Monthly Archives April 2012

GETTING BETTER

Reading Time: 1

Shot some video of Mrs. Redtail feeding her chicks this afternoon.  They are growing so fast!  Again, not crystal clear but not too bad.  Just click the link below.

http://youtu.be/8Ph2SiV7XbA

Mama providing shade.

Shifting position around nest to maximize the shade.

Close to Mom.

Wings-check.  Flaps-check.   Practice soaring-check.  

Talk about being watched like a Hawk!

My best to you and yours, Lew

 

Categories: Uncategorized.

CHICK CHECK

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yes, I know and apologize – the photos are a bit out of focus but they were the best out of MANY ATTEMPTS.  Just holding the digital camera up to the telescope lens, aligning the image, adjusting the camera to the best zoom setting, taking a deep breath, trying to remain still and hoping for the best apparently isn’t enough – LOL.  The clarity through the telescope (especially with a more powerful eye piece) provides a “ring side seat” into the nest environment without interrupting the “nature of it all”.   Lizard and snake skin, fur from rodents, bones, types of branches used in nest construction, etc.,  all much easier to discern with the scope rather than binoculars.

BELOW: Mom and Dad are both out hunting for the next meal leaving the eyases to explore the nest.

[Below] The larger chick stands up for a better look and to evidently speak its mind.  Perhaps impatient with the wait for a snack?    Unfortunately, this is also the stance it uses before suddenly turning and taking a whack at its nest mate.  POW!  Right in the head with a well placed peck.  Sometimes it will take a bite and violently shake the other’s neck.  Tough nest but all part of nature and learning to survive I guess.  (Even when the parents are present they seem oblivious to the rough-housing.)

“See anything yet?”  Watching for the folks.

(BELOW) Occassionally one of the little guys will step up to the top edge of the nest and slowly exercise their forming wings.  Cute, but made us a bit nervous wondering how often one of these balls of fluff gets too carried away and accidently falls out?   The chick in the foreground (looking right into camera) is the one that gets “pecked on” by its slightly larger sibbling.  

 

VIDEO: Here’s a short video I shot when a Harley Davidson passed by and Mr. Hawk seemed to follow the bike down the road – likely to snag some unsuspecting mouse or lizard frighted by the movement and noise.   (Like when Owls hunt along side roads at night by vehicle headlights?)     http://youtu.be/eW1nMu4_dA0

Ahhh, Spring.

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

WHAT WILL IT BE?

Reading Time: 17 minutes

Customer: Ahhh, what’ve you got?

Store Clerk: Whiskey, Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Tequila, assorted liqueurs, domestic and imported beer

Customer: Ahhhh,

Store Clerk: Let’s see some ID.

Customer: Ahhh, how about a shot of the liquid hand sanitizer and a blue mint mouthwash chaser?

NOTE: The above is, in no way, intended to encourage or condone substance abuse by anyone or minimize the harmful health effects of such use. Listening to the national news the other day I heard this hand sanitizer consumption was increasing and thought it a good example of strange behavior by some.

Apparently liquid hand sanitizer (which can contain 63% Ethyl Alcohol), sometimes combined with mouthwash, has replaced the old time Vanilla extract as a preferred underage cocktail. Good grief! Traditional alcohol consumption is bad enough but how very sad that an individual (however old) would become so desperate to escape reality that they would drink such stuff. I understand such consumption could also cause serious injury (which is evidently why procedures are used to consume only the alcohol). Wasn’t inappropriate drinking one of the reasons wood alcohol is used for many purposes rather than grain (alcohol)? What about the old time sterno sippers? Aerosol huffing? Pruno? Raisin-Jack? Used chewing gum wrapped in a moldy banana peel?   LOL

I guess desperation is the mother of invention and in the current fad some imaginative adolescent read the label and did some simple math. Ethyl alcohol + desire for intoxication = drinking hand sanitizer and mouthwash. Cheers!

Can’t help but wonder if the government will now require age identification prior to purchase like with glue, paint and other similar products? Look what happened to over-the-counter cold medications because they are used in the production of meth? Maybe we should limit how many ounces the average hand washing germophobic citizen might actually require? (Amount calculated during the flu season naturally.) Lick any toads lately?

Wonder if the California Highway Patrol has heard any excuses regarding this new buzz trend yet?

“Actually no officer (hiccup) I definitely have not be drinking (hiccup) …just bathing my filthy f@(king tongue in soap and inad (hiccup)…. Inadverted….(hiccup) accidently swallowed the (hiccup) stuff when the tree hitted my bumper [hiccups, pukes on the officer’s boots, passes out and begins a very unpleasant journey through the criminal justice system with 99.99% germ free minty breath]

Anyway, I imagine most people understand the motive for drinking this exterior use liquid germ killer, however, it sure doesn’t explain all peculiar human behavior, which reminds me of the point of this posting ….. here is the LEW VIEW report on the last meeting.

Have a great weekend!

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April 20th, 2012 LDPCSD BOARD MEETING

Directors present: Emery Ross, Mark Skoien, Victor Afanasiev and VP Lew Richardson (President Bill Kinsella absent due to illness), also present: Interim General Manager Dan Tynan and Financial Administrator/Treasurer/Board Secretary Charise Reeves. VP Richardson acknowledged the 6 audience attendees and opened the meeting at 1002hrs. Following the Pledge of Allegiance the first agenda item was addressed.

INTERIM GENERAL MANAGER’S RESIGNATION

Tynan advised he would be resigning on April 30th, 2012 from the IGM position that he had held for 17 months. Tynan stated he found himself in an unworkable situation because he believed current Director Bill Kinsella, prior director Wes Barton, and Finance Manager Charise Reeves were pursuing their own personal agendas rather than the district’s best interest. Tynan stated he had done his best while at the LDPCSD and believed he achieved a lot but the aforementioned individuals were the reason he sought employment elsewhere. Tynan stated he hoped there would be a change in attitude and focus regarding State compliance matters, education, safety, security and experience in running a water district. Tynan suggested the hiring of new employee John Turner as the next IGM citing Turner’s 31 years of water experience stating the district would be lucky to have him. VP Richardson stated that matter could be discussed more under agenda item C, General Manager Position.

VP Richardson asked Board Secretary Charise Reeves if there were extra copies of Mr. Turner’s submitted packet [62 pages of information which included copies of water licenses and training certificates] and asked Mr. Turner, who was in the audience, if he had any objections to copies being made, which Turner advised he did not. [NOTE, this material was submitted to directors at the last board meeting but without being on the agenda was not officially addressed.]

Director Emery Ross objected stating he had communicated with the CSD attorney and it was improper to discuss an employee’s Personnel File in public and it had to be discussed in closed session and suggested moving on to the next agenda item. Director Afanasiev and IGM Tynan disagreed stating it was merely part of Mr. Turner’s resume. VP Richardson stated he also had spoken with Mr. Carlson and understood the matter could be discussed and decided in open session. Ross stated he had a case supporting his position yet when Director Afanasiev asked about the material Ross refused to elaborate.

Director Mark Skoien commented it was nice to see the extensive material but questioned how current it was and asked about Turner’s work history. Director Ross again stated the board should not discuss the matter in open session. IGM Tynan stated he had placed Turner’s resume in every director’s mail box and had confirmed through the state that Turner’s T-4 and D-4 licenses were current. Richardson again stated the issue could be discussed under item C. Ross stated it was a personnel issue and should be in closed session but Richardson stated further discussion could take place later on the agenda and opened item B, Interim General Manager’s Reimbursement, for discussion.

ITEM B: Request: Reimbursement of funds for the Cross Connection course, hotel expense, and vacation days from the IGM. As IGM Dan Tynan began to discuss the matter Director Emery Ross interrupted stating he believed the item appeared to be punitive and disciplinary in nature and should not be discussed. Richardson agreed it appeared to be more of a personnel issue yet after talking with the attorney that morning stated it was proper for the board to make a decision on the agendized request. Ross said if the board wanted to make a policy regarding reimbursement for educational training that was fine but should not discuss the matter in open session. Director Skoien felt the matter was moot and since he (President Kinsella) was not present the board should move on to the next agenda item. IGM Tynan requested the opportunity for clarification of President Kinsella’s letter. Ross asked if the board had to do that. Richardson stated the item was on the agenda for reimbursement of funds which was something both President Kinsella and Charise Reeves had presented for discussion, however, Mrs. Reeves stated she only provided the information requested by President Kinsella due to a discrepancy between what had been stated in a meeting by Tynan and what actually transpired regarding payment for the training class. Richardson clarified that the matter had started some time before which Reeves acknowledged stating it was standard procedure to go over credit card charges and checking the meeting tape confirmed that Tynan originally stated he would pay for the class himself.

Director Ross asked if the information would end up in Tynan’s Personnel File to which Reeves stated it would not characterizing it (if the board decided to have Tynan pay for the class and hotel room) as a simple reversal on payroll (vacation time). VP Richardson acknowledged the suggestion of bypassing the matter and moving on through the agenda but commented the issue would only linger on and questioned whether the board might adjudicate the matter now. Director Skoien stated Dan was moving on, had a right to do so and had stated his reasons for the resignation and suggested everyone else move on as well.

Tynan disputed President Kinsella’s assertion (in a letter) that the district received no benefit for Tynan’s training class citing a number of violations within the district which Tynan discovered because of the training. Director Skoien confirmed that approximately the same amount of money spent on the training class had been billed through the district. Richardson clarified that Tynan had paid for one training class himself and planned on doing the same for the second class but after realizing the financial benefit to the district (along with meeting requirements of state regulations) later changed his mind and charged the training to the credit card. [NOTE: Tynan had previously agreed to abide by whatever the board decided.]

Richardson stated boards often made the mistake of trying to save money by not providing training to employees due to the fear they might move on to another agency yet such training should be provided and if an employee did move on to another position it was just a cost of doing business. Ross suggested a policy stating if an employee left within one month of a district paid training course the employee be required to reimburse the district. Richardson agreed stating such would be similar to the current policy regarding clothing and boots but it could not be retroactive. The board consensus was to drop the matter and use the situation as the basis for a possible future policy.

ITEM C: General Manager Position: Decide on actions to fill the General Manager Position.

Director Ross passed out a proposal of his to the board that encouraged hiring an IGM but still advertising for the General Manager’s position. He stated he was waiting for the attorney to approve his proposal. Director Skoien stated the district had to meet the requirement of advertising for the position but VP Richardson disagreed stating he had spoken with the attorney and the board could appoint an IGM from the existing employee pool without advertising. Richardson confirmed through the board secretary that advertising costs were approximately $1,000 in four local newspapers.

Director Afanasiev stated he believed the board needed to make an appointment but was unsure if the district needed to advertise for the position. Richardson reiterated his conversation with the attorney that such advertisement was not necessary and the board could indeed appoint an IGM. Director Skoien said the district should probably run an advertisement but doubted we would find anyone as qualified as Mr. Turner. Richardson disagreed with the offered theory by Director Afanasiev that the district could not appoint a GM until conclusion of the ongoing wrongful termination lawsuit by a previous general manager. Harry Alfier also pointed out that a previous IGM was promoted to GM during the wait for lawsuit conclusions. Director Skoien stated he did not recall any information that the previous GM (with a pending lawsuit against the district) even wanted the position. Tynan confirmed that Jeff Mann had been appointed IGM and then later GM by a previous board.

Director Ross felt the district needed an IGM prior to appointing a permanent GM. Ross felt IGM Tynan had the responsibility but not the authority as an IGM. Ross also stated:

“I think in this interim period until, I mean, I don’t think you’re going to get a, a regular general manager going in the short amount of time so you need to pick from somebody, whoever, Charise, him, you know, Syndie whoever it is, Randy, somebody, me…(laughter) you know, until the 30th until we get a few applications from this response that we’re talking about if the board wants to do interim. I think it’s time to take it more positive about it because that’s really Dan’s prob, had that problem for all that time that he was a, had the responsibility of all this stuff but not really the authority to do what he need to do”.

Tynan stated his hands were tied.

Richardson stated most people could recognize that Tynan was placed in an untenable position due to politics that had been going on for quite some time before his arrival here as an employee and he was thrown right smack dab into the middle of something that I don’t think anybody really stood a fair chance. Directors agreed Tynan had done a good job. Ross said there were some things Tynan did that he wasn’t happy about like the painting but it looks good now. Richardson suggested with all the discussion one of the first things the board might inquire was whether Mr. Turner was even interested in something like that.

John Turner stated in the last ten days he had spoken with many people from all sides and that his whole career was based on, whether in the Marine Corps or working for water agencies, bringing people together. He said it was like our family away from family. He said his upmost priorities were to protect the community liability and keeping the people safe. Turner emphasized working together, referring to his past experience and training, stated he knew how to run the district.

VP Richardson commented that it was high time the board supported the district IGM/GM and proposed tentatively appointing Mr. Turner to the position with the same hiring conditions as Dan Tynan and using the next 10 days for orientation and verification of resume information. He said barring any disqualifying information Mr. Turner could take the position upon Tynan’s last day on April 30th and with a successful evaluation later be appointed to GM. Richardson also felt the plan would be in line with past Mariposa County Grand Jury recommendations the last two years.

Director Ross again stated he believed it was a personnel issue that should be discussed in closed session scheduled in the future. Richardson again stated he had specifically confirmed with the CSD attorney as to the board’s authority to appoint in open session emphasizing the salary issue should never be discussed in closed session. He continued to say an open meeting was transparency (of government) and it was a shame there were not more people in attendance. Richardson characterized the situation as an opportunity for a new office, new IGM, and potentially a new start and direction for the district.

Director Ross questioned how the board could hire someone without seeing his application or resume. Ross stated he didn’t even know if Turner had ever been gainfully employed in the State of California to which Richardson suggested he ask Turner which Ross refused to do stating he would only talk with Turner in closed session. Richardson again stated the attorney advised the board could appoint in open session yet Ross stated the attorney told him the same thing but then did a 360 last night saying the district could be sued for discussing personnel issues in a public session. [I believe Mr. Ross meant 180 degrees which would be a U-turn compass heading.]

Ruth Smith asked how many directors were authorized to speak with the attorney stating it was no wonder the legal fees were so high. Ross stated he emailed the attorney to which Mrs. Smith stated the district gets charged the same. Richardson stated that in all fairness when a director, GM or staff had a legal question the attorney is exactly the person to be contacted. Harry Alfier questioned what happened to the idea of contracting with the Tuolumne County Counsel’s office for routine questions to which Charise Reeves responded the proposal was never approved by the board.

Richardson suggested getting back to the topic of replacement of the IGM, congratulated Tynan on his new employment and stated Tynan had done a lot of good things for the district despite the turmoil. Director Skoien asked Ross about his proposal wondering if it too was a personnel issue. Ross stated it was only a concept that the attorney might approve today and disapprove tomorrow depending upon which way the wind blows. Director Afanasiev asked if he could make a motion, Richardson said yes but asked if there were any further comments from the public.

Wes Barton stated when the previous board hired a previous IGM they used the engineering firm for an evaluation and suggested the same in the present situation because, 1) helps the district choose the right person and 2) it puts the blame on somebody else. Barton also felt there should be specific goals set for the IGM and recommended the board in the next six months set such goals to be achieved. Barton also felt understanding the district’s financial situation has been a problem for past IGM/GMs and discussed the reporting hierarchy and mentioned the possibility that the financial administrator might report directly to the board of directors. (Barton emphasized it was only a suggestion and he was not necessarily advocating such a procedure.) He stressed goal setting by the board was the priority (with outside technical advice) and without such, failure would again result.

Director Ross said the government code states the GM is responsible for finance and like the County Board of Supervisors, which appoints individuals to fill various positions even though the supervisors themselves may not have personal experience, the board must have faith in their appointees. Ross disagreed with having the engineer evaluate the GM because the engineer works for the GM. IGM Tynan said he was able to complete 3 of the 14 capital improvement projects furnished to the prior GM. Director Skoien commented that the GM would naturally be in contact with the engineer and did not care for the suggestion of a separation of financial matters from the GM to the board. Mr. Barton stated it was his personal take on the matter from reading the government code and also mentioned the timing issue of the appointment. He stated use of consultants might be useful, specifically the engineer. IGM Tynan stated a consultant previously used by the district would no longer be available.

Director Afanasiev made the motion to promote John Turner as the interim GM with verification of his certificates from the state within 120 days. Richardson asked if Director Afanasiev might amend his motion to include the Turner’s hiring with the same conditions (salary and long term benefits) as used with Dan Tynan effective May 1st. VP Richardson made the second.

Director Skoien confirmed the motion for appointment did not include any advertisement but thought Ross’s proposal of a temporary appointment during an advertisement period the way to go. Director Afanasiev stated the district could appoint internally, Richardson agreed stating, with no offense to Mr. Turner at all, employees are at will and he had read in past minutes where one individual was appointed as GM in one meeting, but another person was the GM at the next. Richardson stated the appointment was not set in stone without any options if things did not turn out as anticipated.

Director Ross stated there was a motion without a second but was advised a second had been made. Ross then said he would not vote for the motion because he had not seen Turner’s employment application and it could only be discussed “in there”, referring to a closed session. Ross said he didn’t know if Turner had been a bus driver or maybe a rancher. Richardson again asked Director Ross if he had reviewed the information regarding Turner’s employment and educational background yet Ross stated he did not want to discuss the issue. Ross again stated he had not seen an employment application to which Director Afanasiev explained it was a promotion from the ranks not a job application. John Turner advised he could do whatever the board requested but Afanasiev advised it was not necessary for a promotion. Richardson asked if Director Ross had seen Turner’s resume to which Ross replied he hadn’t seen anything. Afanasiev, Skoien and Richardson had reviewed it, and Richardson advised he knew President Kinsella had requested the resume a while back. Tynan said he confirmed Turner’s 31 years job experience and license status.

Director Skoien asked about Turner’s previous experience. Mr. Turner advised he had worked for Golden State Water which is a privately owned New York Stock Exchange Company which serves 1 out of every 33 people up and down the state. He started down in Arizona-New Mexico for 14 years, transferred to the East Bay where he worked another 13-14 years and was then promoted to water conservation coordinator that covered many communities.

Richardson commented Turner’s 30+ years experience was very valuable along with his T-4 and D-4 License Grades (Treatment and Distribution) and the fact he was already an employee precluded expensive advertising. He continued by saying it was his understanding Mr. Turner had already committed himself to this community by purchasing a house which Turner affirmatively acknowledged. Richardson said he thought it was the perfect opportunity to appoint the gentleman as IGM to work with the general contractor and insurance company in establishing the new office from the ground up. He also thought it advantageous that Turner would himself hire future CSD employees with whom he would work. Richardson said he would really like to see everybody support the motion but if there were objections – voice the apprehensions on the record because it had been a long time since a district IGM/GM received the full support of the board. He said even if a director had reluctance in certain areas the board should give Turner a chance and try for a new start for the district.

Director Ross asked Turner how many years of finance experience he had as a finance manager – what did he know about finance. Turner responded that as far as being a finance manager that was never his title but he had taken the Harvard (Ross interrupted adding to his question: “in a public agency – cuz it’s different than a private”. Turner replied stating: in the private, we serve the public. He continued by saying he didn’t like to “toot his own – kind of thing” but he had been chosen by management to participate in rate school training and had taken the Harvard Financial Competence Class, budgets and rates and as a lead operator whenever the superintendent stepped aside he came in as assistant and would run the budget. He advised he would learn from the current employees and they would learn from him and everyone would come up to another level. He further stated he did not come here needing a job but after retirement he could only take six months of fishing (laughter). Richardson commented whatever experience he might be lacking in the public sector could be cleared up with a Brown Act training class real quick.

Director Afanasiev said the Brown Act only applied to officials and Richardson agreed and he mentioned the training class only because Director Ross had made the distinction between public and private agencies. Richardson stated Afanasiev’s motion stood and asked if there were any further comments. Ruth Smith asked if the man was already qualified and an employee of the district why spend the money for an engineer, consultant or advertisement, why not just do it (appoint) and get it over with? Richardson agreed stating as IGM Mr. Turner would naturally consult with the engineers on different projects and the attorney on legal matters. Harry Alfier commented that the board was running a good meeting and that he supported John and thought him a Godsend for the district and hoped the board would support him as well. Emery Ross said there were three votes – Afanasiev stated Ross didn’t know that- Richardson said the comment was kind of out of order and laughed.

Ruth Smith asked if IGM Tynan put the information in Ross’s mailbox was it fair for Ross to vote no to Turner just because Ross hasn’t checked his mail? Ross said the votes were there and he could vote the way he wanted. With no further comments VP Richardson called for the vote, Director Skoien asked for a reading of the motion:

Charise Reeves: Motion is, for the most part, to promote John Turner on an interim basis ah to position as interim general manager with verification on his certifications from the state, and this is where I don’t have it word for word, but additional verifications within 120 days on his background, I’ll get it word for word off the tape, and ah, at the same salary and conditions as Dan was at effective May first.

Ayes, Richardson, Afanasiev, and Skoien (the later vote qualified with so long as running an advertisement was not required). Nays, Ross (because he had not interviewed the person in closed session and had not seen the application.)

Director Skoien stated he agreed with Director Ross on how it had been done in the past with the best case scenario but he (Skoien) was also considering the time frame and like with any other vote hoped it was the right decision.

Richardson agreed and said, again John with no insult meant to you at all if things don’t work out you could be gone as quickly as you came in….(laughter) I hope that’s not the case, I hope in the next ten days you and Dan can work together and come up you know to speed on more things here. I’d like to see some active involvement if we hire Pinnacle and Mr. Grover to be the general contractor – some good work in there with him and you have the chance to

John Turner: get things in gear

VP Richardson: Exactly, exactly and get a good start on the ground floor of what will hopefully be a new CSD with a new agenda. OK, with that done we’re looking at the Closed Session so we’ll close this meeting at 1113.

Director Afanasiev: can we take a break?

VP Richardson: Certainly

Director Ross: See you later I’m going home

VP Richardson: Whoa – Emery, we have a closed session.

Director Ross: I know, I have to leave, I don’t like the way you’re running this (laughter)

VP Richardson: But, OK, you may not like the way I’m running it but are you going to just abdicate your responsibility and not attend a closed session with the attorney counsel?

Director Ross: Well Raymond told me one thing and you’re telling me

VP Richardson: Well this would be the perfect opportunity for you to ask him on the telephone then.

Director Ross: Well no because you’re obstinate and impossible to talk to, you don’t listen, you just did a whole stupid thing

VP Richardson: Listen Emery the attorney is going to be on the phone and you’ll have the opportunity to talk to him

(inaudible – Director Emery Ross leaves the board room)

VP Richardson: (laughs) Let’s take a recess (laughter)

REPORT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION ITEMS: 1200hrs:

D) Conference with Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation Government Code Section 54956.9 – Kent/Topie vs. LDPCSD

Conference to be rescheduled so the entire board could be present.

E) Government Code Section 54957(b)(2) – Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Specific Complaints – Continuation

No action taken due to the matter being Overtaken By Events (OBE) since one of the complainants is leaving the district it is no longer a legal issue but as a practical matter no action will be taken on that.

Charise Reeves made the following for the record comment: “I was not happy with the way this whole thing proceeded, obviously the initial ahm grievance was submitted seven months ago and over seven or eight meetings ago

VP Richardson: OK, well you know that, that works both ways but

Charise Reeves: I’m allowed to make a statement for the record

VP Richardson: You are?

Charise Reeves: Yeah, anybody in the community is and so I’m not happy with how long it took, you know I understand the determination but I do want the directors to know that I stand by what I initially put in the grievance.

VP Richardson: OK,

Charise Reeves: You know harassment

Director Skoien: But you understand the termination because the employee is leaving?

Charise Reeves: I do, I do

Director Skoien: You’re just expressing your disgust

Charise Reeves: I’m just….exactly, I, I was not happy that it took this long, that it wasn’t resolved, and had something happened a whole lot sooner, ahm, and that ah, you know, the initial items that I stated I still stand by. You know?

VP Richardson: Well I think both parties

Charise Reeves: I understand the determination and the ah action so

VP Richardson: I think both parties standby what they’ve said but it’s, it’s done. OK, so we’ll call the end of this meeting ah thank you all for, all three of you for returning, the time is 1202.

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My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

THE PERFECT FIRE

Reading Time: 7 minutes

LDPCSD BOARD MEETING OF APRIL 16, 2012

Establish quorum: President Bill Kinsella, VP Lew Richardson, Directors Emery Ross, Mark Skoien and Victor Afanasiev present along with Interim General Manager Dan Tynan and Financial Administrator/Treasurer/Board Secretary Charise Reeves. Pledge of allegiance.

UPDATE ON “THE PERFECT FIRE”

Seems like a contradictory title considering destruction and loss is typically associated with arson, however, there is a big difference between a structure being burned to the ground or gutted by fire as was our administration office on February 27th, 2012. It certainly could have been much worse.

I would suspicion many of you have in the past attempted to burn stacks of paper, old magazines, or books (naturally long before such incinerator type garbage burning was prohibited to reduce air pollution), but recall how the pages inside, insulated from contact with the flames, were often only slightly damaged compared to the exposed surfaces? How the “packed” pages actually had to be stirred around with a fire poker to insure total destruction and transformation into ash? Well, such was the case with our recent office fire and boxes of historical records. Very good news.

PINNACLE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COMPANY

When Syndie Marchesiello (Customer Billing Representative) questioned our insurance carrier as to the documents damaged in the fire and how to proceed, our insurance adjuster suggested Pinnacle to perform the work. The document restoration process is approximately 50% complete but the results are extremely encouraging and according to Leo Grover it was the “perfect fire” in the sense record loss was minimized.

Mr. Grover advised he was surprised at how slow the fire recovery process was proceeding concerning the office replacement and offered his services as a general contractor for the job as he has worked closely with insurance companies in many different emergencies. He has been in contact with our insurance adjuster who is evidently in favor of having a third party assume the duties of a general contractor.

Pinnacle currently has over 15,000 of our files which are called “wet files” because the documents contain signatures, i.e., time cards, contracts, grant deeds, etc. Mr. Grover stated he took it upon himself (regardless of whether he would be reimbursed or not) to construct a detailed inventory of items and materials lost in the fire because he wanted to make sure everything was listed. Although initially totaling roughly $80,000 he advised the CSD might not choose to replace everything but was still entitled to the value lost. The loss estimate is now approximately $109,000 but is expected to increase. Once everything is cleared with the insurance company Grover estimated that the new building could be up and running around one month’s time. The definition of what constitutes an “emergency” is important on how to proceed. Grover stated the CSD could use his scope even if it decided to work with a different company but having a contractor was the best way to go.

A telephone call was made to the CSD attorney, Raymond Carlson, who suggested following the claims procedure and turning the matter over to the insurance company and allowing them to make the decision on how to best proceed.

Leo Grover further advised he believed the insurance company reserve should be around $250,000 to cover everything. (Documents and building replacement at $100,000 each.)

The board approved Mr. Grover to represent the CSD in regards to the fire pending the insurance company’s approval. Grover suggested presenting his scope to the insurance company for their review as the first step in the office rebuild. Essentially, the insurance company pays for the coverage but the board ultimately chooses the general contractor and if the insurance company accepts the offered scope, Pinnacle will be appointed for further restoration efforts.

PRESIDING OFFICER’S REPORT

President Kinsella stated that since IGM Tynan was seeking employment elsewhere he (Kinsella) felt the board should start advertising for the position. Directors Ross and Afanasiev suggested placing the item on the next agenda. Kinsella stated he could direct the Board Secretary to advertise for a general manager immediately. IGM Tynan advised he recently hired John Turner who has 31 years experience in water treatment and distribution and if his anticipated employment did not turn out he (Tynan) would like to go back to the treatment plant because the IGM position was not working out. A future Special Meeting will be scheduled to address that matter along with the continuing Personnel grievance matter between IGM Tynan and Charise Reeves.

MANAGER’S REPORT

Dan Tynan reported the leak on Banderilla Drive had been repaired and with the hiring of John Turner fire hydrant flushing and testing would resume. Only two routes remain for replacement with the AMR system, (4 out of 6 completed) however, that replacement has stopped due to the disruption caused by the office fire. Exact water loss was also difficult to report due to the fire. Tynan stated the new employee, John Turner, has a T-4/D-4 Grade License (Treatment and Distribution) and the highest grade is T-5/D-5.

TREASURER’S REPORT

Total restricted & unrestricted funds: $416,469. Approximately $19,000 has been spent on replacement items due to the fire. Two large bills have been paid, Merced Irrigation District water bill and the loan payment. Some accounts are over budget, including legal, vehicle maintenance and office overtime, some of the later will be recovered with insurance reimbursement.

Director Ross questioned the actual duties of the Finance Committee to which Reeves responded the auditor advised it could be anything we wanted it to be, but primarily it was just extra eyes looking at the treasurer’s report. Prior to approving the Treasurer’s Report VP Richardson questioned the legal fee amount and requirement that a separate vote of the Board be conducted to approve the over budget amount. Reeves initially stated a vote was only required if a director disputed the bill but after reading the fine print statement on page 14 agreed a separate vote was necessary. The statement under the title Additional Information read:

“Beginning March 2010, these payments will be made after each board meeting without board approval unless disputed by a board member as they are standard district expenses unless we exceed our budgeted amount.”

The board subsequently approved the payment for legal fees in the amount of $8,387.51.

Director Victor Afanasiev questioned the additional legal costs for further depositions in the two wrongful termination lawsuits that were brought years ago since depositions in the case had already been taken. The board agreed a closed session meeting would be scheduled for conference with the attorney so directors could be briefed on the status of the cases.

Ruth Smith reiterated her question from last month about paying for the extra Hughes internet service. Charise Reeves advised once her paperwork was returned from the document recovery company she could provide the follow up answers. Smith asked if it wouldn’t be cheaper to just pick up the phone and ask the questions directly rather than paying $90 a month for a service that wasn’t used. Reeves responded such communication was difficult due to outsourcing to India and without the account information nothing could be done. Mrs. Smith also asked if checks had been lost in the office fire because the Association had recently received a very large bill although a payment had been made earlier. Reeves stated it was her understanding checks were indeed lost in the fire and Mrs. Smith should check with the billing officer for details.

The board approved the read and file of the April Treasurer’s Report.

CONSENT CALENDAR

Reeves advised the fire had affected her production of Minutes and hoped she would be caught up with the February and March Minutes in the near future. Prior to approving the Operations, Finance, and Public Relations committee meeting minutes VP Richardson questioned when the Public Relations letter to the LDPOA (submitted last month regarding the use of the DISCOVERER to contact CSD customers) had been sent to which Reeves apologized stating it had not because she was in the middle of everything but it would be sent later that day.

The board approved the read and file of the consent calendar.

COMMITTEE MEETING UPDATES

MID Committee: After the last board meeting IGM Tynan and VP Richardson reviewed a restored map of the district and recorded APNs (Assessor Parcel Numbers) so the billing officer could cross check on the computer any availability charges that may have been paid to the district by outside place of use properties. Director Ross questioned why the public was not advised of the meeting so they could attend but Richardson explained ad hoc committees are not required to be agendized along with the fact the process required laying a large fire damaged restored map on the floor that required protection.

ACWA HEALTH BENEFITS AUTHORITY

The Board approved the ACWA Health Benefits Authority resolution to retain health benefits while making the transition to ACWA/Joint Powers Insurance Authority. Director Afanasiev requested that Charise Reeves remove the prior GM’s name from the material and replace it with the name of the current IGM.

OUTSIDE PLACE OF USE RESOLUTION

President Kinsella referred to the item as being VP Richardson’s, however, Richardson questioned why the resolution was even on the agenda since the board had decided further research was required regarding how many outside place of use properties were actually paying availability fees. Richardson specifically asked how the item had been placed on the agenda. Charise Reeves stated she had asked IGM Tynan if the resolution should be on the agenda. Richardson objected to Reeves’ explanation citing an email exchange between Reeves and himself that clearly identified the subject matter of the agenda item request. Tynan stated he was not aware of Richardson’s email. VP Richardson read the two emails:

Charise Reeves: As far as #4, can you please provide additional information on what exactly you want on the agenda and anything you want included in the packet.

Director Richardson: I do not understand why the Shaw and Martin (Morasci) properties remain on the Outside MIDPOU report since the meters have been pulled and no availability fees are paid. Perhaps the matter could be considered just normal office updating of information and simply removed but since they have not as of yet I thought the board might consider instructing staff to remove them (along with any others that may not be paying availability).

VP Richardson stated in exchange the resolution was placed on the agenda which had nothing to do with his request. Charise Reeves stated she did not decide what goes on the agenda. Richardson disagreed. Tynan again stated he had not seen the email. Reeves stated she provides matters to IGM Tynan and President Kinsella, they review material and then she is told what will or will not be on the agenda. Richardson asked if Dan did not write the letter to the LDPOA too? He continued by saying he was tired of all the excuses and referenced the office fire. Reeves stated the comment was uncalled for and it was not the first time. Richardson agreed stating it was about the third time he either had a conversation or answered an email from Reeves yet received exactly the opposite (in response). President Kinsella suggested moving on and Richardson agreed saying it (the resolution) should be tabled until the research process was complete.

FENCING

IGM Tynan briefed the board on estimates for fencing around particular equipment that needed further security. Director Mark Skoien suggested since the district may be appointing a General Contractor perhaps he could also handle any additional fencing that might be required in addition to the office area. Discussion ensued, however no motion was made on the matter.

A recess was called prior to the board going into closed session.

Closed Session: Conference with legal counsel regarding Agee vs. LDPCSD – report out – district will defend itself.

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

WATCH LIKE A HAWK

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Certainly has been strange weather for the last few weeks – alternating between high summer-like temperatures; thunder & lightening, cold wind blown rain and hail topped with those convenient periodic power outages like on the day of the Health Fair!

One day I am slathering on sunscreen, the next, hauling in firewood to stay warm. Yesterday (Sunday) was especially interesting with the high temperature and moist saturated ground. The evaporation radiating up was almost jungle-like as I tore through healthy weeds with a new two cycle Echo trimmer graciously gifted by my closest of friends in acknowledgment for surviving another year. [Naturally there was fog early this morning as well.]

Yes, the weather has complicated the “War on Weeds” and has been somewhat frustrating, but heck, it is every single spring but I am confident of ultimate victory. Then, after everything is finally cut, raked, sprayed, burned and landscaped, the fall rain is back and the cycle begins again. Not complaining at all mind you, in fact I am a bit embarrassed to admit I enjoy the work and will miss the ritual when the chore becomes too physically challenging.

While cutting fire breaks a couple of weeks ago on my Mother’s lot and watching some wild turkeys we noticed a rather large stick-twig assembled nest in an Oak across the street which turned out to be maintained by a pair of Red Tail Hawks frequently observed in the area. (A neighbor told me he has been watching this pair for years.)

Rather than binoculars, this time I came prepared with the telescope. There are definitely two white fluffy chicks – possibly a third, however, that all too common day to day cruelty of nature stuff is difficult to watch, if there was a third I’m afraid it is now dead. By late afternoon only two chicks could clearly be observed and the larger one continually pecked and attacked the smaller one. When the male brought in a meal (lizard and a vole) and the female tore it up for feeding, only one of the chicks appeared to be fed. Even when attempting to eat the scraps that fell from its sibling’s mouth the smaller chick was attacked. The poor thing was weaving back and forth hardly able to hold up its head then “POW” he got smacked again by the larger chick’s beak. Hopefully it looked worse than it was.

Witnessed something amazing from the other side of the equation and actually got it on video but the image quality isn’t that hot. The female Hawk (larger in size) when not actually on top of the chicks, rotates around the top edge of the nest in little side steps so as to continually cast the best shadow on her young. It was terribly hot yesterday and the female could be seen panting while protecting her young. With wings partially opened she constantly adjusted her position for optimum shade. Now here’s the really cool part, Dad suddenly flies in carrying a leafy branch instead of food. He lands on the edge of the nest and begins walking around with the branch providing shade for the female and the eyasses (defined in below linked article). I kid you not! It was unreal. I don’t have time now, but maybe I can upload that video later.

Here are some poor quality shots. Used the same old trick as with the shots of the Moon at night — just hold the camera lens near the eye piece of the telescope. Only problem is low light conditions mean even a miniscule movement makes for a blurry image. Oh well we do the best we can with what we have right? The detail was fantastic through the telescope though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_Hawk

There’s much I want to share with you folks but need to get caught up. Here’s a quick report on the April 5th, 2012 Special Meeting which was agendized as the continuing Personnel matter between Interim General Manager Dan Tynan and Financial Administrator/Treasurer/Board Secretary Charise Reeves.

*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Establish quorum: President Bill Kinsella, Directors Emery Ross, Mark Skoien, Victor Afanasiev and VP Lew Richardson present. Interim Manager Dan Tynan and Financial Administrator/Treasurer/Board Secretary Charise Reeves also present Pledge of Allegiance.

Charise Reeves requested the Board vote to add an agenda item regarding changing a dollar amount on a fire related issue that was approved during the last meeting. Victor Afanasiev made the motion and President Kinsella the second, the board approved the change. Reeves briefed the board on the added costs for the office demolition and President Kinsella asked for a motion which Director Mark Skoien made, seconded by Victor Afanasiev. During discussion Director Emery Ross questioned Charise Reeves on the Brown Act Section she was relying on to revisit the matter. Reeves was unaware of the exact section but advised the issue had already been discussed in a previous agendized meeting which allowed for public comment. Ross cautioned if it were indeed a Brown Act Violation any action would be null and void. Both Ross and Richardson believed a Special Meeting was limited to the posted agenda items.

Audience member Ruth Smith stated she believed recent legislation prohibited even discussing matters that were not listed on a Special Meeting agenda. Reeves suggested voiding the additional part of the meeting and returning to the subject at a later time. Mark Skoien withdrew his motion.

President Kinsella stated the purpose of the meeting was to discuss complaints by IGM Tynan and Charise Reeves against each other. Tynan had requested an open meeting discussion whereas Reeves wanted a Closed Session. Director Ross suggested the board go into closed session to deliberate which was done at 0910hrs.

The meeting was reconvened at 1015hrs with the following “report out” by President Kinsella: The board is pursuing a satisfactory resolution with legal counsel’s input.

Meeting adjourned @ 1017hrs

*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&

Well that was easy. The next posting will be on the April 16th, 2012 Regular Monthly meeting.

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

WACKED THE WEED EATER

Reading Time: 11 minutes

The most recent 4 cycle weed trimmer didn’t even make one year.  Nine days short.  Strange, I usually get at least two seasons of shoulder discomfort from starting the darn things before something requires replacement or major adjustment.  The cycle usually starts with difficult starting and proceeds through “not quite working right”, “losing power”, and then sputtering and coughing just like the operator.

This time however during a lower RPM run it suddenly stopped with a loud metallic sounding “clunk”.   Yes — I checked the oil level before starting and filled it to the proper level, used new fuel, even cleaned the air filter.   It started fairly easy but only an hour or so
into the chlorophyll splashed slaughter of vegetative offerings the engine to my faithful landscaping weapon seized.

Now the traditional dilemma: spend money on equipment repair or simply acquire another dead tool for display on the “Dead Tool Tree” (a landscaping testament to the money spent on failing tools despite reasonably good care.)   Having been down this road a few times already (purchasing “repairs” until the next inoperative incident) I believe the “Dead Tool Tree” is the appropriate choice.   Yup, a couple of telephone calls to small
engine repair shops cinched the decision.

PRESCRIPTIVE WATER RIGHT?

Reading select portions of the law (cases, decisions, opinions, statutes, etc) can be quite perilous if the totality of the subject or most recent “final word” from a court has not been considered.  Based on limited exposure to a particular legal issue it is understandable how any lay person (regardless of how knowledgeable they might actually be) could  accidentally get the “wrong idea” about a legal matter, advocate it to others, and act accordingly.

There is nothing sinister or intentionally deceptive – just a simple misunderstanding motivated by a good faith effort to “do the right thing”.  I believe this is exactly what
happened to Victor Afanasiev when he understood properties outside the Merced
Irrigation District Place of Use [MIDPOU], which pay availability fees for future water service, had a “prescriptive water right”.   His request that our attorney research the
matter, though well intended, appears to be misdirected.

Below is some information which will clarify the matter and is really quite interesting as to how California operates under a “dual system of water rights which recognizes both the appropriation and the riparian doctrines”.

Basically, Riparian rights involve “land abutting upon a stream or body of water” and Common Law appropriation of a water right goes back to the gold mining days when water was diverted to work mining claims.  Posting at the point of water diversion and recording the right with the county were common methods of securing an appropriative water right.
Prescriptive rights have been described as the “parasites of water rights [because] [t]he only way to obtain such rights is to take water rights away from someone else….”)

People v. Shirokow 26 Cal. 3d 301      [Prescriptive rights do not apply-link below]

http://law.justia.com/cases/california/cal3d/26/301.html

Here’s some other information from the SWRCB [State Water Resources Control Board] regarding the different types of water rights.

http://www.waterrights.ca.gov/forms/app-geninfo.pdf

NOTICE there is even a disclaimer in this material on page 3:  “While believed to be correct, the information is by no means complete. For additional information, see the California Water Code and case law.”  Yes, water law is very complicated.

COMPLICATED ISSUES REQUIRE SPECIFIC EDUCATION, TRAINING AND
EXPERIENCE

I, like everyone else (who is not specifically trained in such matters), can only study and attempt to comprehend some extremely complicated subjects – but that is precisely why the LDPCSD has legal representation specializing in water law.   Until convinced that such representation is inadequate I will do my best to adhere to the attorney’s  commendations, suggestions, and legal opinions regarding legal matters and what is best for this district.

Others may choose to elevate their perspective and opinion above that of our attorney, believing the later incorrect in some respect, however, I believe such action could be very dangerous.   If individual lay opinions are to replace our legal representation, something is very wrong, but again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  (Which is why electing others to represent the public’s best interest is so very important.)

OUTSIDE MIDPOU RESOLUTION

Although disappointed the resolution to prohibit further Outside MIDPOU [OMIDPOU] properties from further taxing the Ranchito Well production again failed, anything  orthwhile takes time and this issue cannot be postponed indefinitely considering the circumstances and necessity for action.    Heck the problem itself took decades to develop spanning many different boards and administrations.

Actually this recent focus on the OMIDPOU Properties will likely produce information long sought which will enable all of us to better understand exactly how this district became so entangled in the issue of what water can be distributed, and where.

Inexorably linked to this is the question of who should reasonably be saddled with the any added financial responsibility of providing a special benefit to properties outside the permitted area for Merced River water consumption under the water license?

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE

For whatever reasons, Outside MIDPOU [OMIDPOU] water service is an exception to the rule and as such, should likely be viewed differently than those traditional “availability properties” which have the right to Merced  River water and have always paid availability, or standby, fees since the beginning.

“STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK”

No one knows how many more connections to the well can be made without jeopardizing what is already served to OMIDPOU customers, but caution is obviously warranted.  The
engineer report concluded the well is 50% of its sustainable yield (I believe there is a bit of “wiggle room” in the calculations).

ADDITIONAL CONNECTIONS FOR WHAT?

Additional connections are one concern, but what about the anticipated water consumption for each of those connections?  Will they be normal domestic single family
residential hookups?   Perhaps the acreage is proposed to be a mini-subdivision with a number of other connections?  What about another commercial cattle or other livestock type ranching activity?  There are a number of other high consumptive enterprises which could be the down fall of the Ranchito Well.

Were “exceptions” made to include properties with no reasonable or immediate expectation of residential domestic water use?  Were connections made for speculative land development or potential commercial benefits outside the permitted use
area?  If this is so, is it fair or reasonable to require 99% of the “legal use” customers to subsidize private commercial enterprises and profit through the financing of a special benefit outside the permitted water use area?

A possible solution has been theorized:  MID and the SWRCB might somehow feel sorry
for the district’s failure to conform in the past and will simply turn a blind eye and permit the district to do whatever it wants.  Considering MID is the entity that holds the license and is responsible to the SWRCB for state water law violations, I personally doubt MID would willingly gamble further potential liability (fines or other State correction) because of compassion for this district’s difficulty in supplying water to every property owner who desires service in the vicinity.

Apparently there was an attempt at an “Administrative Remedy” years ago where our permitted area to serve Merced River water was to be expanded, however, complications developed and the process was halted with the determination that a full blown change petition would have to be filed with the SWRCB.   This is very expensive process and fraught with potential legal protests and objections from other water users downstream, and for us, that means the very organized Delta-Bay area.

Certainly the approval by the SWRCB of a petition to change the place of use would be absolutely wonderful, and perhaps a dedicated effort towards that possibility should be maintained, but first things first.  A priority should be to deal with what has already been created.

“ANARCHY IS BETTER THAN NO GOVERNMENT AT ALL”

Probably my favorite oxymoron.

Oxymoron:     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxymoron

And what about the person who defiantly says “I’m an atheist and thank God for it”?  lol

“ONLY HOW MUCH AN ACRE?”

Recently I remembered an oxymoron from an old college Public Administration course – “honest Graft”.  How only a small amount of “insider information” could be unethically (and criminally) used to obtain substantial sums of money.  One example was how government projects, like military bases, were often designed and located away from more highly populated areas.  (Errant air drops, forced landings/accidents, ICBM mishaps, artillery shelling, noise, etc.)  My miniscule experience as a “military brat” would tend to substantiate this observation considering some of bases Dad had been stationed.  Yep, made sense such facilities would be out in the boonies a bit – then slowly other businesses and communities grow around the installation figuring the commercial benefits
outweighed the risk of injury/damage.

So what if the DOD (Department of Defense) or some subcommittee was considering construction of a new facility somewhere?  (Remember the Cold War era when the emphasis was on rapid construction of bases not decommissioning them?)   Only a small piece of information, like which state and county such a complex might be built, could reap huge monetary rewards.  Not only could an individual or company purchase land for next to nothing then sell it back to the government at a greatly enhanced price but they’d have the ground floor on configuring the infrastructure and supporting entities for an entire community which could be quite lucrative.  Presto:  “Honest graft”.

Naturally there are a multitude of laws and regulations covering such stuff now, heck there probably were then, but the point is certain information at the right time can be very  aluable.  Wall Street insider trading…..what has the country learned from that little game?
Subprime loans?  Blah, blah, blah……

BACK TO THE SUBJECT— WATER

. . . . .California’s new gold!

“Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting
over”.  Attributed to Mark Twain.   Here’s a humorous and interesting perspective about whiskey and the advancement of civilization by Mark Twain http://www.twainquotes.com/WaterWhiskey.html

WHERE IS THE WATER GOING TO GO?

Similar to asking where a new government facility might be built huh?  Drought prone foothill land sure would be worth a lot more money if potable water could be delivered right to the property line of where someone was going to build a home, and after all,
with a few exceptions the water was primarily intended for domestic residential
consumption in the subdivision.

In 1968 Sierra Highlands Water Company President Thad Binkley made an agreement with the Sturtevant Ranch agreeing to provide 10 free water meters and $500 for some Sturtevant land upon which a water tank and access road would be constructed.
Unfortunately, documents on file with authorities do not recognize this inclusion into the water license place of use, thus all those additional properties fall outside the MIDPOU and must receive water from the Ranchito Well.  [The LDPCSD service boundary is
different than the area of service permitted under the water license – the service boundary was expanded outside the MIDPOU.  Apparently, this expansion was done while the
State of California was actively pursuing a more regulated water management program and around the same time this district was formed as a public agency rather than a private water company as initially constructed.]

The Revised June 1978 Merced Irrigation District map entitled “Areas of domestic water use” is the official map filed with the State Water Resources Regional Control Board (SWRCB) which essentially is a footprint of the original Sierra Highlands residential development.  Sierra Highlands was the predecessor to the Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association subdivision although some properties, such as Units 4,5,& 6-M (Kassabaum Flats) reverted to acreage and 7-M (the property around Azulete Way off Hidalgo Street east of the elementary school) also opted out of the Association and had no line extension agreements with Sierra Highlands.

The transfer of facilities and assets agreement by Sierra Highlands to the District occurred in August of 1980.  [The actual vote to form the district was 88 yes and 29 no.]   The contract provided for the district to operate and maintain the water system, to “provide water service to all lands and customers within Sierra’s present service area” and subject to certain conditions respecting connection charges and other details.”  This is where things started to get mixed up.  What if a property was being served water by Sierra Highlands even though it was technically “outside” the original residential subdivision?

Water License 11395 in August of 1983 referred to the service area as: “Domestic use at home sites within the service area of Sierra Highlands Water Company and a 55 acre golf course” and the 1978 Map again depicts that service area.  (The golf course is actually 155 acres and was referred to in some material as a “gold” course.)

JUNE 1978 MAP

https://lakedonpedro.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1978-MID-MAP.jpg

The water license limits use of Merced River water (Lake McClure) to the 1978 MID Map (essentially the subdivision and golf course), however, through the years water has been diverted outside the place of use to  adjacent or nearby properties to the subdivision.  MID in 2000 issued a cease and desist letter which clearly stated all outside MID Place of Use water must be supplied by an alternative source – not the Merced River (Lake McClure).  The Ranchito Well became that source of OMIDPOU water which is comingled with river water, treated, stored, and distributed to outside place of use properties.  As already mentioned, the engineer recommends no further connections (water demand) on the well.

Now this new issue revolves around a limited number of property owners (total outside place of use properties is 34 which is around 1% of the total customer base) who have supposedly been paying availability fees (Maximum $180 a year) for future water that the Ranchito Well may or may not now be able to produce.

Another aspect of this mess is that our ground well water, due to minerals/chemicals, is actually harmful to some of the equipment at the LDPCSD which was designed as a surface water treatment facility drawing water from Lake McClure, which as we all know, if fed by the Merced River originating in Yosemite National Park, and is fantastic water.

ANXIOUS FOR THE FACTS

Well the recent office fire sure didn’t help much in obtaining information any faster and I am curious as to how many OMIDPOU customers have been paying availability fees and for how long.  Whether they annexed or paid a buy-in fee?  (Which I believe was intended to recoup the difference paid in fees by other legal users who had always paid availability.)   What is the estimated water consumption per connection? Are these properties planned
residential or commercial?  Are water mains or laterals present?  Have these other projects stalled as in the South Shore project?   Or the township proposed by the Deerwood Corporation with huge man-made lakes and fountains?  What about the envisioned multi-story building at T-Corners?   Or concept of a modern day ghost town also at T-corners?
Blah, blah, blah… lots of grandiose plans but one of the key factors has always been the acquisition of enough water.

Director Emery Ross is an Outside MIDPOU customer with two meters.  He owns and operates a commercial cattle ranching business and believes the district should drill more ground wells, but again, I must respectfully disagree for three main reasons:   1)
Ground wells are expensive to develop,  2) Can be unreliable in this fractured rock
geology, and 3) It is unfair to require the majority of customers to financially fund a special benefit, especially if a commercial enterprise

WITHOUT “SKIN IN THE GAME”

Without something to lose there are those Outside Place of Use property owners who could care less about the Ranchito Well or the additional costs and procedures required to provide that alternative water source.  Some have even advocated further expansion of the district to include multiple subdivisions with hundreds of homes.  Why should they care?  If the Ranchito Well goes out the district will simply cover all the costs of repair or replacement.  This course “boils down” to the fact all customers (water consuming and availability fee paying properties alike) will cover the costs of a special benefit they do not receive.

THE “OMIDPOU SBAZ”

The Outside Merced Irrigation District Place of Use Special Benefit Assessment Zone

A while back I mentioned the idea of a special benefit assessment zone where those who require the Ranchito well, for co-mixing of Merced River water for their OMIDPOU properties, could form their own organization of service.  The additional costs associated
with the Ranchito Well for supplying water to outside permitted areas (called “ground water substitution for surface water transfer”) would be borne by those receiving that special benefit.  This is the same principal as the sewer system around the golf course where only those properties connected to the sewer system pay for that service, not the majority of owners who have private onsite septic systems.

Every OMIDPOU SBAZ connected property would share in and fund the additional costs required for maintenance, repair, future replacement, power, testing and monitoring of the well.   The OMIDPOU SBAZ membership could decide whether additional connections
would be in the group’s best interest. The LDPCSD would continue to co-mingle
Merced Water, perform treatment, testing, storage, distribution and billing for
the finished product.

The costs would not be significant if the Ranchito Well continues to serve those already connected and that water consumption does not increase drastically (subdivisions and other high water usage businesses).  If, however, further expansion of the OMIDPOU
service area gets expensive with ground well drilling, pumps, boosters, and other
equipment, those costs should be absorbed by those who receive the benefit.

HOW DID THIS MESS DEVELOP?

Will you annex?  Sure you bet.  Will you pay a buy-in fee to make up for all the fees veryone else in the district has paid since before and during the district’s inception?  No
problem.  Better yet…. How about I don’t pay anything until I actually need the water?
Great, it’s a deal.  I’ll pay $180 a year to insure that I can get water someday even though my property is outside the MIDPOU and I have no idea when or what I might construct in the future.  You’ve got a deal!

Heck, that’s only a step up from those properties that are within our district boundary yet do not contribute one thin dime to support district operations.  Gee, they can even be the deciding votes on who represents the entire customer base (realizing of course most of our customers are absentees and usually cannot participate in CSD elections anyway).

Again, it took quite a while for this problem to develop but it obviously needs to be addressed.

 

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

POST CORRECTION

Reading Time: 2 minutes

DEAD TOOL TREE

POST CORRECTION

In my haste to get the last blog out before “slaughtering Spring weeds” (More on that later, ie, Dead Tool Tree) I inadvertently wrote something that needs some clarification.  I previously stated I had a problem with Dwight Mueller while he was on the LDPOA board signing “a 15 year water contract for Gregoris Pond to supply water to the Tom Porter/Deerwood Corporation golf course when our Governing Documents clearly provide a 5 year contract limitation clause.”

To be precise:

  1. The agreement was not a water contract in the sense of actually supplying the water, because after all that is the Community Services District’s business,  but
    rather, an agreement to “use and maintain” the Association’s recreation lake
    for 15 years in furtherance of supplying Tom Porter’s golf course with water
    from the district.  (Water comes from Lake McClure to Gregoris Lake where it is stored before going down to the golf course.)  True, a technical difference
    but I realized it just a few minutes ago and wanted to clear it up.
  2. The other point is the Association’s Bylaws state under Article XIX, Section 6, Limitation of Powers, No contract shall be entered into which binds the Association for a period in excess of one (1) year without reasonable cancellation provisions included therein.  True, 1 year is more restrictive than 5, but
    still an error.

The agreement signed September 18th, 2005 by Mr. Mueller on behalf of the Association regarding terms states:

“The term of this Agreement shall be for 15 years from the date of execution of this Agreement, or until termination of irrigation of the Golf Course, whichever is longer, at the end of which period District shall have the right to renegotiate for an additional term of years.”

Perhaps no biggie but I try to be as accurate as possible and didn’t care for the wording the first time.

Have a bunch of stuff going on, will post again soon, until then-

 

My best to you and yours, Lew

Categories: Uncategorized.

UNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS

Reading Time: 9 minutes

CAN YOU SEE THE LIGHT?

An Insurance loss ratio of 288% over a baseline of 70% in the last five years of operation is understandable but shocking.  The insurance rate getting bumped 10% and a zero deductible changing to $25,000 is very disheartening. This demoralizing information was made known after the most recent addition to this district’s list of financial embarrassments – a suspicious administrative office fire that was recently upgraded to arson according to a Sheriff’s interview reported in the Foothill Express.

[And to think this country has been fighting a war on terrorism for years where and for what purpose? Heck, this area could use its own tasked satellite and maybe a few
surveillance drones on the side.] lol

Wes Barton’s comments, I believe, were right on the money, so to speak.  If long running lawsuits are decided in favor of the district there might be some good news, on the
other hand, those unresolved cases and current employee complaints could theoretically
raise insurance rates even higher.

BIG “IF”

Obviously the tricky and determining word in such matters is “if”.

Q: What is your home worth?

A: Several million dollars if located in Hawaii (or where ever)

Q: Will the LDPCSD leadership make the necessary decisions to correct this financial and Public Relations nightmare of a “down spiral”?

A: Only IF the Board of Directors, GM/IGM, Staff, employees
and public work together to … blah, blah, blah

(Where’s the cheerleading/mascot outfit and disintegrating Pom-Poms when I need them?  You know the routine – that youthful, optimistic, and cheerful “we can do it together” attitude? And if that doesn’t work, the negatively motivated:  “We hang together or hang separately” philosophy.  Regardless, this district will reflect only what this community permits, allows, tolerates, or demands.

RAH RAH REE – KICK ‘EM IN THE KNEE – RAH RAH RASS – KICK ‘EM
IN THE …..

OTHER KNEE

Sure, the current board inherited some past issues which are being financially felt now and tangible progress in bringing rates back down will likely take years of no/loss- minimal/loss management.  Rather like stopping a speeding Jet Ski or locomotive, just because you may immediately stop acceleration or apply the brakes to avoid an accident, there will still be some unwanted forward momentum already in play.  The damage has, is, and will continue to occur for some time.

Yes, the light at the end of this particular insurance tunnel appears to be an oncoming train, but the situation is not entirely hopeless and with hard work, dedication and a common goal, our CSD can surely be put on the right track.

“Rah Rah not just luck”  –  “Rah Rah  ……….”       (you get the idea)

WATER IS A VERY COMPLICATED BUT INTERESTING SUBJECT

You know, I have learned so much in the last 14 months – especially about water issues in this State and how the Lake Don Pedro area plays a vital role in an expansive and intricate network of water projects and facilities that pump, treat, store and distribute water to Californians.  The enormous mass storage as ice and snow in mountain water sheds, cyclical precipitation, surface reservoirs, hydroelectric power generation, environmental releases, recreation, agriculture, underground storage, percolation, runoff, return flows to the ocean, salinity, evaporation, maximum contaminant levels, it is all about what we take for granted as every day water consumers.  Government, as trustee for natural resources of the people, attempts the most beneficial use for the greatest public benefit.

Sponsored online classes and access to publications from organizations such as RCAC (Rural Community Assistance Corporation), CSDA (California Special District Association), ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies), and others, have all been of great assistance in understanding the complexities of this precious fluid we need to survive.

Over the last seven years of posting detailed information about local governing board meetings along with my often verbose personal opinion posts as to its relevance to this community’s development or lack thereof, I have written from both heart and mind.  Sure,
I take the liberty of informally expressing myself and often write things I think are humorous but others don’t – so what? Everyone has an opinion and I choose to express mine publically.  I imagine the familiarity of my writing is fostered in the sense regular readers “should know me by now” concept.   Some have been reading posts since 2004 during the AHRC days – been through a lot haven’t we?

COMMITTEE REPORTS

I was surprised to learn the Finance Committee’s review of the Treasurer’s Report had not been actually approved by the auditor as an acceptable solution to a “check and balance” of Charise Reeve’s Treasurer’s Report since the suggestion evidently came from them.  This is something that needs addressing.  Considering some of the recent information, perhaps an entirely new financial management/record keeping/reporting system needs to be considered?

The Public Relations Committee report consisted of a draft letter to the LDPOA which I’ll post below. Unfortunately, in the hurry to get it out I failed to correct the
redundant use of the word “naturally”. Oh well, live and learn – naturally.
The letter is pretty much self-explanatory – a proposal to include a future CSD publication in the Discoverer thus board approval was necessary to send it to the LDPOA for their consideration.  Here’s the letter:

March 13, 2012

Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association

5182 Fuentes de Flores

La Grange, CA  95329

(209) 852-2312

Board of Directors,

The Lake Don Pedro
Community Services District (LDPCSD) is investigating the feasibility of re-establishing the COMMUNITY PIPELINE publication to reach its water customers.  You may recall this was a simple 11×17 folded newsletter containing important information regarding the district’s treatment, storage and distribution of water within our
community.  Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties of the past that publication was discontinued.

Maintaining, repairing, and replacing components of our forty year old water system
infrastructure will continue to be an expensive proposition.  Obviously Lake Don Pedro’s future depends upon the availability of quality drinking water and there could be no better time than now to educate property owners/customers as to what will be
required.

The Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association (LDPOA) currently provides its monthly corporation newsletter, THE DISCOVERER, to its membership of over 3,100 subdivision
property owners through the FOOTHILL EXPRESS newspaper and would be the perfect
vehicle to reach our LDPCSD customers as well.  Approximately 99% of LDPCSD customers, whether local residents who pay monthly service and consumption fees or absentee unimproved property owners who pay availability fees with their property taxes, could be reached through THE DISCOVERER.

Both our organizations are designed to serve this community and co-operation in furthering our respective missions by utilizing your publication seems logical and the most efficient use of our funds.    Naturally the COMMUNITY PIPELINE would be responsible for its own printing, insertion, and share of postage costs.   Naturally
it will be an independent publication responsible for its own content and would
contain the appropriate disclaimer indicating no legal affiliation with the LDPOA or Foothill Express.

This project is only in the preliminary stage of development; however, the LDPCSD Public Relations Committee is interested in meeting with your representatives at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,

LDPCSD PUBLIC
RELATIONS COMMITTEE

%*%*%*%*%*%

Just about every board training class I have had has emphasized public transparency of the government decision making process (Public Records Act, Brown Act, etc.) along with relevant and timely communication with customers.  How can a solution be pursued
and obtained without a clear understanding of the problem?  I’ve heard this time and time before:  The last thing a district should do is communicate with their customers only when further financial support is required.  Those who financially support this district have a right to know where their money is spent and for what purposes.

OFFICE FIRE UPDATE – OFFICE EQUIPMENT REPLACEMENT

What can anyone say? An office requires equipment, equipment requires an office, our office was gutted by fire and equipment destroyed and a new office and equipment must be replaced.   A very good reason for every ratepayer of this district to be furious and demand answers: who would do such a thing and why?  Who might have a motive to destroy or severely disrupt this district’s operation? Again, this latest incident is absolutely disgusting.

Although there was no fire investigation update available at the last board meeting, I just received my April edition of the Foothill Express newspaper which contained some very interesting information in an article by Lorri Wickenhauser titled “LDPCSD fire investigation points toward arson”.  The article included a telephone statement by Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Bennewies regarding the office fire: “It definitely appears that arson is involved”.  This announcement for many in the community was likely met
with some variation first blush response of “NO DUH”.   (“Oh really?”, “Big surprise”, “Who thought otherwise?”, etc.)   The sheriff also stated there were “a couple of people who are persons of interest” but “one of those (persons) is not cooperating”.   No arrests have been made.

ANYTHING VALUABLE REQUIRES PROTECTION

I chose that introductory statement for this website because I believe it applies to Lake Don Pedro just like anything else.   Despite our tumultuous history this foothill environment is a wonderful place to live and I honestly believe in time (probably
not my lifetime) it will blossom into a thriving place many more people will want to live and call home.  With that said, without vigilant protection the damage already experienced in this subdivision due to uncontrolled growth and development will surely again occur
without organization of those who pay the bills.

POLITICAL SIGNS TARGETED BY VANDALS AND THIEVES

While on the subject of area protection, and as posted earlier, I am voting for Merlin JONES for District II Mariposa County Supervisor because I believe he will best serve the interests of the entire district as well as Lake Don Pedro.  His interest and research into unfunded liability and resulting costs per County resident is appreciated and I look forward to him as a Supervisor facilitating answers to this literal “growing problem”.

I met Merlin Jones while he and his wife were canvassing Lake Don Pedro for support in his bid for District II Supervisor.  I subsequently decided to publically support him and agreed to have a sign placed on my corner lot.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be done….the candidate meets with the land owner and gets permission to place the sign.  Obviously some candidates have not conformed to the rules and place signs anywhere they want hoping such a display will garner more votes.  Perhaps it will have the opposite effect.

Isn’t it strange that the candidate who has followed the rules and done the “leg work” to obtain  property owner’s permission to place election signs becomes the victim of vandalism and theft?

 

 

 

 

 

The Merlin Jones sign on Hayward Road was located on private property with the permission of the ranch owner yet someone decided to cut it down.  True, a quick repair put it back up on the gate where it belonged but the question becomes what sort of person does such a thing?  Why are they so afraid of allowing legal advertising for a particular candidate?

Like anything else a choice between multiple options often begins with the basic process of elimination.  Understanding what you already know you DO NOT WANT.  Now the following explanation is not meant to offend, insult or harm anyone.  It is the truth and offered to voters in this district as they consider a number of different candidates as a public representative.   I do not know the background of all the candidates, but I am well aware of the backgrounds of our two local offerings.

CAN’T SEE THE PARKS THROUGH THE TREES?

While serving on the Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association Board of Directors, both Dwight Mueller and Orb Hatton (owner Tri County Realty) proposed selling some of the Association’s open/natural parks to developers.  I was in the audience, heard their presentation and subsequently wrote much about their plan which was basically:  the parks were unknown to most owners, rarely used, would never be missed, and represented a financial liability yet their sale would provide a great deal of operating revenue to the
Association for years to come.

Again, some folks might have considered selling our parks as a good idea and supported such but I was not one of them.  I believed, and still do, such a plan displayed an amazing lack of vision and respect for future generations that will call Lake Don Pedro home.  True, it might have generated some quick cash, but unfortunately, money like that often seems
to disappear through needless spending for ill-conceived projects simply because the money is there and available.  (I am not suggesting anyone would have committed theft or embezzlement.)

It is also true that then, as now, residents may not notice if a few hundred acres of park land were developed, heck the subdivision is only half developed after over 40 years anyway.   There’s lots of unimproved property right now, however, someday this
subdivision will be built out and most every lot will have a residence and associated buildings and improvements.  It will be at that time, many, many years from now that future residents would miss open areas devoid of human construction and improvements.  A place where what might remain of indigenous wildlife could live and travel.  Without
a number of “dark areas” where stars and planets could be viewed at night or a resident could walk a quiet deer trail safe from motorized traffic, Lake Don Pedro would sadly, and irrevocably, be overdeveloped.

Another problem I had with Dwight Mueller (while he was on the LDPOA board) was his signing of a 15 year water contract for Gregoris Pond to supply water to the Tom Porter/Deerwood Corporation golf course when our Governing Documents clearly provide a 5 year contract limitation clause.  Once again, there is no doubt there were supporters for this idea of “locking in a water contract” for Deerwood, but ignoring corporation regulations doesn’t seem to me like the way to proceed.  Again, this is a simple difference of opinion regarding methods of operation to achieve goals.

I recall it was also Dwight Mueller and Orb Hatton who characterized a particular 1,600 foot developer convenience road (there are several) constructed by the Deerwood Corporation (which does not meet several fire safe public safety roadway standards) as a simple driveway dispute between Association members.

Then there was that $10,000 Hacienda party paid for with Association dues that entertained a limited number of members and their guests.  There were a whole slew of
decisions and actions during Mr. Mueller’s Board service which appeared to cater to the special interests of real estate and land development over that of the average assessment paying property owner.  The recent utilization of the closed Deerwood Corporation golf course facilities on March 31st for a Dwight Mueller candidate event is not surprising
nor is it wrong for Mr. Porter to back the candidate he anticipates could do him and his real estate interests the most good.  That’s politics right?

Again, some people support such activities, but I happen to be one of those in opposition.  A simple difference of opinion yet the reality is that this same individual now wants to bring his experience to the table and represent District II on the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.

How can such signs advertise services not available to the public still remain in this community?

Well, it is a beautiful sunshine foothill day and I’ve got some weed slaughtering to get done – later

My best to you and yours, Lew

PS:

PLEASE CONSIDER

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