developing additional water sources.

FACT: Existing Company owned wells were made more productive over the years for the specific purpose of developing additional water sources.

FACT: In the years prior to 2010, the Company hauled hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to residents of Mesa del without reimbursement. No compensation at all was recovered. Mesa del residents didn't complain.

• "Some [residents] clutch bills closer to $500 for a month of water hauling".

FACT: The disputed water augmentation bills were incurred and occurred subsequent to Brooke's ownership of Payson Water.

FACT: Consumption of increasingly high levels of water, frequently during periods of mandatory conservation, is a choice of customers.

FACT: The water augmentation surcharge was developed by the Commission to give customers the ability to control their personal water costs if they are interested in doing so.

• "Wishful Thinking? Maybe".

FACT: Such a suggestion is potentially reckless to make. While its possible to move water by pipeline from one point to another, it is very difficult and VERY expensive to do so. To suggest that a water connection source to the Cragin Project is possible through annexation for communities like Geronimo Estates, Whispering Pines, Flowing Springs, and East Verde Estates clearly demonstrates just how fundamentally
uninformed the Roundup is. The remoteness of these communities exaggerate the problem already faced by Mesa del because they don't happen to be located across the street from a newly constructed water treatment plant.

We applaud the efforts made by the new water company under the leadership of Jason Williamson. His job isn't made easier by the current controversy. He recognizes the difficulties in solving the water supply problems. He knows the nexus of Payson Water, the Cragin Project, and the Town of Payson represent an opportunity that will likely never present itself again.

He recognizes the window of opportunity is finite and short. He recognizes that there are no other practical alternatives. He also recognizes that if, somehow, this opportunity is "fumbled," water augmentation, and the costs that go with it, may be a permanent fixture in the future.

One would think that local journalists would recognize and understand this opportunity and the ramifications of not seizing the moment. One would think local journalists would be promoters of practical solutions instead of being instigators of controversy and conspiracy so as to sell a few more papers. One would think that, when a phone call or two could easily be made to develop facts instead of conjecture, the need for "filling in the blanks" would not be used with such recklessness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only surprise to me is that people continue to support this rag. They have absolutely NO credibility anymore.

People, you are perpetuating a bad thing. Pick up the Rim Country Informant. It's free and it tells you all you need to know about what's going on in this town.