The Carefree Town Council chambers were packed on June 26 for a presentation on water for the citizens of Carefree. Mayor Les Peterson began by giving a history of how the water systems came to be. Explaining that Cave Creek Water Company and Carefree Water Company were originally private entities. This is why the service area does not match the geographic boundaries. Currently there are over 500 water service customers that reside in Carefree but get their water service from the town of Cave Creek.
According to the Mayor, there have been concerns about having an assured water supply both currently and long-term for all the residents of Carefree. He noted that Carefree has wells ands a connection to another Municipal Water System in addition to get Central Arizona Project water. know Cave Creek gets their water from a sole source, CAP. And that should something happen to the pipeline delivering CAP water to Cave Creek there may be only a day’s worth of water stored.
It was also noted that there was a lack of leadership for the utility as there were three town managers and three utility managers in the last four to five years. Some of the reasons concerns have increased about the town of Carefree taking care of the clients that are currently serve by Cave Creek include fire safety, as there has been inadequate fire hydrant inspections. Also the increasing drought has made CAP issue warnings about potential cutbacks due to continued drought.
Nearly 25% of the Carefree households are located in the Cave Creek delivery system. They have no voting rights regarding the management of the water system and its infrastructure. However Carefree sits on a different aquifer than the town of Cave Creek so does have access to well water. Wells in the Cave Creek aquifer that are part of the Cave Creek Water delivery system either are dry, have not been maintained, or have high levels of arsenic.
Comparisons were illustrated between the Carefree water company and the Cave Creek water utilities. The Carefree Water Company is an independent financial entity and is cash flow positive. Bonds for the purchase of the water company will be paid off this year. In addition, the Carefree water company has a reserve cash balance of nearly $1 million. Cave Creek has two separate water utilities that are separate enterprise funds in the town budget the town of Cave Creek puts over $1,000,000 from the general fund to the enterprise funds to maintain them with about 50% of those funds going to serve the debt load.
Carefree Town Council initiated an engineering assessment of the Cave Creek distribution system that is located within the town of Carefree to make sure that the residents will have a secure water supply that is maintained properly. The engineering company will also evaluate the value of the infrastructure as part of the negotiation for the town of Carefree to purchase those customers away from the town of Cave Creek. Also in the engineering will be evaluation of designs to provide service to those areas from the Carefree water system.
An inter-governmental agreement between Carefree and Cave Creek established when the town of Cave Creek purchased the private Cave Creek Water Company allows that “Carefree may file a condemnation action to acquire the Carefree service area system from Cave Creek.” Also an allotment of CAP water for those customers in Carefree that have been serviced by Cave Creek will be transferred from Cave Creek to Carefree’s allotment.
The Carefree water board will be holding another meeting on Monday July 9th to further discuss these issues. The public is encouraged to attend.