On Tuesday, September 29, The Carefree Town Council had the first of three meetings to refine the town’s future strategy. Vice Mayor John Crane spoke of the Sonoran Desert as one of Carefree’s main strengths. The other Council members readily agreed and stated it was critical for Carefree to preserve our desert.
The Town of Carefree is in a legal battle for the right to bulldoze over a very large swath of protected Sonoran Desert and erect a 300,000 gallon water tank to facilitate the takeover of Carefree residents currently sourced by Cave Creek Water Company. The Council pontificates on how important it is to preserve the desert while fighting in court for the right to destroy an area of desert that has been protected since the 1970’s.
The water tank will be located only feet off Tom Darlington Road at the entrance to Carefree. An industrial tank 60 feet wide, mounded over by a massive pile of dirt. If the town wins, the water tank will be on The Boulders land right in front of the sign that reads “Town of Carefree”. Imagine the welcoming view for our visitors – the very first thing they see as they drive into Carefree will be a massive industrial structure. What is our Town Council thinking?
Traffic is something else our Town Council hasn’t considered. This is currently pristine desert and there are no roads going into the area where they plan on building the water tank. In order to build this tank, there will be heavy construction traffic coming in and out of the desert directly onto Tom Darlington road. Once construction is finally completed, we will then have on-going water service traffic to contend with.
We believe there are significant conflicts of interest driving their decision. Vice Mayor John Crane is also the Vice Chair of the Desert Foothills Land Trust. But John, like Tony Geiger and Michael Krahe, two of his peers on the Town Council, happens to live in Cave Creek Water Service area. Lyn Hitchon, who writes “Carefree Truth” and is on the Planning and Zoning Commission, also is in Cave Creek Water Service area. John’s choice to destroy protected desert in order to push through this water transition calls into question his conflict as Vice Mayor and his role as a desert conservationist versus his personal self-interest in getting off the Cave Creek Water system by utilizing rate payers money.
An additional conflict of interest is the management structure of Carefree Water Company. Mayor Les Peterson is also the Chairman of the Board of Carefree Water Company. The rest of the Water Company’s board is made up of the other town council members, including those council members who will personally benefit from this water transition. Mayor Peterson refuses to disclose to residents how much our rates will increase as a result of this water transition. Carefree residents are entitled to a full disclosure of all conflicts as well as a detailed financial accounting, including expected water rate increases.
What is really objectionable is that Carefree has other location options for the water tank that do not destroy the Sonoran Desert or the entrance to Carefree. There are at least two brownfield sites that are available to Carefree for the water tank. The town argues they would have to add the expense of a pumping station for these other sites. But that is a weak argument since there are as many as six booster pumps throughout that area of the system already.
This water transition has already cost Carefree millions in legal fees and engineering studies. Arbitration with Cave Creek is set for October 26 and, depending on the outcome, could potentially cost Carefree as much as $10 Million dollars when it is finally completed. Carefree Water rate payers will be saddled with this burden for decades and what exactly will we have to show for it? We will still be left with a tiny and even more uncompetitive water utility.
Carefree Water rates are already a 70% plus premium over Scottsdale Water rates – even though we get the majority of our treated water from Scottsdale. Carefree residents and businesses should expect our Town Council to make decisions that reduce that outlandish premium, not to further add to it.
Carefree will suffer because of the decisions our Town Council is currently making. We will pay through monthly increases to our water bills and possibly more businesses leaving discouraged with the continuing traffic disruptions and rising utility costs. Every time we drive into Carefree and look at a massive industrial tank mounded over with dirt “welcoming” us to our once lovely untouched Sonoran desert town, we will be reminded how our Carefree Town Council stubbornly railroaded this through.
If our Town Council doesn’t have the fore-site to understand the lasting damage they will do to Carefree, then we must stop them. There are several ways you can intervene. Sign an on-line petition by going to http://chng.it/8xFTs8cCB6. Write a letter to the editor at Sonoran News and other Arizona news outlets to get more Arizonans aware and involved. Or contact Carefree directly at Kandace@Carefree.org.
Thank you for your support,
Carefree Citizens for Affordable and Sustainable Water