One of the issues discussed during the Idyllwild Water District rate workshop was consolidation of the three local water districts — Idyllwild, Fern Valley and Pine Cove.

Greg Henry, of NBS, who conducted the rate study, explained that IWD needed a sufficient reserve balance in case of unexpected, major and expensive catastrophes.

“Smaller districts need to hold reserves. Bigger districts have more ability to spread risk,” he stated.

In response, Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, Idyllwild resident and vice chair of the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Board of Trustees, said, “If bigger has more ability to share risk, isn’t that an argument for consolidation? That’s the elephant in the room.”

Vic Sirkin, a former IWD director, has opined that consolidation could reduce the cost of operating the three districts by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Customers of all three districts have raised concerns about the rising water rates; therefore, there may be some interest in pursuing this course.

“But they can call us. I’m not hearing from the boards in the other districts. There’s no interest in consolidation,” said IWD General Manager Jack Hoagland.

He also added that he had reached out to the other two districts, but neither Robert Hewitt, president of the PCWD nor Trisha Clark, president of the FVWD, has heard from anyone on the IWD board or staff about this issue.

Sue Nash, an Idyllwild customer, expressed disappointment that none of the IWD directors have “expressed interest in consolidation or making an effort in that direction.”

However, Henry emphasized that consolidation would require time. It was not included in his analysis and would unlikely affect costs for the next five years.

Yet, Marge Muir, who owns and manages property within IWD, urged the board to pursue this option. She told the group that in the 1980s, there was much more cooperation among the districts. As an example, she described the work with the presence of the joint powers agency as an example that almost led to Fern Valley sharing the treatment plant.

“This is a 21st-century solution,” Holmes maintained.