PCWD President Tom McCullough and General Manager Jerry Holldber. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Board confronted about policy versus courtesy

At the Wednesday, Aug. 10 meeting of the Pine Cove Water District board of directors, local real estate broker and entrepreneur Shane Stewart questioned the board over “numerous complaints on The Market Place at Pine Cove [to Code Enforcement],” which PCWD General Manger Jerry Holldber filed with the county. Stewart said he felt it would have been more productive for Holldber or the board to have come to him first with their questions or concerns prior to making a request for Code Enforcement action. Holldber said he’d have no trouble consulting with Stewart in the future prior to calling Code Enforcement.

Stewart told the board that Code Enforcement had made 19 trips to his property, based on complaints filed by Holldber. Holldber said he had made only two calls to Code Enforcement. Hector Viray, Code Enforcement supervisor, could not confirm the the number of trips made to the market by the agency.

Stewart claimed, and Terry Lyons of Idyllwild Water District (IWD) confirmed, that IWD, as a courtesy, contacts suspected district water violators first to advise them of a suspected infraction. “Sometimes they don’t even know they have a suspected violation,” said Lyons. “It’s not policy, just a courtesy.”

And that, Stewart explained, is what he had hoped the board or Holldber would have done. Stewart explained, and Viray confirmed, that each requested Code Enforcement inspection for a suspected violation is charged out at $109 per hour, including travel time to and from Riverside. “If the violation is valid, then the violator pays,” said Viray. “Ordinance 725 allows us to recover from the violator. We wait until the case has been resolved before moving to collect.” Viray also explained that if the violation is found to be unwarranted, ultimately the taxpayers pay.

Viray noted that there is only one pending potential violation for Stewart’s Pine Cove market, for electrical involving the replacement of an existing air conditioner. Viray also explained that while a Conditional Use Permit is pending (and Stewart’s is pending), County Planning won’t issue a building permit. Stewart noted in his letter to PCWD that he did not believe a permit was necessary, that the installation was “like for like,” and that no structural, electrical or other modifications took place. “Regardless, I am proceeding to obtain the necessary permits as requested,” he wrote.

On July 5, Holldber wrote to Code Enforcement Director Glenn Baude, questioning proper disposal of wastewater at the market site. Viray confirmed that there is no violation noted for that issue.

PCWD Board President Tom McCullough clarified that governing water code (sections 31016 a, b and c) requires reporting a non-water-related violation, such as Stewart’s air conditioning issue, only after it is observed in the course of noting a water violation. But, said McCullough, there is then no discretion regarding not reporting the non-water related violation. “The code says ‘shall notify’ if any ‘district, city, or county ordinance [violation] is discovered during the investigation,” said McCullough. He noted that the board’s attorney also advised the board would be derelict and subject to potential liability if it did not report a noted non-water violation as referenced in the code.

In other business, the board approved Resolution 467, approving a Notice of Exemption (bringing existing older facilities within CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines because, as Holldber explained, “the existing facilities pose no threat to environmental quality.”

Holldber, in his general manager’s report, said that well levels are still up and surprisingly so for this time of year. Water loss is higher than usual (at 10.5 percent) and that he would have staff start doing leak detection.