Byers and Sockwell question Johnson's letter to ADWR

KINGMAN - The slow progress of a water study by the Arizona Department of Water Resources was frustrating enough, but what really set Supervisor Pete Byers off during Monday's Board meeting was a letter from Supervisor Buster Johnson to ADWR.

The letter asks ADWR to re-evaluate Kingman's water adequacy and water service area.

"It's really amazing to me that ADWR is making a frontal attack on Kingman from a letter from a supervisor from another district," Byers told ADWR representative Tom Whitmer during the meeting

Whitmer said ADWR was not focusing on Kingman, and the re-evaluation of Kingman's water supply had nothing to do with Johnson's letter.

"There's nowhere else that Mr. Johnson wrote a letter on," Byers said. "I don't like that, and I'm not very happy about it and he [Johnson] knows that.

"Rest assured there's going to be letters coming from me to start looking in other areas. Something stinks here."

Apparently, Johnson failed to notify the other Board members that he had sent the letter. County Public Information Director Darryle Purcell said the other two supervisors didn't learn of the letter until April 13. The letter is dated Feb. 9.

Purcell said he started making calls to ADWR as soon as he found out about the letter on Friday.

He placed calls to three different individuals at ADWR and failed to get a response.

He also attempted to e-mail Johnson's office for a copy of the letter Monday, and eventually, resorted to sending a formal request through the County Attorney's Office. Purcell said he was finally able to get an unsigned copy of the letter Tuesday afternoon.

The Miner was also able to get an unsigned copy of the letter from Johnson's office.

The letter is addressed to ADWR Director Herb Guenther.

In it, Johnson expresses concern over the city of Kingman's recent attempts to expand its water service boundaries to the north of the city and into Golden Valley.

In the letter, Johnson said he was not speaking for the Board, but in his position as the District III supervisor for the county.

"The expansion of their [the city's] water service area is encouraged when a developer requests to be annexed in, but the indiscriminate taking of lands without the consult or request by the affected land owners is wrong," Johnson states in the letter.

"The designation of water adequacy given to the city of Kingman obviously is not adequate for the areas they want to expand. I also believe that the city of Kingman, with a population of 22,000, is not in a financial position to be incurring this responsibility," the letter states.

"There's always lot of questions when water is involved," Johnson said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Johnson said his main fear if the city went through with the expansion was that it would lessen the control the county had over new development in the area.

Developers with land in the annexed area could simply get approval from the city for their new subdivisions and bypass approval by the county, the Arizona Corporation Commission and ADWR.

Kingman is one of 21 cities in the state whose water service system is not overseen by ADWR or the ACC. This is due to an agreement between the city and the state that predates the creation of ADWR. The agreement basically says that the state must provide water to Kingman, but does not place a cap on how much water Kingman can ask for.

Johnson also pointed out that Tom Whitmer from ADWR had said during Monday's Board meeting that Kingman was not the only city whose 100-year adequacy was being re-evaluated by ADWR.

Johnson said he did attempt to talk with Kingman officials about his concerns. A meeting between ADWR and the city was held on Monday.

"They all have a right to their own point of view," Johnson said.

"Supervisor Johnson has involved himself in some unethical things. He is known for getting involved with things in other districts, and he needs to mind his own business," Supervisor Tom Sockwell said.

Sockwell said he thought the letter might have been an attempt by Johnson to sabotage subdivisions in Golden Valley planned by Rhodes Homes.

"There was reason behind it," Sockwell said, adding he did not know exactly what Johnson had in mind.