Pinal supervisors to consider hostile takeover of water district

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Maricopa Consolidated DWID has been sparring with the City of Maricopa over the reliability of its infrastructure.

Two weeks before Maricopa City Council invited the elected board of a local water district to a face-to-face meeting, City leaders had already sent a letter to a Pinal County supervisor suggesting a takeover of that board.

That has not gone down well, and the Maricopa Consolidated Domestic Water Improvement District is rallying its troops to attend the Wednesday meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

With the exception of Chairman Dean Scott, the MCDWID board did not show up at the Nov. 17 meeting at City Hall. At that meeting, the mayor and councilmembers said they wanted to exchange information and get everyone on the same page as Scott tried to describe the distrust the board had for the City.

But a Nov. 2 letter to County Supervisor Anthony Smith illustrated what the City deemed insufficient water flows and infrastructure within MCDWID, which primarily serves the Heritage District. Smith placed the issue on the Dec. 2 agenda.

“There’s been a concern brought to us by City Manager Rick Horst and Mayor Price, personally to me, regarding concerns of protecting the residents, in particular for maintaining fire flows for not only residents but for commercial buildings,” Smith said. “There appears to be a controversy. It’s an opportunity for both parties to come and present their viewpoints, their side of the case.”

The agenda item up for discussion includes a resolution that calls the situation an emergency for the residents of the water district, revokes the authority of the water board and places the district under the control of the Board of Supervisors. The district serves about 500 customers.

Since at least February, MCDWID has disputed allegations of a failing system and the City’s description of low water flow. The issue became more public as commercial development accelerated along the portion of John Wayne Parkway through the Heritage District. The City claims the water district cannot sustain service to the new and planned buildings.

MCDWID is a special taxing district that taxes its property owners to pay for operation and maintenance of the water system and sets fees for water. The City of Maricopa had proposed taking over operation of the district, hiring district employees, ending the taxing district and “locking in” current fees for a certain amount of time in an effort to provide consistent fire service to match that provided by Global Water.

MCDWID did not interpret the proposal as quite so friendly, even less so bringing Pinal County into the dispute.

“The City of Maricopa has gone around the Board and voters to the County Board of Supervisors to try and force a takeover of our system,” the district told its residents.

Pinal County Board of Supervisors has twice held closed-session discussions about the matter. MCDWID’s board has also met in private about the relationship with the City of Maricopa.

Smith, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, said he put the item on Wednesday’s agenda to allow both sides to present their information.

“If it’s necessary and the board agrees, the board would take an action to revoke or remove the existing district board,” said Smith, whose wife, Nancy, is vice mayor in Maricopa. “The Board of Supervisors would then act as the board. We could either have a new election or other remedy that we may discover.”

Smith said the county supervisors have taken over administration of other special districts for various reasons, including a brief takeover of the local Seven Ranches DWID.

“The Board of Supervisors doesn’t want to be in the business of running special districts, that’s for sure,” he said. “But when it becomes necessary to protect our residents, Arizona Revised Statures give us the opportunity and responsibility to do those. We look at the responsibility very seriously. With good cause, we take action in order to accomplish that expectation.”

According to MCDWID, any action taken by the county will impact other districts managed by its board. It has intergovernmental agreements with four water districts in the area.

Smith said during his time as mayor of Maricopa (2008-12), the City had friendly relations with the water district. He said that included dedicating Community Development Block Grants to improving the DWID’s flow capacity and fire-protection capacity.

Wednesday’s meeting of the county supervisors begins at 9:30 a.m. in Florence. Live video is available on the county website.