Hunt to remain on board
In a longish pre-holiday meeting last week, the directors of the Idyllwild Water District addressed several major issues. During the regular portion of the meeting, they adopted a water shortage contingency plan (see accompanying story), took a position on the district’s role serving the Idyllwild Community Center, tabled the issue of rebates for water filters and intensified the search for a new general manager.
At the August board meeting, President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly appointed directors David Hunt and Steven Kunkle as a committee to recruit a new general manager for the district.
The contract for the current general manager, Jack Hoagland, expires at the end of December. Kunkle wanted to commence the recruitment process in order to limit the potential time between a new person starting and Hoagland leaving.
Hunt, while supportive of Hoagland, preferred and expressed community support for a general manger who would live on the Hill.
A request for applicants was published in various periodicals and water publications. In October, Hunt reported that he had received several résumés.
The board scheduled a closed session at the beginning of the Nov. 21 regular meeting in order to review some of the applications. Although the posted agenda stated “… the board will be conducting interviews …,” Schelly affirmed that no applicants were present.
The meeting ended with another closed session for evaluation of the general manager.
After that, Schelly announced that the board decided not to renew Hoagland’s contract beyond Dec. 31, its expiration date. And he would not continue on a month-to-month basis until a new general manager is hired.
During the closed session, the recruitment committee submitted a report to its board colleagues.
Although the committee had received about 50 applications, none of the individuals appeared to have all qualifications for both administrative and field experience, the committee wrote.
Consequently, it recommended the board shift the search to someone with extensive field experience in both water and wastewater operations. Meanwhile, it appointed Hosny Shouman, chief financial officer, as the acting general manager, after Hogland’s contract expires, until a fully qualified general manager is hired.
Hoagland was appointed in December 2016, following the September 2016 resignation of former General Manager Tom Lynch. Hoagland was given a one-year contract in December 2017.
Idyllwild Community Center
During the meeting, the board discussed its role providing water to the Idyllwild Community Center site. The emphasis of the discussion was essentially a rejection of the direction Hoagland had taken with respect to the ICC.
While the Oakwood pipeline was not on the November agenda, the directors’ reaction to the general manager’s consultation and decisions regarding these two projects was similar.
They felt he should have brought the decisions to the board before negotiating and agreeing to actions with these customers.
With respect to the ICC, Hoagland’s decision to have the district assume the responsibility for the fire-water pipeline to the ICC site was unsupported. The fire line goes through Strawberry Plaza and was a private pipeline, which the plaza property owners jointly owned.
“I don’t want us to take over existing pipe about 50 years old,” said Hunt. And the rest of the board agreed with his concern about the district assuming responsibility for a 50-year-old pipeline and its burden on IWD ratepayers. This view also applied to the possibility of the district taking responsibility for pipeline on the ICC site near the plaza.
They agreed that the district provides water through pipes to a customer’s property line. At that point, the customer is responsible for any pipes to various structures on the property, not the district.
“I don’t think the customers of Idyllwild Water should be burdened with pipeline that doesn’t benefit the district,” Kunkle added.
Hoagland argued that this was the district’s responsibility, and two of the plaza land owners — Riverside County for the library and Fairway Market — were deeding the pipeline to IWD. Director Peter Szabadi objected to accepting these quick-claim deeds.
Finally, Kunkle raised an issue about the ICC’s new 2-inch water meter. Although ICC has paid $22,000 for the meter, he noted there is no application on record for the meter.
As the discussion of this item ended, Szabadi made a motion stating, “… the board has not accepted tender of responsibility for this private pipeline in Strawberry Plaza and disapproves any agreement negotiated by the general manager.”
This motion was approved 4-0 and Schelly abstained.
ICC officials were surprised by the board’s action and believe they have been working closely with IWD for several years. This includes following the recommendations from at least two general managers.
Filter and testing
Since the announcement that the district’s water supply, particularly in the lower Pine Crest Avenue area, exceeds California’s standards for disinfectant byproducts, the board has been seeking solutions — both short-term and longer.
Hoagland did report that the carbon filter, which has been purchased to remove organic matter in the water supply, should be delivered in January and he thought it would be operational by early February.
However, Hunt has urged the board to consider other steps, such as reimbursing customers who buy a filter to remove the DBP before using the water.
This action and increasing the water-testing frequency were on the agenda.
However, the filter reimbursement issue did not include details on the amount nor the requirements for receiving a reimbursement.
Hunt suggested $50 per family with a receipt. But the board took no action on this item.
Hoagland told the board that the current water sampling and testing procedures satisfy the state’s Division of Drinking Water. Also, testing is expensive and expanding it will cost much more. In the past, IWD has spent about $20,000 annually on water testing. Hoagland said that $25,000 has already been expended through the first four months of the current fiscal year.
This item was tabled 4-0 and Hunt abstained from the vote.
During the Director’s Comments portion of the meeting, Hunt announced that he has reconsidered his resignation. At the end of the October meeting, he stated that he would resign after the November meeting.
“After consultation with family and on Tahquitz Peak, I rescind my comment about leaving the board. I’d like to stay,” he shared with his colleagues and public. “The community and board all want the same thing — good water at the best price.”
The board voted to accept the draft audit for fiscal year 2017-18, which ended June 30. Scott Manno, a partner in the audit firm Rogers, Anderson Malody and Scott, discussed the audit.
“We have rendered an unmodified opinion, which is the highest level we can give,” he told the board.
At the end of the fiscal year, IWD’s net assets were greater than $9 million, of which $4 million was cash. This includes about $1.2 million in specific reserves.
For the fiscal year, both the operating costs for the water and sewer programs exceeded the revenue from sales. However, the addition of property tax revenue and meter sales resulted in a positive outcome for the water program. The sewer program ended the year with a $14,000 deficit, covered by reserves.
In October, IWD customers used about 7.5 million gallons of water. This volume of usage was about 440,000 gallons less than September and 820,000 gallons less than October 2017.
For the period January through October, IWD water usage has totaled 79.1 million gallons, about 1.4 percent or 1.1 million gallons more than the same period in 2017.
However, the water loss (unaccounted-for water production) in October rose to 17 percent and has been this high for several months. In January, the water loss was less than 7 percent.
Since July, the average monthly water loss has been 16. 5 percent. In May, the water loss rose to 10.1 percent. From January through May, the IWD water loss average was 6.2 percent; by September, the year-to-date loss rose to 13.8 percent.