Idyllwild Water District (IWD) customers who were not able to pay their water and/or sewer bills due to COVID may apply for grant funds IWD received from the state.
IWD General Manager Leo Havener told the board that IWD received $30,500, about $2,000 less than what is in arrears.
He plans to offer grants on a first-come/first-served basis to customers who apply since the state’s no shut-off moratorium ended Dec. 31, 2021.
Havener also is giving delinquent customers until Feb. 10 to either pay or set up a payment schedule to avoid shut off.
Havener noted that IWD was the only one of the three Hill water districts to receive the state grant. “I don’t know if they tried or not,” he said.
Since the moratorium ended, local resident Steve Moulton asked, “Have you noticed anyone paying that didn’t pay before?”
Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman answered, “Yes, we have had some people come in and set up payments.”
Vice President Peter Szabadi asked Havener, “I assume that if you don’t use that money, it’s going to go back to the state, right?
Havener replied, “We assume that, too.”
Szabadi asked about criteria for customers to qualify for the grant funds.
“We know what’s going to come in the way of an [state] audit later and there’s going to be a justification required in giving away the money …,” said Havener.
At this point, Szabadi debated with Havener on the issue. Szabadi’s position is that the district put the money in its coffers, and write off both the customers’ debts and the $2,000.
Havener disagreed, emphasizing that the state would require records on who applied for the funds and how much they received. “I’m protecting the district from what the fallout could be if we didn’t document who came in and applied to get the funds and who received the funds …”
Szabadi gave an example of two people paying their delinquent bills and then asking why they had to pay and others didn’t. “Are they worthy or not worthy, and I don’t think we should be in that business.”
Havener sympathized with the situation when he said, “I appreciate that, Peter, but we’re going to have this argument no matter what you do. If we did it your way we’re going to have a bigger problem on the other end of the state because they’re going to go, ‘Well how did you justify that …”
Contact IWD between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday at 951-659-2143 to apply for grant funds.
In other business, Havener said he and President Charles Schelly met by telephone with Riverside County representatives to discuss the water running down Tollgate Road, then down Lake Lane and pooling in the road.
“The county is trying to find a solution to that so it’s not puddling in front of people’s houses,” Havener said. “We shared with them that we can offer a temporary solution, but it would be about 90 days for construction to do something if they needed to try to correct it. That’s up to the county at this point.”
In more business, Director Steve Olson questioned two items in the financial report. First, he noted that Water Maintenance and Supply is $29,425 with a budget of only $4,000. Havener said the filtration plant had media to be replaced. “It wasn’t planned,” he said. “It was anticipated it would be another year or two.”
Schelly clarified that it was a carbon filter.
Secondly, Olson asked about General Plant Service’s expenses at $12,740 with a budget of only $2,089. Shouman said it was because they decided to replace all the electricity in the plant.
IWD received a President’s Special Recognition Award from its insurer, ACWA JPIA, for a loss ratio of 20%.
Havener reported that IWD is right on average for water use. “We’re just at a couple acre feet difference for this time of year.”
He also said, “The wastewater treatment plan flows have been a little higher for the last couple of months but they’re trending downward.”
When asked, he told the board that Foster Lake is still empty.
He said the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water will be doing a routine sanitary review of IWD in February, an inspection it conducts every five years.
Director Les Gin met with Schelly to design a job survey of 21 questions employees can answer and return to Gin in a sealed envelope anonymously to help the board understand issues such as employee retention.
Schelly said it should be ready to pass out in about 10 days.
“I just want to clarify that this is going from the board to the employee and back to the board,” said Havener. “The general manager is not involved.”
“The general manager will be involved after the fact,” added Schelly. “The general manager will have full access to the digitized tally data.”
Schelly and Gin will tally up the results, according to Gin.
The board and its attorney met in closed session following this discussion regarding real estate negotiations with property at 26120 Ridgeview Drive which is where The Courtyard Building is located. No action was reported out after closed session.