Director elections moved to November in 2022

At its regular November meeting, the Idyllwild Water District directors adopted new regulations for administering the sewer system and agreed to move their bi-annual August election for directors to the state’s November general elections beginning in 2022.

The new sewer rule, Ordinance 65, replaces regulations adopted 20 years ago in 1997, according to Interim General Manager Jack Hoagland

Among the changes, Hoagland reported that the district will no longer count the individual number of fixtures in single-family homes. In the future, a single-family home will be deemed one “equivalent dwelling unit,” which discharges 250 gallons of wastewater daily.

Identifying and counting fixture units will be limited to commercial and institutional customers. And Hoagland emphasized that multi-family structures are considered commercial units.

The new rules also allow the district to permit “dischargers with unique waste streams to exceed the amounts specified.” However, Hoagland stressed that these exceptions would be limited to volumes, which would not threaten IWD’s permit from the Santa Ana Water Quality Control Board.

This possible exception raised a concern from the public. Tom Paulek asked the board to defer a decision until December in order to give him more time to review this language.

He was specifically concerned about the Idyllwild Brewpub discharges, which he expects to increase. Further, he does not believe IWD has been adequately monitoring the brewery’s discharges.

The board declined to delay its action, however. Further, Hoagland said there are times, such as last spring, when a large volume of rainfall occurred and passed into the sewer system. Too much clean water poses stress on the treatment plant. Thus, there may be a time when he might ask the Brewpub to increase its discharges, which would improve the water plant’s ability to process the sewer.

Currently, the Brewpub’s discharges are well below its permitted volume, he emphasized.

The board adopted the new regulations unanimously, 4-0. Director Geoffrey Caine was absent.

In other business, the board decided to shift its election for directors to coincide with the state’s November general elections.

Senate Bill 415, a barely noticed law, passed two years ago. Its purpose is to encourage higher turnouts for municipal and special-district elections. These have usually been held in off-year elections such as August of odd-numbered years.  All three local water districts hold their elections for directors in those elections.

SB 415 limits these elections, beginning in January 2018. The local districts may not hold an election other than during a statewide general election if prior off-year elections resulted in low-voter turnout. The law defines low turnout as 25 percent less than the average turnout for the previous four statewide general elections.

Turnout in Idyllwild for gubernatorial elections and presidential elections has typically exceeded 75 percent of eligible voters. In 2016, it reached 90 percent. Turnout for IWD director elections has been less than 40 percent.

The board considered several options, such as holding elections during June primaries, but chose the November elections beginning in 2022.

The effect on director’s terms will add one year if elected this past August to four-year terms. This applies to Caine. It would have applied to Vic Sirkin, but he resigned. Sirkin’s replacement, Catherine Dearing, must stand for election to a two-year term in 2019. Directors whose terms end in 2019 are President Chip Schelly, Steven Kunkle and Peter Szabadi. If re-elected in 2019, they will have to stand for election in 2022.

In water business, Hoagland reported that water production in October was 8.3 million gallons, which is 14 percent more than the 7.3 million gallons produced in October 2016. Total production for the first 10 months of 2017 has been 78 million gallons, compared to 68.9 million gallons for the same period in 2016.