Peter Szabadi was chosen the new vice president of the Idyllwild Water District Board of Directors. Joining him at the board table during the Aug. 16 meeting is the district’s newest director, Catherine Dearing.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The Idyllwild Water District directors last week formed a committee to begin the search for a permanent general manager, and to review and to adopt the job description for a field supervisor.

President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly appointed Director Steve Kunkle and himself to the Search Committee.

In other general manager business, the board approved interim General Manager Jack Hoagland’s request to reduce his monthly hours 25 percent from 120 to 90 hours per month. He will be working Monday, Wednesday and half of Friday, he told the board.

As part of the new employment agreement, Hoagland’s hourly wage will increase 6 percent to $77.78 from $73.33 per hour.

Hoagland has been the interim general manager since his appointment in December 2016. He currently is serving on the Rancho California Water District board and has more than 30 years experience working for, managing and consulting with Southern California water districts.

In response to a question about recruiting a permanent general manager, Hoagland replied that he has been focusing on making the district “less dramatic” but  “… recruiting will be a challenge to find qualified candidates.”

The field operator’s job description assigns this person as “… the chief waste-water plant operator and also total field, lead water person,” Hoagland told the board.

Kunkle recommended deferring approval of the description until the new general manager has been hired, so that person can make suggestions based on their management expectations.

Director Geoffrey Caine added, “I’d like to see a larger in-house capacity for laying line.” He and Director Peter Szabadi were concerned about the cost of the current pipeline replacement project and want to explore the option of doing more work with existing staff, such as Pine Cove Water District does.

However, Hoagland argued that IWD does not have enough staff or capability to undertake projects larger than emergencies. “This is an important economic discussion,” he advised the board. “We keep the current staff pretty busy.”

Both directors agreed that the issue needs further exploration, especially due to Hoagland’s estimate last month that IWD has millions of dollars of pipe to replace over the next decade.

The board also discussed how it may take actions if two positions ever become vacant again, as has happened in the past. According to its legal counsel, in order for a water district to take action, California law requires it to have a majority of the board, not just a majority of active directors or a quorum.

If two vacancies exist, the three remaining directors must vote unanimously in order to approve any action.

Caine suggested that California code expects water districts to develop and approve their own bylaws. If the local bylaws specify that a majority of active directors may take an action, then perhaps that would be lawful. His colleagues authorized him to discuss this option with the district’s counsel.

In financial business, Hosny Shouman, chief financial officer, reported net positive proceeds for the first month (July) of the new fiscal year, 2017-18. Water revenues exceeded costs by more than $55,000 and sewer revenues were nearly $10,000 more than costs during July.

Because of directors’ travel plans, the next two regular meetings have been re-scheduled. The September meeting will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, rather than Sept. 20. The October meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 25, rather than Oct. 18.