Approve new contract with Hoagland for another year

The Idyllwild Water District directors discussed priorities, reviewed Interim General Manager Jack Hoagland’s five-year capital improvement plans for water and sewer, and extended the contract with Hoagland for another year.

Based on proposed input from his colleagues, President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly developed five general priorities for the district. This is an important step for the board, which “… has been trying to get something in place for more than a year,” Schelly said.

He noted the board has held several workshops, one only two weeks ago, and offered the public numerous opportunities to address the district’s priorities.

First on Schelly’s priority list was: “Provide reliable water and sewer service in a safe, cost effective and environmentally sound manner in accordance with community needs.” Subsumed within this priority was the intent to “establish long term agreements with [Fern Valley and Pine Cove water districts] to manage hill water resources.”

The other four priorities addressed issues such as transparency, a perpetual four-year capital plan, ensuring qualified staff, and adhering to “sound financial principles.”

Under the financial priority were two subsidiary goals — a long-range rate structure to ensure stability and a capital-improvement plan within the existing revenue base.

The other directors had no objections with Schelly’s proposals, the discussion revolved around the level of specificity the board should set for the general manager.

While Schelly agreed that the priorities could be amended at any future meeting, he stressed that the board’s role is to set policy, and the general manager and staff were responsible for implementing and accomplishing the priorities.

For example, on the basis of discussion of a previous issue, Director Steven Kunkle suggested a review of the IWD record retention policy should be conducted in the coming year. Schelly agreed with idea, but said it was clearly subsumed within the language of the transparency priority.

“We can’t get into day-to-day management,” he stated. “We can increase specificity, but we need to start with something we approved.”

In response, Director Peter Szabadi agreed. “I have no adjustment. It’s well summarized and Jack [Hoagland, interim general manager] has the job to run with it.”

A specific issue several directors want to address going forward is a study for a new rate structure. Hoagland said he has circulated a request for proposals. Responses were to be submitted by Friday, Dec. 22. He recommended the board hold a special meeting on Jan. 3, 2018, to review the submissions and decide how it wishes to proceed with the study and review of the rate structure.

Hoagland hopes to have enough details from the study for the preparation of the 2018-19 budget in the spring.

Improvements to the water distribution and supplies dominate Hoagland’s proposed 10-year capital plans. At the suggestion of some directors, he plans to have staff install several small pipeline projects in order to develop greater capability in the future.

For example, IWD staff would install two of the four pipeline projects proposed for 2018-19. These projects would be on Double View Drive and replace 950 feet of existing pipe. The other two projects, which total 2,600 feet, would be offered for bid to contractors. The plan projects more staff pipe installation in future years.

Capital projects are estimated to cost about $1 million next fiscal year. Future years are about $700,000 annually, except for 2022, which has nearly $900,000 worth of work scheduled.

The new contract with Hoagland is for one year as general manager. His compensation is about $105,000 and includes all employee benefits available to regular employees. The vote was 3-1. Kunkle opposed the contract extension and Director Geoffrey Caine was absent.

Hoagland was hired as interim general manager in December 2016. He replaced former General Manager Tom Lynch, who resigned unexpectedly in September 2016.

The board acknowledged that it is not actively searching for a permanent general manager. However, Szabadi said the contract provides for the district’s ability to terminate Hoagland in the event someone was hired.

In other board business, the resolution changing director elections to even-numbered years was amended to ensure that the board has staggered terms rather than all five directors elected in the same year.

The purchase of a new truck also was unanimously approved.

For November, water revenues were about $10,700 greater than costs. The sewer district revenues exceeded the costs by nearly $6,500, Chief Finance Officer Hosny Shouman reported.

Water production was 6.3 million gallons, which is about 300,000 gallons more than November 2016. For the 11 months of 2017, total water production has been 84.4 million gallons, which is 9.3 million gallons (12 percent) greater than the same period in 2016. The unaccounted-for water remains at about 6 percent of production.

Although the level of Foster Lake continues to drop, Hoagland reported that the ground level of the district’s wells remains significantly higher than a year ago.