At last Wednesday night’s Idyllwild Water District board meeting, the four directors present (President Jim Billman was absent) unanimously approved a sponsor’s agreement to provide $310,000 from capital reserves for water pipeline replacement. The agreement is between IWD and Riverside County. The county approved a grant of $155,000 of Community Development Block Grant Funds back in March toward the project.

In his general manager’s report, Tom Lynch said SPi has submitted the final draft of the recycled water project equipment’s design, and the next step is to prepare the engineer solicitation. He also is preparing the routing options for recycled water lines by meeting with various property owners over the next few weeks.

In financial news, the water fund for June came in close to budget while the sewer fund was in the negative of about $7,000.

Of the 12 positions on the district, three are vacant, including the sewer department chief operating officer and a sewer maintenance technician. That explains why wages and salaries for sewer were 53 percent lower than budget. However, general plant services were $24,324, $21,074 more than the budgeted number of $3,250, and engineering and consulting fees were $9,372, $8,622 over the budget of $740. Southern California Soil’s testing at the sewer plant cost $22,878.80.

Engineering and consulting of $9,372 is paid monthly to the California Rural Water Association to provide oversight of the sewer plant two days a week.

For the water fund, operating revenues came in at $98,757, almost 2 percent below the budget, yet the district managed to keep expenses down to $90,208, nearly 22 percent lower than budget for a total income in June of $8,549. The district is operating with one maintenance technician vacancy in the water department, which contributed to the income.

IWD’s water fund has current assets of nearly $8 million while the sewer fund has nearly $2.5 million.

Lynch reported that the district remains in Stage 2 Water Emergency with the Foster Lake level at 0 percent. The district has 14 wells available with 10 in use, five full-time and five part-time. And water consumption is up, he said.

Several wells are targeted for rehabilitation, he said, and several contractors have expressed interest in bidding on the project.

More than 1 million cubic feet was consumed in June compared to just over 850,000 cubic feet in May. On average, IWD produced 181 gallons per minute in June compared to 147 average in May. June water loss with four leaks was 5.14 percent compared to three leaks with 2.18 percent loss in May.

The directors had a long discussion about wages, salaries and benefits when Resolution 726 came up on the agenda. Director Steve Kunkle asked Vice President John Cook to break up the proposed salary schedule and personnel policy healthcare benefits into two separate issues. Cook agreed.

Lynch, Cook, Freitas and Financial Officer Hosny Shouman argued for a 14-step salary schedule vs. a 10-step schedule to entice candidates to fill the three positions unmanned. They believe that IWD is not attracting and retaining employees because the pay is too low, but if a candidate sees more potential for increased salary, they might apply and stay.

Kunkle disagreed saying there could be other ways to attract and keep employees, such as offering CalPers. After much discussion about the issue, Kunkle moved to give the sewer department chief operating officer position the 14-step increase and do a comprehensive study on the other positions later. The motion passed 3-1 with Freitas a nay vote.

As for medical benefits, the board approved an increase 3-0 with Kunkle abstaining since he receives those benefits as a former IWD employee. The increase to the district will be $9,600 annually.