George Rowell fills vacant director seat

Trischa Clark is the new president of the Fern Valley Water District Board of Directors. At its Jan. 19 meeting, the board elected new officers for 2018 and selected George Rowell to fill the current vacant seat on the board.

The vote was unanimous, 4-0, for both decisions. “The change in leadership is good,” former President James Rees said.


Clark has served as board vice president for the past two years, and board secretary and treasurer before that.  She joined the board in 2007.

Director Richard Schnetzer, current secretary/treasurer, was elected vice president and the Director Robert Krieger is secretary/treasurer.

Rees joined the board in December 2009 and served as president for two years, from January 2016 to this month.


Individuals who applied for the vacancy and were interviewed were James Gates, Fred Hamblin and George Rowell.

“We had three good candidates,” said Krieger. Rowell has been a full-time resident longer than the other two candidates, which is why Krieger favored him.

“I think the candidates were all pretty equal. I give Rowell attention for his community involvement and time here,” he added.

“I just think he is the best fit for our group,” Clark added. All directors agreed and Rowell is the new FVWD director.

The vacancy occurred when Jim Wise declined the July Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ appointment to the seat. Following the nomination period in May, FVWD had three candidates for three seats; therefore, holding an election was not necessary. In the summer, the county supervisors approved the appointment of the three nominees — directors Krieger and Rees, and Wise, a new candidate.

However, Wise formally declined the position in October. The board could not begin the recruitment and appointment process until terms officially began on Dec. 1. Rowell will serve until December 2019. In August 2019, he will have to stand for election for the final two years of the term, which ends in December 2021.


In other board business, the second-quarter financial report was reviewed. Through the first six months of fiscal year 2017-
18, revenues were $517,000, which was about $40,000 less than expenses. Reserves are more than sufficient to cover the temporary deficit.

FVWD still anticipates more than $550,000 in added revenue.

About one-third of the proposed capital budget has been spent, mostly on new meters for the replacement program.

In the second half of the fiscal year, FVWD plans to invest almost $175,000 in new hydrants. This includes one new hydrant installation and replacement of another 38, according to General Manager Victor Jimenez

Although water production increased 9.3 percent during the November and December billing cycle compared to the same period in 2016, revenue grew faster because the new service charge was effective on Jan. 1, 2018. This hiked revenue by $35,000.

The new water rates will be effective in the January and February billing cycle.

For the year, FVWD water production was 35.7 million gallons, which was 3.2 million greater than during 2016. It also was the greatest production level since 2013.

The unaccounted-for water during this billing period was nearly 30 percent. But Jimenez stated, “The more and more I look at the methodology of how we calculate this, the result is not accurate,” he assured the board.

“There is no way to tell how much water is flowing into the tanks without a meter,” he stated. “Also, we are finding more meters are failing. There’s more failure on the domestic meters; I don’t know when some stopped reading.”

As the new meters are installed, Jimenez noted that the consumption for some parcels is higher now.

“Unaccounted-for water has always been a battle,” Rees said. “It was for Steve [Erler, former general manager].”

Speaking to the district’s water supply, Jimenez stated, “Things are going smoothly. We’re using less well water this year than last year when we had to shut the filtration plant down because of the stream flows.”

Several of the district’s wells have recovered with less use, he noted.

“I’m not concerned about usage at this point,” he added in an email. “I could see us going back to Stage II or Stage III if we were to continue to get dry years.”

The district did receive a letter protesting the new service charges. Tom Bousman felt the service charge increase is “unfair to the owner who stays at his cabin four or five times per year. This increase is an obvious attempt to increase this burden onto us and reduce it for the homeowner who lives in Fern Valley year round.”

He recommended reducing the base rate and increasing the usage rates.

The board accepted his letter and will respond, but it arrived after the Dec. 29 public hearing where the new rates were approved.