Production dropped about 4% in July compared to last year so not seeing too much change “right at the ballpark,” even with the water Riverside County Transportation is using to chip seal Pine Cove roads, Pine Cove Water District General Manager Jerry Holldber told the board of directors at its Sept. 8 meeting. Last year, Caltrans required water to work on the highway project.
Pine Cove has 600 full-time properties, according to Holldber. “The majority of the people are conserving water under Stage 1 guidelines.”
He said Well #10 is only 2 feet lower than what it was in January. One other well has dropped only 9 feet. However, another well has dropped about 46 feet.
“Most of the wells are down …” he said. “There’s not much percolation but there’s still water in the ground.”
He emphasized later,” We are still in Stage 1, voluntary compliance … No, we do not raise the rates — the cost of water — when we go to Stage 2.” Moving into Stage 2 was not discussed at the meeting any further.
Some of the meeting discussion was a continuation of ongoing projects, such as Phase 4 of the backyard project involving asphalt and then concrete; and the South Central pipeline project that hooks in meters on Laurel Trail, Pine Ridge and Deerpath using only district crews and not contractors.
A big-ticket item was more than $10,000 to Inland Water Works. Holldbr said this was budgeted under system maintenance and included checking valves, ball valves, angle stops, misc. nipples, etc. “Material costs have increased a lot,” he said.
He also is working on providing some properties in Camp Emerson with costs to provide water. “Some of the properties for Camp Emerson are in the Pine Cove Water District sphere,” he said.
Holldber advised the board a large increase in medical insurance will occur Jan. 1, 2022. For example, his will increase about $300 a month and office manager Becky Smith’s $200 a month. However, he said both of them will be eligible for Medicare which will reduce the cost by about $100 a month each.
Even the field crew’s insurance will increase. He hopes to hire a third field crew employee and the cost of medical insurance for six months for that person will be $8,900. Director Dee Easterly was shocked. “This is the worst I’ve heard — $8,000 for six months. That’s ridiculous.”
“We’ve looked in the past for savings and it’s not there,” responded Holldber.
Director Lou Padula suggested all three water districts under one plan might result in savings but Holldber said that’s been tried in the past, saying two of the districts are on PERS and one is not. Also, “we don’t pay for medical upon retirement; the other two do. It’s hard to mix apples and oranges … [we can] study this for next year.”
The orange “pumpkin,” a large portable pool PCWD fills for a water reservoir firefighter helicopters use to dip their buckets, is about 30 years old, Holldber told the board, but the new “Black Hawk helicopters’ large snorkel can’t dip out of it.”
He said he has been working with the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire’s Bautista Division Chief Scott Lane on using County Service Area 38 funds to purchase a metal 7,000-gallon pumpkin and a mobile 4,000-gallon pumpkin installed on a trailer that can be moved to places such as Mountain Center and PCWD can be reimbursed.
He told the board that the Pine Cove Property Owners Association supported it, pointing out that the Black Hawk’s water tank is 1,000-gallon capacity vs. 300 gallons for the old helicopters. He pointed out that Foster Lake, often a dipping source, “Is just a puddle now.” A drought 30 years ago resulted in the pumpkin.
The estimated cost of both new pumpkins is $93,000. “It’s a tool that’s going to make our community a bit safer,” said Holldber.
After some adjustments, the board approved the Employee Policy and Procedures Handbook. Instead of a pay increase every year, for example, employees receive more vacation. They also may donate sick hours to other employees.
Holldber and Smith were in the office for the meeting. All else were using Zoom because of COVID-19. “We’re sticking with Zoom a little bit longer ‘til society calms down a bit,” said Holldber.