New office hours begin June 1; closed Fridays

With only three of four directors at the May 17 meeting, the board of the Fern Valley Water District limited the number of decisions until Director Robert Krieger was available.
The selection to replace Director George Rowell, who resigned in April, was deferred until a special meeting is held at 3 p.m. Friday, May 24. (See accompanying story.)
The budget for fiscal year 2019-20, which starts July 1, was reviewed. The final approval will be at the June meeting, but this is the normal procedure. However, one the major decisions for the new budget is the level of capital expenditures. This is largely dependent on the cost of replacing pipeline in the Rim Rock, Dogwood and Azalea neighborhoods.
Only El-Co Contractors of San Bernardino, who have successfully installed pipeline for FVWD in the past, submitted a bid on the project. However, the bid was about $1.45 million and the district was planning to budget only $1 million for the work.
General Manager Victor Jimenez said he would scrutinize the bid and try to identify possible savings. One possible area is how much dirt will be needed and whether El-Co will have to transport it from other areas, or possibly use surplus from the Highway 74 repairs.
The contract award will not be before June 8, Jimenez said. The board may include it on the agenda of the special meeting later this month.
The proposed budget for next FY projects a $90,000 increase in revenue, for a total of $1.5 million. Nearly two-thirds of the increase will be from water sale revenue, which increases due to last year’s rate increase approval.
Operating expenditures are anticipated to decline $130,000. FVWD has paid its unfunded liability for post-employment benefits (excluding pension). This year, the district paid $252,000 and no further catch up will be needed.
Some of the savings will be used to hire another full-time employee, Jimenez said.
At the end of FY 2018-19, FVWD’s reserves are estimated to be about $1.8 million. The proposed budget for next year, including a capital budget of $1.4 million, would end the year with reserves at $1 million. However, the final cost of the pipeline project may reduce that estimate.
In other business, the board did approve returning to a four-day-per-week, 10-hours-per-day schedule. Beginning June 1, FVWD’s office hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday. The office will be closed Fridays.
In his recommendation to adopt this scheduled, Jimenez reported “… few, if any, [customers] utilize Fridays to conduct business because a large majority of the customers are utilizing the online payment option.”
At the end of September, Jimenez expects the staff to return to the five-days-per-week, eight-hours-per-day schedule.
In water business, FVWD customers used about 4 million gallons in the most recent billing period (March and April). This is about 478,000 gallons less than the same period in 2018.
However, this year the March and April period was about 11 days shorter than 2018, and the January and February billing period was extended extra time to read meters. This was necessary because of the February storms and snow cover.
For the first four months of 2019, FVWD produced 11 million gallons. This amount is 1.7 million (17.9 percent) greater than the first four months of 2018. The last year that production exceeded 11 million gallons from January through April was 2011, when it totaled 11.2 million gallons. In 2013, production was 10.2 million gallons, the only other year it exceeded 10 million gallons in the first four months.
Despite the greater production, due to leaks and breaks, Jimenez told the board, “The wells are recovering very nicely. And we used some early last month.”
While production was up slightly this April, well water was the source for only 20 percent of the water compared to 25 percent in April 2018.