Jim Billman was elected president of the Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors at last week’s meeting. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Jim Billman was elected president of the Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors at last week’s meeting.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

The Idyllwild Water District board discussed the income survey, which it is conducting, with General Manager Terry Lyons acknowledging that some residents have objected to the district’s interest in their income and feel it’s an invasion of their privacy.

“It’s no question it’s privacy and I tell them if they’re uncomfortable, don’t do it,” Lyons said at IWD’s Nov. 19 meeting. Chief Finance Officer Hosny Shouman stressed that IWD needs the information, not the names, to prove to the state that “we’re a disadvantaged community.”

IWD needs 500 responses for the survey to carry enough weight to convince the state of the survey’s validity. The 2010 data had an average household income of more than $55,000 for Idyllwild. At this level, the State Water Resources Control Board told the district that it was ineligible for grant money to build the water recycling pilot plant and the loans would not be forgiven.

Later in the meeting, Director John Cook emphasized, “If we don’t qualify for grants, some of the board don’t want to do recycling.”

In other business, the directors chose Jim Billman to be board president for 2014. He will assume the office in January. No decision was made about the vice presidency.

“My primary goal will be to keep the district as effective and efficient as it presently is and, with representative input from the staff and board, amend any items that can improve that workplace ethic,” Billman replied when asked about his priorities when he assumes office.

Cook suggested that in the future the IWD presidency might be rotated among the directors. “It might be a good idea to rotate the president so all [of us] could see what it’s like and share the [work] load,” Cook noted.

The board accepted the audit for fiscal year 2012-13, which ended June 30. Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott of San Bernardino conducted the audit. Its opinion of IWD’s financial records was that “… the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the district as of June 30, 2013 … in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted …”

This is the highest evaluation an accounting firm can offer, according to Scott Mano of Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott. He complimented the district on its cash balance and cash flow, which was positive in 2013.

In other financial matters, the board unanimously approved two resolutions. One would codify an existing policy for granting employees pay increases when they successfully earn water operator certificates from the state. The second established a retirement policy (457) for new employees.

In water business, Lyons reported that the new Golden Rod tank, 200,000 gallons, has now been added to the distribution system. In addition, Idyllwild Backhoe has removed 7,700 cubic yards of silt from Foster Lake.

The ground-water level for several of the district’s wells continues to drop, Lyons said. “The downtown wells near Strawberry Plaza area are at 23 feet, about the lowest [level] I’ve seen in a while,” Lyons said. “Fern Valley 1A, which is usually artesian, is at 5 feet, the first time I’ve seen that.”

When asked about the criteria for entering a Stage 3 water emergency (IWD is in Stage 2 now), Lyons said he will monitor the ground-water level of wells at Foster Lake and downtown. “I’ll be watching Fern Valley 1A to see how that fits into the puzzle. I’m curious why it’s down,” Lyons responded.

“Stage 3 is looming on the horizon,” advised President Warren Monroe. “It’s important to let the public know what’s ahead.”

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected].