For a water district meeting, the public turnout for the June 17 Idyllwild Water District board meeting was impressive. At least seven people attended and patiently listened to budget presentations and discussions of resolutions until the public comment period arrived.
Water meters, rates and efficiency were all topics brought to the board’s attention that evening.
Urging the board to rescind its policy of refusing to sell new water meters, Vic Sirkin, retired real estate agent, said, “50- and 60-year-olds one day want to build their dream house here. But if they didn’t purchase a meter years ago, the property now becomes their neighbor’s private lot.”
Both Fern Valley and Pine Cove continue to sell new meters, Sirkin noted. Fern Valley Water District has sold three new meters in recent months. Pine Cove has sold one and is discussing installing several other meters with customers.
Sirkin then discussed the “trickle-down effect” of Idyllwild’s no new customers policy. Local builders don’t have the work, which affects potential employees and future residents won’t be adding to the local economy.
New construction does not immediately follow the purchase of a meter, Sirkin added, but the opportunity to purchase a meter protects the property’s value. Further, because of septic rules, not every vacant lot within the district can sustain a structure.
While Director Michael Frietas “liked what [Sirkin] said,” Director John Cook was less supportive and Director Warren Monroe opposed the idea of new meters during Ssages 2 and 3 because of concerns that the district comply with its implicit promise to provide water to all existing customers.
David Lilieholm responded that Cook had just reported that district average consumption had fallen nearly 33 percent in two years and General Manager Tom Lynch reported that new wells would augment water supply by 10 percent.
Lynch asked whether the district also should support new commercial use? “Foster Lake has been dry for two years. Not having that resource puts us in a perilous position,” he said.
Former Idyllwild teacher Diane D’Arcy came because she was concerned about IWD raising water rates for the sixth consecutive year. While that was not proposed in the new budget, she urged the board to look at administrative costs. Further, if Hill residents looked at total water production costs for three separate districts, there are some duplication of costs.
“It’s time for a community discussion of unification,” she suggested. Board President Jim Billman agreed and replied that IWD has a resolution supporting the concept. If D’Arcy wants to move forward with the idea, she and others will need support for residents in the other two districts, he urged.
“Everybody knows there are benefits to consolidation,” Sirkin stated. “We have trouble moving past history here.”