Seeks new director

The Idyllwild Water District had a short and relatively noncontroversial agenda for its Feb. 21 meeting.

The board agreed to hire a third party to administer some its employee retirement plans. IWD is not a participant in the California Public Employees Retirement System, commonly called CalPERS.

According to General Manager Jack Hoagland, the district left the state system in the 1970s and began offering employees defined contribution plans.

“Defined contribution is in the best interest of rate payers,” he said. “It creates some concerns for our employee recruitment, but our plans are portable and employees can move them.”

Now some have 401a plans and 457b plans are now beginning to be offered, which is why a new independent plan administrator is needed.

Some of the employees may shift their current retirement funds to the 457, Hoagland said. The annual cost for the administrator will be about $2,500, he added. The board unanimously approved the selection of Carlson Quinn Strategic Retirement Consultants as the administrator for the District 457b plans. The vote was 4-0, with Director Geoffrey Caine not present.

The board also approved Hoagland’s recommendation to hire Fritz Wuttke, who operates the wastewater facilities at the Pine Springs Ranch in Garner Valley, as a part-time operator of IWD’s waste water facility.

Also, two of the district’s full-time employees have just earned their grade 2 operator certificates.

The combination of this hire and the staff achievements will lead to a significant savings for IWD. Ever since the previous full-time wastewater plant operator left, IWD has had to contract with the Specialized Utility Services Program of the California Rural Water Association for certified staff.

The new alignment will create savings of more than $100,000 annually, according to Hoagland.

Transparency was on the agenda, too. A draft resolution implementing a new public records request policy was to be considered. However, this was tabled until the March meeting, after Idyllwild resident Tom Paulek said he neither received a copy of the board packet in advance of the meeting nor was he able to find this material on the IWD website.

Director Peter Szabadi did not feel there was an urgency to its adoption, so he moved that the item be deferred a month in order to allow Paulek time to read and assimilate the policy.

President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly did note that the adoption of the policy was one of the final steps necessary in order for IWD to seek the California Special Districts Association’s Transparency certificate.

The new policy sets the rate for copying materials for a records request, including digital records. Szabadi did briefly express some concern about the $1.60 cost per page for a color copy.

In other board business, the directors accepted the March 1 resignation of colleague Geoffrey Caine. They requested that anyone interested in replacing him submit an application to Schelly by March 14. The board will plan to make a selection at its March 21 meeting. (The Town Crier has since learned that Caine passed away Saturday, Feb. 24, from health issues.)

Caine was unanimously appointed to the board in January 2016. He and Szabadi were appointed at the same meeting. Since no one challenged the incumbent directors during the August 2017 election, in July, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors re-appointed Caine for a full four-year term beginning in December 2017. Whoever replaces him will have to stand for election to the remaining two years of the term in August 2019.

In water business, despite the lack of winter rainfall from which Foster Lake is very low, IWD’s well levels are very stable, Hoagland told the board.

“I’m feeling very comfortable with where we are on supply,” he stated.

In January, IWD produced 5.9 million gallons of water, which was 514,000 less than a year ago.

But less consumption results in less water revenue. The January financials were more than $18,700 less than the budget projection because both residential and commercial customers purchased less water than expected. Overall for January, water expenses were nearly $35,000 more than revenue. For the fiscal year since July, expenses have been about $37,000 greater than revenue.

The sewer fund, which is less variable, had a slight net income of about $10,000.