Consolidation of the Hill’s three water districts — Fern Valley, Idyllwild and Pine Cove — was discussed briefly at the July Pine Cove Property Owners Association meeting.

“Consolidation reared its ugly head again,” said PCWD General Manager Jerry Holldber. “In Pine Cove, we’ve worked very hard to have supplies and control our own destiny. There’s not enough water to supply Idyllwild, but we can support Pine Cove.”

Holldber was sharing his comments with Pine Cove residents in response to the Idyllwild Water District establishing a committee to explore 

the districts’ consolidation, or possibly just more cooperation.

IWD took this action in response to customers’ reaction to its rate increase. Many argued that savings, for all three districts, would lower rates and possibly might have avoided the need to raise them this year.

Currently, each district has a general manager, office staff and field staff. The proponents believe that one larger district with two fewer managers, fewer office staff and buying supplies in bulk would generate savings for all water customers on the Hill.

Holldber said this has been studied more than a decade ago and is a myth. Also, the study found PCWD had the lowest costs of the three local jurisdictions.

“It is not in our best interest, especially for customers in Pine Cove, to consolidate. It is not our responsibility to take care of them,” he said.

Then he noted that several years ago, PCWD surveyed its customers’ views of consolidation. “Sixty percent responded and 87 percent of them opposed it. That’s pretty overwhelming.”

He promised to continue to work and cooperate with Fern Valley and Idyllwild, “But here, we’ll just worry about Pine Cove,” he urged.

Speaking after and in agreement with Holldber, Pine Cove resident Jeff Smith urged the PCPOA board to vote on a formal position against any consolidation. No action was taken during the meeting. Later, Marlene Pierce, PCPOA president, said the board has not yet decided if it will vote on a resolution Smith did raise the fear that funds from PCWD’s telecommunication leases at Rocky Point would be siphoned off for Fern Valley and Idyllwild if the districts were to consolidate.

Closing the discussion of the subject, Pierce commented, “Idyllwild business interests are hot to get our water. They want our water for their own reasons.” She subsequently submitted a letter to editor of the Town Crier reflecting Holldber’s comments.

More work is planned on the fuelbreaks around the Pine Cove community later this summer, according to Holldber, who is also chair of the Community Service Area 38 Advisory Committee. He described the recent purchases for Riverside County Fire Station 23 that CSA 38 funds have provided, including CPR equipment that can perform automatic pulsing.

He complimented the work that the Riverside County Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service have done to maintain the current system.

But Holldber stressed that CSA 38 has about $300,000 available and he recommends that some be used to enhance and expand the fuelbreak system surrounding the community, even if it is necessary to hire private contractors to do the clearing.

“It doesn’t do any good or reduce fire threats leaving the money in the bank,” he stated.

He also discussed the water district’s current Stage 2 water emergency condition. Holldber emphasized that the district’s water supply is safe and more than adequate.

“We’re fine. All the wells are pumping,” he told the group. “We have a very adequate supply of water for the people of Pine Cove. I just want customers to think about it when using water. You don’t have to stop, just use wisely and efficiently.”