Monthly Archives December 2011

LAKE DON PEDRO CSD AUDIT? OVERALL CLEAN

Reading Time: 12 minutes

REPORT ON SPECIAL MEETING OF DECEMBER 19th, 2011

DRAFT AUDIT REPORT PRESENTATION

The Auditor’s report (postponed from the November meeting) was presented by Michelle Gallagher from Clendenin Bird & Company, PC, Modesto California. Accompanying Michelle were Kathy Gatewood (also a partner of the firm) and Sara Geer who is a member of their staff. All three participated in the audit last August which took approximately three days of performing various tests and a number of interviews.

[NOTE: Most of the audit information below is paraphrased from Ms. Gallagher’s report unless verbatim, when it will be contained within “quotes”.]

“Overall the audit itself in terms of the financial records, ahm, was really clean, the only adjustment that we had, and it was due to lack of information, was the postretirement benefits adjustment that had to be made. Unfortunately we didn’t have the information in time when the audit started for Charise to have made that journal entry so that was the only journal entry that had to be made to record the mutual liability for the postretirement benefits. But besides that, all of the records that we have tested ahm, came out clean, and documentation is ah, sufficient.” Michelle Gallagher, Partner Clendenin Bird & Company.

The report was an “unqualified opinion” (which is the best you can get) and there were no adjustments, problems or non-reporting of things that would have caused the LDPCSD to receive a “qualified opinion”.

Pages 3-6 were Management’s discussion and analysis, where Charise had put together a “recap” of the events for the year in terms of financial information. Essentially a CSD narrative of how things were going throughout the year. 84% of our Net Assets is due to Capital Assets which is all our of CSD’s infrastructure. Regarding Governmental Activities we had another expenditure over revenue but the majority of that is due to depreciation – we don’t have to spend money for that to be a deduction or an expenditure so in terms of cash flow and how much money we’re spending, our operating is still doing OK.

Page 6 explained some of the capital items that were placed in service. Long Term Debt: two loans with one payment left on the AMR to be finished this year which will help since it’s about $69,000.

INFORMATION FROM THE BOARD PACKET: “The Water District also had a loan with Municipal Finance Corporation for the Treatment Plant Upgrades with a balance of $1,277,463.51. Payments of principal for 2011 and 2010 totaled $53,767.39 and $51,201.55, respectively. Interest paid for 2011 and 2010 totaled $65,238.69 and $67,804.53, respectively.”

Pages 7 – 10 are the Financial Statements. Cash has increased from year before, accounts Receiveable quite high but is due to the Account Receivable from the Waste Water Treatment Plant from Mariposa County that was discovered this last year at approximately $45,000.

Liabilities are pretty much the same as last year but slightly up which is not unusual.

Page 8: Statements of revenues, expenditures, and changes in net assets. Most significant changes are that out operating revenue did go up and expenditures for that did go down, so the net loss was only $51,000 from operations, so it was significantly better than last year’s which was about $300,000.

Page 9-10 Cash flow statement: Basically where money came from and where it went. We paid off $117,000 worth of debt and we netted out of operations from cash $274,000 which was significantly higher than the year before due to the increase in rates.

Pages 11-21 “Are the notes to the financial statements, they’re basically describing various items in the financial statements, they describe the accounting policies of the organization, what kind of funds you have obviously since you’re just a small district it’s just your water and sewer (inaudible).”

Page 14: Cash note: Describes where our money is held, LAIF (Local Agency Investment Fund), banks other financial institutions.

Page 18: Describes our Long Term Debt, how much longer we have on the note from the Government Capital Corporation, $69,000 finished next year (above); the other one will not be done until 2026, about $1.2 million dollars left on that one.

Postretirement benefits this year; Charise had a firm calculate that, huge liability last year due to Government Auditing Standards so this year the increase was only $124,000 because the actual cost was about $168,000 but we’ve already paid in about $42,000 of it so the net increase for the year was only about $124,000 and the year before it was, again, $208,000, so it was a pretty good decrease.

The most significant letter because after the third year of this audit we decided we needed to make sure the items we talked about were significant enough to warrant a comment in the letter.

“Typically ah, we would be giving you a management letter which is a separate letter that would be recommendations for items that we thought could be worked on, and since this is the third year in a row that we’ve had some of the items still open we feel it is important to put it in the letter along with the Grand Jury Report, ahm, we felt really strongly that we need to put it in the letter, so now it’s stated, and now we can talk about it, and now we can move forward on comments that were derived as a response we’re encouraging because now it seems that, you know, with a mediator coming in, (inaudible) reviewing policies that hopefully will get approved for this next year and maybe some significant ah, ahm, improvements on those policies.”

Vice President Bill Kinsella: “How much impact did the Grand Jury report have?”

Michelle: “Quite a bit”.

VP Kinsella: “Significant?”

Michelle: “Significant (inaudible) for us absolutely.”

A comment was also made by Ms. Gatewood we would have still been “hit” on the other items (below) , despite the Grand Jury Report.

Michelle: “Ah, no, I spoke with Bill and I tried to get a hold of the previous director ahm, that had resigned, but she did not respond at all to me, at all, so.”

Michelle felt the Grand Jury report just meant that there were other people looking at us in terms of making recommendations that needed to be in place for us to be successful.

There were 5 important points the auditors wanted to make clear and needed addressing:

1) Updating policies and procedures

2) Job descriptions for specific employees need to be clarified

3) Unapproved Board Minutes should be approved [Issue of verbatim transcriptions]

4) Waste Water Treatment Plant Under Billing [$45,000]

5) Hierarchical structure of the organization [Currently the GM is responsible for everything, but if so, the Finance Person is not responsible for employees and therefore that position may not be an exempt (salaried) unless it falls under the category of administrative exempt (supervisory positions) otherwise the position is technically hourly.]

Significant Deficiencies:

1) Lack of Performance Reviews of employees

2) Recommendation that a director assume the role of Treasurer because the Financial Administrator should not hold both positions.

Director Emery Ross then made a comment about this recommendation: “61050 A, ah, General Manager could be Treasurer, ah Board…”

Michelle: “As long as it’s not the Finance person”

Emery Ross: “…a board member can’t be”.

Michelle: “Is that right?”

Emery Ross: “Yeah, you look at 61050 A, B, C, D, E, F of the Government Code and it will tell you very clearly that a board member cannot be the Treasurer”,

Michelle: “OK”

Emery Ross: “but….”

Michelle: “but”

Emery Ross: “… in the past way back in 92 he was, they did that one page that says Treasurer’s Report he use to read, that’s all he did.”

Michelle: “OK”

Ross: “Ah, an, an, but under the, and, (inaudible) nah, in 2005 the Community Service District Code changed and then this new thing is in here, so Dan could be the Treasurer, which basically would be reading the report I guess.”

[NOTE: I have found it extremely illuminating to double check code sections that Director Ross offers in meetings, and once again, I do not believe his interpretation of this section is supported by the language of the code. Does the below code “very clearly” state a board member cannot be Treasurer? What do you think? Why would professional auditors suggest such a thing if it is not a viable option?

Government Code 61050.
(a) The board of directors shall appoint a general manager.
(b) The county treasurer of the principal county shall serve as
the treasurer of the district. If the board of directors designates
an alternative depositary pursuant to Section 61053, the board of
directors shall appoint a district treasurer who shall serve in place
of the county treasurer.
(c) The board of directors may appoint the same person to be the
general manager and the district treasurer.
(d) The general manager and the district treasurer, if any, shall
serve at the pleasure of the board of directors.
(e) The board of directors shall set the compensation, if any, for
the general manager and the district treasurer, if any.
(f) The board of directors may require the general manager to be
bonded. The board of directors shall require the district treasurer,
if any, to be bonded. The district shall pay the cost of the bonds.

Since Director Ross has repeatedly done this (stating incorrect code sections and/or misinterpreting them) I must seriously question: does he actually read the material he offers in support of his arguments? Although it is entirely possible there are other regulations which would support this unequivocal statement, Director Ross when interrupting a presentation by the Auditor and making such a bold corrective statement,  should at the very least confirm that his stated information is correct.]

Director Emery Ross: “But anyway, going back to this (laughter from previous comments) recommendation and that would not be factually correct because you cannot do that.”

The auditor agreed the recommendation could be changed based on the information provided by Director Ross since the report was only a draft. Michelle advised there was a lack of segregation of duties regarding financial matters and the Financial Administrator should not also be the Treasurer for the Board. Essentially a check and balance process with another person involved as Treasurer.

Director Victor Afanasiev questioned whether the report would go to other State Government Agencies to which Charise Reeves replied it would be sent to the State Controller’s Office and to the people that do our loans, and the county.

Director Ross also asked questions regarding pages 16-19 and PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) and the district’s contribution but disagreed and argued with the provided answers. He also questioned who the retired employees were and stated the information was factually incorrect.

Ross stated that on page 20/23 (audit report page number and Board packet page number) it said:

“Full time employees are eligible for PERS, [NOTE: actually stated “All District full-time employees participate in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS)”] we’ve got, the board directed the staff to have, have all part-timers get no benefits or retirement or anything and some of them are working 32 hours or more and getting benefits, and that’s under this section of PERS in here.….”. It was explained to Director Ross that PERS policy required such participation. Charise advised to avoid that contribution the part time employees could only work 19 hours a week.

Interim General Manager Dan Tynan stated he believed having only two licensed operators in this big of a district was putting the district at risk. He advised CSD was legally way behind in flushing fire hydrants which should be done once a year but many haven’t been flushed in years.

Michelle Gallagher advised she would make some of the revisions and answer the questions from Director Ross and submit the report to the board for final approval prior until publishing.

Wes Barton furnished some information to the auditor and board regarding his perspective regarding CSD’s financial situation. Wes stated the comments regarding CSD’s failures as noted in the material weaknesses were devastating and did not believe the district had ever received that before in several years. Wes felt discussions about job descriptions and policies pointed out some major discriminatory issues between employee positions. He said many issues need to be addressed before the job descriptions can be accepted for policy. He spoke of the necessity of the board having a common view and purpose of how to run the CSD before job descriptions and processes could be formulated. He felt the current procedure was working backwards and the job descriptions and policies were going to be discriminatory. Barton stated that considering the suggestion that the auditing company might drop our business it was imperative to have focus. He felt mediation was not going to resolve the underlying problems. He referenced TUD’s (Tuolumne Utility District) recent abandonment of their rate increase due to the public uproar yet LDPCSD has a higher rate for comparable water. He reiterated a number of points and suggestions he made back in 2008 that were rejected then and are still being ignored.

<Meeting Break>

Reconvene meeting: 1124hrs, going into Closed Session for Conference with Legal Counsel regarding Existing Litigation Government Code Section 54956.9(a): Kent/Topie v. LDPCSD (2 cases)

Close open portion of meeting.

Reconvene Open Portion of meeting at 1137hrs. Report out of Closed Session: Vice President Bill Kinsella stated the Board had taken no action on the matter. Wes Barton questioned, and confirmed, each of the two cases actually contain two lawsuits and the Board took no action on any of them.

AGENDA ITEM B: JOB DESCRIPTIONS AND SALARY PLAN – Review and approve policies regarding job descriptions; prior policy numbers were 2300 – 2410 replaced by new policy numbers 2300 – 2440. Review and approve retroactive salary plan for 2012 fiscal year.

Director Ross questioned what the salary plan represented in an increase compared to today.

Charise Reeves: “These are ah approximately 2% over for our full time employees in the plant and myself, this is less, this is exactly what was in the budget, we had used these numbers when the budget was presented in August and it’s about a 2% increase for the three employees and then the one that got the promotion it’s about 12%, because that caught her up to where it, it basically evened things out to what has occurred.”

Director Ross discussed the over lapping duties of Board Secretary, Treasurer and Financial Administrator and how the job descriptions would be established further stating he felt they should be separate positions. Director Mark Skoien mentioned earlier discussions about previous salary plans and tables compared to now. Reeves advised the salary plan would be retroactive to August when the budget was approved and the numbers have not changed from what was included in that August budget. IGM Tynan expressed his concerns that running a water district this large with only two licensed operators in the field was risky. Mark Skoien stated he had much experience with such operations and our CSD was not over-staffed. Tynan advised one of the licensed operators had been out for two weeks and it placed a considerable amount of stress on the remaining employees. Currently the part time employees contribute 7% and the District 8.6% to PERS which works out to about $50 a paycheck which was included in the budget.

Director Lew Richardson stated while looking over the proposed salary plan he researched some other material and found we had Policy 2020 where it outlines that such a process should contain prevailing rates for comparable work and other similar public and private employment in the immediate or similar geographic area, internal pay differences between different job classes, the current change in the cost of living and the district financial condition, funding sources and financial policies, and other such information the plant operations manager and office manager deem necessary. He felt looking at the furnished information with charts A, B, C and all that, without this other information one could not see where the increase occurs, just that all steps were going forward which was fine and dandy, but where does that person pick up in that step? He thought if there was some background information of other organizations that are comparable to our size, staffing, and the like it should be included and would make it far easier to see what the actual financial cost is while sticking with current policy.

Director Mark Skoien requested Richardson re-read the policy.

Director Richardson: “This is a Policy, titled Preparation of a Salary Plan, Policy number 2020.10: The plant operation manager and the office manager shall prepare a salary plan covering all job classes under their supervision at the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District. The plan shall depict minimum, intermediate and maximum rates of pay for each job class.”

Charise Reeves: “Which it does”

Director Richardson: “Yeah, 2020.11 the plan shall contain job descriptions, grade number and classification, which it also does. 2020.20, in establishing salary ranges and arriving at specific rates of pay the plant operation manager and office manager shall consider 2020.21, prevailing rates of pay for comparable work and other similar public and private employment in the immediate or similar geographic area and 2020.22 appropriate internal pay differences between the district job classes. So, then, that would then, by looking at something like that we would have something to compare to….”

Director Skoien: “But there’s something after that too right?”

Director Richardson: “Ah, current changes in cost of living, the district’s financial condition –“

Director Skoien: “The district’s financial condition”

Director Richardson: “Right, which is a big thing – do we have the money to-“

Director Skoien: “Yeah, what can it over-ride because of our condition, it sounds like it could over-ride any of that—“

Charise Reeves advised there was officially one increase in three years.

Richardson acknowledged he understood that the salary plan started with a Step One but questioned how that first step was established based on what was paid several years ago. Charise Reeves advised if we go back to the 2008 Resolution that had the last salary tables, she had taken those and added a CPI, this is less than that CPI would have been from the 2008 ones that were there.

Director Skoien commented on the past Prop 218 controversy and how questions were asked if the money was going to be used for salaries. Charise confirmed only the first year of the Prop 218 5 year plan officially on paper promised no salary increases but the 5 year plan included increases for each year.

Wes Barton stated he believed CSD employees for the most part have done better than the economy but felt there should be four full time employees capable of running the plant which would eliminate the part time. Barton said if we look at our costs we’d find labor and benefits is 48% of our revenue and the next big number is 18% depreciation and the rest of the numbers were much smaller. He stated labor was not the problem but the retirement benefits were approximately $171,000 by itself. Barton also commented that availability fees have not been increased since 1994 or 1995. Those two items were the most important, retirement benefit costs and insufficient availability fees.

Reeves advised the salary increases for the three employees were minimal, right at 50 cents/hour and less than what was included in the Prop 218 and less than the cost of living increase from the previous tables. The vacant full time position in the office was not filled and part time help was utilized for that in order to provide two part time employees in the field.

Motion by Ross to revisit the matter in a Special Meeting with the information Director Richardson requested regarding previous 5 year salary increases and Policy 2020, the Treasurer issue with clarification as to whom Charise Reeves actually reports. Second by Mark Skoien.

Wes Barton confirmed that everything was essentially being postponed to the future and seemed particularly concerned with the job descriptions.

Board vote was unanimous.

The Special Meeting was then adjourned with the Regular Meeting to start in approximately 20 minutes.

*X*X*X*

14 HOURS – 15 MINUTES AND COUNTING BEFORE THE NEW YEAR

Wishing you all a SAFE and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

“STEPPING IN IT”

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Certain areas around my property were years ago chosen by my [then] puppy for her normal bodily functions so I am cognizant of where cautious walking is prudent. The normal routine calls for immediate yard work if new areas have been utilized for this function because it signals over-capacity of the traditional “poop field”. Dog sitting for someone else obviously changes the normal procedure since any place is subject to such contributions because the new animal is unaware of our normal “business areas”.

NOT A BAD DOG AT ALL

There should be no expectation that an animal placed in a new environment would instinctively know that the corner over by the big Oaks is the accepted repository for “number two” donations or that rock cleared trails were not specifically created for that purpose or convenience. Given sufficient time such information will be learned through repetition along with corrective action for any of the more egregious violations and fortunately, in this situation, no “in house accidents” have occurred as of this posting.

NOT A SERIOUS PROBLEM

Only once thus far have I been required to scrape and hose off the soles of my boots due to accidently “Stepping in it” and that clean-up was only necessitated because I was headed into the house and did not want to track up the floors with the obnoxious material. Had I been continuing work outdoors I would have probably just allowed it to naturally wear off during the course of my travels around the property with a quick check to confirm its absence before entering the house.

NO DOG OATH

Seriously, it’s not like a canine has the ability to take a solemn oath to not “doo doo” in certain places around the property before being admitted to the premises. They cannot “raise a paw” and repeat after me……”I, [bark your name], do solemnly swear or affirm that I will not relieve myself near the garage door, deck steps, around motor vehicles, …..” We take them as we find them and begin what will usually, and hopefully, be a long term relationship of mutual love and companionship.

TELEVISION PAIN IN THE NECK

When it’s time to get some rest but my head is full of thoughts and musings of the day’s activities, I often drift off to sleep with some program on the television. The television shut off timer is a fantastic option to prevent awakening to loud commercials at 0300hrs in the morning. The two biggest problems for me with this particular method of sleep induction: 1) waking up in the morning with a sore neck from too many pillows under my head, and 2), leaving my eye glasses on. I’m not sure, but I think this last pair of glasses has passed the previous record for not incurring scratches or nicks on the lenses.

CLICK-CLACK

Wednesday morning at approximately 0350 hrs, I pulled on the covers while rolling over in bed and vaguely recalled hearing something hit the floor. I knew it wasn’t the television remote control because I’ve heard that fairly loud noise many times. I was drifting back to sleep when three thoughts almost simultaneously woke me up: 1) the noise was likely my eye glasses hitting the floor, 2) the visiting dog sleeps on the floor on that side of the bed, and 3) she has a propensity for chewing!

GOOD MORNING GIRLS

Got up, turned on a light and started searching for the glasses which naturally signaled my sleeping canine roommates that it was time to start a new day. Searching for glasses without your glasses is an interesting dilemma in itself but when combined with the time limitation caused by two dogs dancing around because they need to go outside for their morning ritual made a quick successful search imperative. Found the glasses, got the dogs outside without incident but the commotion summoned the cat to the back door and she was now impatiently meowing for an early breakfast. Needless to say, after all this going back to sleep was not an option so the day started early.

AS IF I CHEWED THEM MYSELF

Had I ignored the sound of something hitting the floor; didn’t appreciate the probability that my glasses had fallen; failed to remember there was a “chewing machine” in the immediate area; and simply drifted back to sleep, whose fault would it have been if the glasses were indeed chewed up and/or destroyed?

The facts of the situation, clues to what had happened, reasoning, probability analysis, along with a personal commitment to protecting fairly expensive eye glasses from damage, all played a role in starting the day early.

SO WHAT?

Why bother to take the time to mention this stupid little “doggie story”?

Answer: Because it simply illustrates how a foreseeable negative outcome can be avoided by preemptively taking action based on known facts.

What does it have to do with Lake Don Pedro?

Answer: The far majority of LDPCSD customers essentially have no idea what is happening within a public agency they financially support which severely limits the probability of being able to detect and avoid foreseeable negative outcomes.

COMMUNICATION

One of the water publications I read regularly mentioned some time ago that the worst possible thing a water agency could do would be to only contact their customers when raising their rates – yet this is exactly what the LDPCSD has done, and will likely continue to do, without re-establishing “THE PIPELINE” publication. Think about that for a moment. Shouldn’t a ratepayer at least have the opportunity to be informed as to how their money is being spent and why?

The ONLY REASON customers are notified now about rate increases is because such notification and opportunity to respond is REQUIRED BY LAW. Sure, there are laws requiring factual reporting of public business, which is generally provided at mandatory board meetings, but if the customer never receives the information what good is the reporting process …. I mean other than dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” of government regulations?

WATER LICENSE SERVICE AREA

The permitted service area under our water license is the Lake Don Pedro subdivision and golf course.

The subdivision is governed by the Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association. The LDPOA is required to furnish members with their mandatory corporation disclosures so the DISCOVERER is sent to members all over the country. Out of area owners of unimproved subdivision property pay “water availability fees” with their property taxes and therefore financially contribute to the district. Doesn’t it make sense that the LDPOA DISCOVERER would be the perfect vehicle for the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District to furnish district information to its scattered customers as well?

During a time when both private and public entities are looking to save money and be more efficient, doesn’t dual use of an existing publication sound reasonable?

Since two Directors on the LDPOA Board routinely attend LDPCSD Board meetings wouldn’t they be excellent candidates for assisting in putting such a dual use program together? The LDPCSD could create a minimal publication that could be inserted into the DISCOVERER and reach 99+% of their customer base at the same time the LDPOA is contacting their property owners with their mandatory corporation disclosures. Why is this concept resisted?

DOES THIS WEBSITE DO ANY GOOD AT ALL?

I have asked myself that question for years (usually when disgusted or frustrated with what goes on here) but received another unambiguous affirmative answer during the Public Comment portion of Monday’s Board Meeting [December 19th, 2011]. A citizen of Mariposa County, whose name and property ownership had been linked to some serious questions regarding multiple water meter installations on an adjacent single property, happened across postings on this website which contained her name. This “meter matter” was initially presented by two CSD directors last January (a third former director also supplied a partial map of the questioned area) who asserted that a woman by the name of Donna Morasci-Martin owed money to another land owner for a pipe extension yet had refused to pay the debt for almost two decades. Those assertions, along with some others, were unequivocally contradicted by Ms. Morasci herself.

Although factually reporting on what others had to say about this matter (supported with audio tapes of those meetings), I would never-the-less like to offer a public apology to Donna Morasci-Martin for posting that incorrect information along with any theorizing on my part. [How our CSD actually became involved in this matter also appears to have been largely based on that same incorrect information presented to a past board some twenty years ago.] I have had a number of questions regarding this matter since the beginning and the information Ms. Morasci furnished last Monday provided important missing pieces to this confusing puzzle. Her words of “fraud” and “cover-up” appear warranted.

AFTER THE HOLIDAYS

I will follow up on this story after the holidays because there is much information to go through and organize (including four audio cassette tapes of meetings on December 19th), but for now, suffice it to say it is absolutely shameful how information was intentionally misrepresented and another person’s name and reputation was sacrificed in the process. Differing opinions and/or perspectives are desirable and useful in any decision making process but intentional fabrication of the truth should never be permitted, especially in the public sector.

When a public official “steps in it” through misrepresentation of the truth, they track up not only their own personal floor of integrity, but more importantly, the base reputation of the public agency they supposedly serve.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

FOR THE BIRDS

Reading Time: 1

Just wanted to take a couple of minutes to say “hey” and take a break from reading the LDPCSD Board Packet  in preparation for Monday’s meetings.   [177 page 10am Special Meeting along with some other Closed Session material and 126 pages for the 10am Regular Meeting.]

THE TREES HAVE EYES – BUT THEY’RE USUALLY CLOSED IN THE DAY

During a reading break I was walking around with the dogs when I spied one of my “regular Owls” quietly sleeping and digesting his night’s work.  [Never ceases to amaze me how many mice, voles, gophers, etc. these Owls snag.]

HIS DISTANT RELATIVE DOESN’T HUNT

My 30+ year old Mitred Conure “Zack” seems to have stablized on his journey from whatever happened to him (likely some kind of a stroke) to his normal cranky deameanor.  He still cannot fly and is much slower when getting around (who isn’t?), but seems to have regained much of his strength since his bite has returned to quite a painful “pinch” just shy of breaking the skin.  His appetite seems more than adequate but he continues to sleep more and more every day frequently caught in a mid-afternoon nap with his bill hung on the mirror for balancing support on the perch (below).

SLEEPING ZACK

Surprising that this is the same parrot I found in the avairy on this back with legs straight up in the air over a year ago.

Yup, poor old Zack has adjusted to indoor life again and despite his life changing episode, still has plenty of attitude.   Here (above photo) he is apparently asking for some “finger food”.  lol

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

ACCOUNT SUSPENDED?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

CYBER GRINCH

Whoa! That’s something you don’t want to see in place of your website homepage but that’s exactly what hundreds of visitors observed on this site Friday December 9th, 2011 beginning at 1824hrs and lasting through the weekend. Shortly after I discovered the disturbing message telephone calls and emails started coming in….”What’s happened Lew?” “I don’t know” was my computer illiterate response.
NO OUTSTANDING BILLS
I knew it had nothing to do with billing since I pay in advance. Posted material wasn’t of concern. What remained was that nagging ever present fear of third party intrusion by others. Monday morning it was confirmed, my site had been “hacked” and someone tried to enter malicious content which prompted the hosting server “defense software” to simply shut everything down to prevent further intrusion.
Actually it’s pretty cool when you think about how fast such a defensive response occurs. The only problem I had with the whole procedure was how the term “suspended” might be misinterpreted [or intentionally portrayed by some] as indicating the site administrator (yours truly) had done something inappropriate – heck I even researched my receipts to make absolutely sure I was paid up in advance. LOL
Considering the fact government entities, major corporations, and about any computer system you can imagine has been hacked at one time or another I guess it was only a matter of time before I experienced such frustration. Fortunately, other than inconvenience and some worry, no harm was done.
NOW LET’S SEE….WHERE WERE WE?
Oh yeah, fixing leaks before the rainy season. Looks like most, if not all, of the precipitation anticipated in this vicinity will actually occur a little further South so my withholding irrigation water idea didn’t work out too well. Since meticulously watching my water meter I was curious about how routine water use adds up towards the next month’s bill.
HOW MUCH WATER USED IN A TOILET FLUSH?
Ever wonder what a toilet flush looks like on a water meter? Check it out:
[Equipment and dog whining in background – non meter related! lol]
The math appears to be correct since the water supply must not only fill the tank but the volume of the flushed bowl as well. If a tank dispenses 1.6 gallons per flush and the bowl is designed to hold the same, two times 1.6 gallons equals 3.2 gallons. The meter read approximately .44 of 1 cubic foot of water (7.48 gallons), so .44 times 7.48 = 3.29 gallons which needed to be replaced. (Float adjustment will affect how much water is immediately replaced in the tank, a higher float will mean more water in the tank.) A while back one of my neighbors showed me one of those new pressure assisted flush toilets. Amazing, lifting off the tank cover revealed equipment similar to something under the hood of a high performance sports car! Some models even have a 1.1 gallon option for liquid flushing only.
You can imagine how a water meter dial must spin during bathing, laundry and other routine water uses … especially maintenance of landscaping. Although I enjoy the lower bills due to reduced irrigation during the “wet season” I receive too much pleasure from the trees, bushes, flowers and resulting wildlife to complain, however, reasonable methods of conservation will always be considered.
ELECTRONIC METER MODULE INSTALLED
I discovered a new resident inside my meter box this morning: the wired module that will allow LDPCSD employees to read meters remotely while driving by the location. Imagine the amount of time that will be saved without having to stop a vehicle at each box, exiting and approaching, removing the meter box lid, reading and recording the meter readout, replacing the box lid, returning to the vehicle only to start the whole process over at the next property. Think of the potential dangers that are eliminated with climbing up embankments, down into ravines and indigenous wildlife.
My best to you and yours, Lew
Categories: Uncategorized.

COURTESY CARDS WORK

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A few months ago I received a very high water bill that ultimately caused me to take a serious look at my aging water system. Occasionally I will forget to turn off one of a number of irrigation valves and understand a slightly higher consumption use for the next billing period but looking back through past bills for the same months in previous years revealed a regular consumption increase that I could not explain. Ahhhh, the quest begins.

HIGHEST BILL EVER

A neighbor was kind enough to stop by and advise he noticed some of my sprinklers had been running for quite a while and water was trickling down the roadway easement ditch. Naturally, that particular line of sprinklers were fairly isolated, rarely used, and the normal water line pressure had not been reduced for drip line/emitter irrigation. (Leaving “drip lines” on by accident will only create a slight increase.) I could not have intentionally chosen the worst possible valve to have left open. Duh!

After thanking my neighbor and running over to the valve I almost immediately remembered turning it on the past weekend just as some guests were arriving and in the commotion of greeting them failed to turn off the valve. Two and a half days those ^%$#*!+ high pressure sprinklers were on. I had already routed normal run off to the benefit of planted trees but as I followed this “metered creek” downhill the fact that most of the excess water was only nourishing weeds I would eventually have to cut next Spring was quite obvious. The waste of water was disappointing. That was the highest water bill ever received in over 20 years and was the catalyst for the above cartoon. Live and learn.

BRIGHT YELLOW CARD

Yup, this is something you certainly don’t want to find in your mailbox, but it sure is a wakeup call. This was the second time I recalled receiving an LDPCSD “COURTESY CARD” and for those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the notice, here’s the message:

“As a courtesy, we are sending you notice that an increase in water usage was noted during meter reading. Your meter was read on ____________, indicating water consumption of ___________ units compared with ______ units last month.

If you are aware of increased irrigation or other usage, disregard this notice.

If not, please investigate for possible water leaks or other malfunctions. If you find a problem please repair it or contact a plumber for the required repairs.

If you require further assistance, please contact our office at (209) 852-2331 Monday – Friday 7:30am to 4:00pm.

Thank you, Customer service”

STARTED TRACKING USE

I was curious about the discovered underlying increase of water consumption so I started documenting the days, time and meter readings before and after irrigating. Fortunately, when I initially started plumbing the property 20 years ago (and had the strength to dig all those trenches in this rocky soil) I installed two primary supply valves for irrigation; one west and downhill, the other east and downhill. Below these main valves are some secondary shut off valves along with several “Drip Line valves” which provide water to certain irrigating areas.

Through a process of elimination (closing secondary valves from downhill to uphill) I found even though ALL VALVES WERE CLOSED BELOW THE TWO PRIMARY SUPPLY VALVES – IF THE PRIMARIES WERE OPEN WATER WAS STILL VERY SLOWLY PASSING THROUGH THE METER – every second, minute, hour, day and week of the month! I have only temporarily solved the problem by keeping the primary supply valves shut for the winter and will eventually have to locate from where the water is escaping, but for now the waste has ceased. I know of one “in-ground” secondary valve that leaks and do not look forward to digging it up next year for replacement since I’ve already tried repacking the seal which obviously didn’t work.

DIFFERENT METERS OUT THERE

Currently the LDPCSD is replacing older meters (which are likely under-reporting actual water consumption) with newer models with drive-by electronic reading capabilities in addition to other desirable features. When my old meter stopped working years ago I received one of these new meters and must admit to noticing an immediate increase in my consumption rate which leads me to believe older meters do indeed start to under-read after time. [Documentation of this fact has been contained in previous Board Packets.] Many customers do not want a new meter and I can empathize with their concern but, in all fairness, they are likely under paying for what they actually use which is unfair to those that do. The loss of revenue by several hundred under-reading meters decreases the CSD’s revenue and over time could represent a significant loss, besides, we have the meters and they are useless unless working.

LEAK INDICATORS

Due to the differences in models currently used in our water system it is impossible to determine what type of meter a customer is using and therefore what type of “leak indicator” is incorporated in that model. The first photograph is of an older model and I assume that “sprocket wheel” probably turned with the passage of water. The second photograph depicts one of the newer AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) meters currently being installed and that small white triangle in the center will turn when water passes through the meter. [I believe my old meter had a red triangle.] Naturally the long red needle will spin around the numbered dial with water consumption and the total amount is recorded on the digital counter. The faster the water rushes through the meter – the faster the triangle and dial will spin racking up a higher number of units used.

The LDPCSD measures water usage in CCF units (Centum Cubic Feet or 100 cubic feet) [1 cubic foot of water = 7.48 gallons, therefore, 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons or 1 CCF ]

I was talking with Randy Gilgo the other day and he relayed how some customers couldn’t believe their leak indicator was turning very slowly until me made an ink mark on the meter glass cover. After talking with the customer for a while the movement was obvious.

SOURCE OF LEAK OFTEN SURPRISING

Some friends of mine recently commented they too had received a yellow “Courtesy Card” and could not understand how in light of there being no changes to their normal water use. Having already experienced my own leak investigation, we started with the “leak indicator” on the meter. Yes, it was turning. We shut off the supply valve to the residence to rule out any leaks in or around the house (hose bibs) but the indicator was still turning. We confirmed all irrigation valves were off and not leaking, but the triangle still turned. Then the serious inspection started – looking for any indication of dampness around pipes and valves. [This is why I brought up this subject now because soon it will be the rainy season and locating such “wet spots” will be impossible.]

Sure enough – after digging around some above ground pipes water saturated ground was revealed. The excavated hole quickly filled with water. We shut off the main water supply line at the meter box and emptied the hole of water and cleaned around the pipes and fittings. While one person turned the water back on at the meter box another watched the pipes in the hole for signs of leakage. Sure enough water was now spraying with the dirt removed. SHUT OFF THE WATER! lol

Now in this particular case the news was very good because there was no damaged pipe or broken fittings but rather, the connection was coming apart due to the water pressure in the pipe. Evidently, decades ago when the pipe lines were installed, a single coupling had been assembled in a manifold (numerous pipes and valves connected together in one area) with only the purple primer pre-treatment being applied and no pipe cement for a permanent connection. I’ve observed this very situation happen a couple of times but the “pressure test” revealed the problem prior to filling the trenches and burying the mistake underground and out of sight. [Of course, maybe the primer held for the test before filling?]

EASY TO DO

Laying out a complicated manifold can get confusing with the two chemical applications (primer and cement) to every connection in addition to the hurried time required to correctly assemble the manifold as the cement sets up – one component fitting can easily be overlooked. [There are now one application glues/cements.] Yup, sure was good news. We simply cleaned the two fittings and cemented them back together and thus far the leak indicator remains still. [Don’t forget to flush the line by opening a water faucet to expel sand, gravel or excess glue when the water is turned back on.]

RUNNING OUT OF TIME

The above leak would have been very difficult to locate and repair if the surrounding ground was already wet from rain. A leak that cannot be stopped without shutting off the supply to the house will continue without intervention and could get much worse. Unless you are prepared to go outside and turn on the meter valve every time you want to flush a toilet, take a shower, brush your teeth, wash the dog, etc., and then turn it off again, that leak is going to waste water and cost you more money.

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

PEARL HARBOR REMEMBERANCE DAY

Reading Time: 8 minutes

 

Although the number of “on scene survivors” and their accounts of what happened that day are rapidly dwindling, December 7th, 1941 irrevocably changed the lives of countless millions of people and will likely remain one of the foremost examples of the horrendous cost of war.

 

MOST EVERY FAMILY AFFECTED SOMEWAY

 

Mom was a teenager and quite cognizant of the realities of World War II and kept a scrap book of news articles, reports and photographs. One of her brothers was a Marine engaged in front line combat and still carries shrapnel in his neck from a near death experience on an island beach. Another one of her brothers served on the Navy destroyer USS Missouri also in the Pacific. Numerous friends were spread across the globe in other areas of turmoil in addition to Europe. As a young girl in California she lived with the ever present danger of potential invasion on the west coast. During the Summer from high school she helped out at the mud baths, hot springs, and mineral pools in Calistoga (Napa Valley) where injured soldiers were treated for their wounds and amputations (evidently the heat assisted in healing and extracting imbeded shrapnel). Her future husband, my Father, had enlisted in the Army Air Corps and ultimately became a bomber pilot in the Air Force also serving in the Pacific. Dad made a 33 year career in the US Air Force as did my brother who served over 20 years.

 

GREW UP AROUND DAD’S MILITARY SERVICE

 

Most of my adolescent life was spent on or very near military bases providing the opportunity of meeting many different people involved with various aspects of national defense in both military and civilian capacities. During the cold war era (Cuba situation) Mom was actually required to drive my brother and I on an escape route from Castle Air Force base up here into the foothills under the theory of avoiding potential radiation exposure if Castle were hit with a nuclear weapon. I currently look down at the old Castle air base remembering Dad shooting “touch and goes” in a KC-135 (Air refueling 4 engine jet aircraft) from the Fox Road vantage point at the end of the runway – even saw my brother decades later land and take off in a T-38 (jet training aircraft- he was a flight instructor like Dad and eventually ended up piloting the C-141 Star Lifter cargo aircraft which was later replaced with the C-17.) I vividly recall visiting and playing outside with other kids at “alert facilities” near base runways during different holidays when Dad was on alert.

 

A friend and co-worker of my Dad’s in Grand Forks North Dakota was a POW in Europe and relayed to me his stories of being transported by railroad car through numerous cities and towns in route to his ultimate confinement. His description of brutal situations soften with accounts of compassion displayed by indigenous people remain in my memories. Woodworking became this man’s personal relaxation hobby technique and I still possess a handmade cabinet he created in his garage 45 years ago and the thought of refinishing it is unconscionable. The scratches and scrapes only document it’s history of travel and are as important to me as the furniture itself.

 

I remember the noise of B-52 engines roaring outside our base housing only indicated to me that another episode of Gun Smoke with James Arness as Marshall Matt Dillion was about to begin.

 

Sure is interesting how the “old shows” could tell a gripping story within an hour – often culminating in a bloodless fatal shooting, but still be quite dramatic. Remember those? The victim would grasp their chest with one or both hands, make a quick parting comment, then collapse without even the slightest evidence of blood loss – yet now, gallons of blood and remnants of internal organs are Hollywood splattered across a wall just to illustrate the reality of a violent death.

 

While living in Taiwan for two years we could see the C-130s and other aircraft taking off to, and returning from, in-country missions to Vietnam and heard the stories of near misses by surface to air missiles and harrowing landings in remote areas. That was indeed a lifetime ago and although the type of warfare was different from today’s “war on terrorism”, all of it is destructive, horrific, and painful to those even remotely involved.

 

In light of the recent discoveries of possible habitable planets in space and man’s violent past, it begs the question: will humans eventually end up in some kind of war with another species like on Sci-Fi afternoon television shows? I’d be willing to bet money, marbles, or chalk that a malicious deep space enemy sure would unite humanity on this little rotating and revolving blue marble in space. Nothing like a common foe to put things in perspective – huh?

 

Sorry, I digress. I guess this is the sort of stuff that belongs in a private journal so suffice it to say today marks yet another day of remembrance to those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl.

 

THE NOVEMBER 21st, 2011 BOARD MEETING

 

The initial meeting opened at 0905hrs with a full board consisting of Vice President Bill Kinsella and Directors Emery Ross, Mark Skoien, Victor Afanasiev and yours truly. Interim General Manager Dan Tynan and Board Secretary/Treasurer/Financial Administrator Charise Reeves were also present. The meeting jumped from Public to Closed Session during the continuing Personnel Grievance process initiated by the Board Secretary/Treasurer/Financial Administrator against the Interim General Manager. Again, with the sincere hope of a satisfactory resolution to this matter (both parties have agreed to meet with a mediator) I will not get into the literal “she said” – “he said” particulars of the situation.

 

PERSONNEL PROBLEMS NOT SURPRISING

 

There should be no surprise when the difficulties between Board members enable/produce an environment for similar problems with Staff and other employees. The concept of rotating the general manager’s position within a large organization with hundreds or thousands of “staff qualified” employees makes some sense considering the “cross training” approach, however, the proposed plan to do so at the LDPCSD where there are only six (6) full time employees [half of which might be interested in the GM position] was, in MY OPINION, extremely damaging to this district on a number of levels.

 

Such a suggestion does not occur within a vacuum devoid of consequences and I believe this is precisely what our CSD is now experiencing … the negative ramifications of an ill-conceived proposal. (Whether the resulting turmoil was intended or not is for the public to decide. Insecurity in any position is not desirable and can greatly increase the probability of a manipulative influence. The former Mariposa County Grand Jury certainly did not embrace the concept and ultimately suggested the director proposing such rotation resign as president of the board.)

 

INTENT AND MOTIVATION

 

What motivates people to do the things they do? Are their actions reasonable based on the currently known fact patterns or are there surreptitious ulterior motives? This is where trust in representation is crucial.

 

Obviously the extent of monetary compensation received for an individual’s work is of great interest to any employee. Those fortunate enough to actually enjoy their work may indeed place greater emphasis on their personal satisfaction in doing a job well but I suspicion most everyone would prefer to earn as much as possible if given the opportunity. But there’s the rub. If someone is tantalized with the prospect of greater reward and responsibility in obtaining a higher position such a proposed opportunity could distract from the duties for which they are already employed and compensated. Add to this the uncertainty and frustration caused to the employee who is currently charged with the sought after duties (and compensation) and a stage is set for an unnecessary adversarial and competitive relationship rather than that of mutual co-operation.

 

This produces serious collateral damage to other employees and district business at hand. Rather than collaborative work by all employees focused on the efficient execution of district business – an environment of distrust and suspicion is created. Co-operation and mutual support for the primary job is replaced with at best, apathy and/or indifference and at worst, disruption and/or intentional sabotage of another’s work.

 

SIGNIFICANT FACTS UNKNOWN

 

Without knowledge of all the facts (Closed Session information is confidential and not to be disseminated) it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the public to appreciate exactly what has been going on within our CSD. I believe particular pieces of information acquired in CLOSED SESSION would in short order clear up much of the confusion on both sides, but that is not possible at this time.

 

Personally I believe both parties are essentially victims of a ludicrous idea whose foreseeable negative consequences were clearly evident.

 

ANOTHER CIVIL MEETING

 

Although the last meeting went quite well (with the exception of the Ranchito Well Study – a preliminary capacity report – see below) I can’t help but believe the presence of an observing mediator (suggested by the previous Grand Jury) and members of the current Grand Jury, [in addition to the Vice President’s clearing of the meeting room a few meetings back because of another planned disruption], undoubtedly played a major role in the resulting civility. Be that as it may, it was pleasant and should continue. You know, as residents and “investors” in this community we probably have more in common than either side is willing to recognize. Perhaps by conscientiously avoiding “trigger issues” of the past our meetings will focus on more current district issues?

 

POSITIVE AND UPBEAT

 

I have a “post-it” above my computer monitor that reads: “Keep it positive and upbeat” but holding to such a positive affirmation is quite difficult at times. Occasionally friends and acquaintances from the valley will ask if I am still pleased with my foothill property purchased over 20 years ago and to be quite honest the answer might vary a bit depending upon recent activity up here. Lake Don Pedro politics are not enjoyable but the beautiful foothill environment usually trumps that downer. Perhaps the question is actually moot because much like the Roach Motel you can check in but cannot check out without a substantial loss of hard work and money – but that’s probably true anywhere nowadays. I firmly believe Lake Don Pedro will eventually be recognized as a great place to live and a good investment for the future, however, the past ideas of “fast money” probably won’t materialize again for quite some time. I guess it all depends upon what a person values the most, a home or lucrative financial investment.

 

A while back I was visiting some friends up here when a Hawk decided to take a break on their deck railing. Although the photograph was taken from inside the picture window it still came out pretty clear. Check out that predator look after I tapped on the glass!

 

 

 

 

Yup, there is so much to appreciate in these foothills if you take the time to observe and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else…. now if we could just do something about the counter-productive politics! lol

 

RANCHITO WELL STUDY REPORT

 

Unfortunately, the Engineer’s report concerning the question of the Ranchito Well production capacity [included in last meeting’s Board Packet furnished to the public] appears to support the uneasiness of those (including myself) who believe the continued expansion of service from that source could have some serious financial ramifications. The LDPCSD is a surface water treatment plant but if “ground water substitution for surface water transfer” is something to be considered – all rate paying customers should have a say in establishing that policy because it could get extremely expensive. Only a few months ago there were those that strenuously advocated expansion of such water service to properties outside the Merced Irrigation District Place of Use requirements under Water License 11395 – imagine where we would be now had that taken place?

 

 

 

 

 

Sure it would be wonderful to provide water to any property whose owner wanted it but as a former LDPCSD President recently commented, our CSD should refrain from providing services that are not required by law. Not required is one thing, not authorized is another. Still, just about anything is possible with the support of the majority of customers who would be willing to fund such a project.

 

A NEW COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT?

 

Apparently, a well is being drilled at the corner of HWY 132 and Bonds Flat Road where some potential commercial businesses might be located in the near future. Hopefully the drilling was successful and the well will provide adequate water for that development under the theory fair competition benefits everyone.

 

 

 

 

My best to you and yours, Lew

 

Categories: Uncategorized.

AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU ONLY HAVE YOUR OWN?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Difficult to believe it is December already – sure seems time moves faster the older one gets. Two days ago marked the one year anniversary since taking the Oath of Office to be a director on our LDPCSD Board of Directors. Although many good improvements have occurred already others are “in the pipeline” and will just take time.

I read an interesting article recently by a gentleman who spent 30 years in the public sector in Sacramento who commented that even when constituents overwhelmingly support a particular project or plan, due to the time constraints involved with legal requirements, regulations and procedures, governmental change often moves quite slowly. Certainly frustrating to both the public and those elected to represent their interests.

AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU ONLY HAVE YOUR OWN?

My Aunt once said “when you take a look at everyone else’s problems, aren’t you glad you only have your own?” Boy! Isn’t that the truth! This morning, just after 1030hrs, while standing in a checkout line at Staples in Merced I noticed a number of shoppers moving
towards the large windows at the front of the building and overheard someone
say there was a car fire in the parking lot.   Sure enough when exiting, there it was.
Fortunately I don’t believe anyone was injured but what rotten luck just
before Christmas (not that any time would necessarily be much better).

Again, sorry about the quality of the video clip but that’s the best I can do right now. A “zoom shot” was all I was prepared to risk since there were a number of loud “POPS” just before the fire flared up. I was afraid the fuel tank might explode but that’s probably more of a Hollywood type thing since I’ve witnessed several vehicles burn to the hubs without exploding, but why take a chance right? – Besides, it’s best to stay out of the way of emergency personnel while they do their work.

CAR FIRE IN MERCED CA PARKING LOT:     http://youtu.be/xJuZX-yJqVA

My Best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.