Consolidation committee seeks new name and intent

The Idyllwild Water District held its regular September meeting last Wednesday, Sept. 19. But a local might have been confused by the number of Pine Cove residents attending.

As the meeting began, more than 50 people were in the IWD boardroom, standing in the lobby or outside. In less than an hour, after the public comment ended, only eight people, besides the IWD board and staff, remained for the balance of the meeting.

The Pine Cove people were present to emphasize their opposition to any action that would initiate any effort toward consolidating the two water districts.

Idyllwild Water District Director Peter Szabadi wasn’t physically present at the Wednesday, Sept. 19, board meeting. But he attended by means of a teleconference. This microphone amplified his comments so his board colleagues and the public could hear him accurately when he spoke.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The first speaker was Diane D’Amico, who read a letter from the Sept. 13 issue of the Town Crier, from Becky Smith, an employee of Pine Cove Water District. In her letter, “Enough is enough,” Smith raised many rhetorical questions distinguishing the work of IWD and PCWD.

For example, she posed, “Whose lake is dry but is not implementing Stage 1 or Stage 2 water restrictions? IWD.” And concluded her thoughts, “PCWD is in the shape it’s in because of its board’s support, both past and present … why would we ever want to change that? Why would our customers want us to change that?”

Pine Cove resident and PCWD Director Lou Padula felt that IWD’s wastewater treatment plant was driven to satisfy realtors who wished to attract people to the Hill.

“Sewer is not the answer. Percolation into the ground returns the water and then it comes back up,” he said. “More houses, more pollution.”

Marge Muir of Pine Cove and Kate Sirkin of Idyllwild both responded and refuted the idea that Idyllwild residents wish to take over PCWD. Rather, as Muir said, “We want to look to the future, five to 10 years. If we can’t come together to talk about the future, then what?”

“We all live on this mountain and didn’t come to be divided. We don’t agree on everything, but when we have a fire catastrophe, we all work together,” Sirkin said.

Later in the meeting, when the district’s consolidation committee reported, director and chair of the committee Peter Szabadi strongly argued that naming the committee “consolidation” was a mistake.

He merely wants to formalize a committee of the three local water districts, including Fern Valley, for the elected leaders to discuss common issues and, perhaps, joint solutions. Muir indicated that the realtors’ association might be helpful in this pursuit.

Szabadi recommended renaming the committee and writing the two districts requesting them to join IWD in these types of talks. Directors Les Gin and Steve Kunkle concurred but Director David Hunt voted “no.”

Hunt pointed to the strong animosity emanating from Pine Cove residents. He urged the committee to dissolve so that IWD was not seen as the instigator and find a citizen group to try to unite residents from the other districts.

“We need a grassroots effort of citizens if the board approach isn’t working,” he said.