In an apparent effort to improve their public image, the board of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District (GDPUD) discussed spending $10,000 to hire a public relations firm at Tuesday’s meeting.
Leading off the discussion was board member Maria Capraun, who criticized the Mountain Democrat for its articles and especially the titles of its articles. Saying they were derogatory to the district, she said people had suggested to her that a public relations firm be hired to assist Interim General Manager Kelly Shively.
“The perception is that the district is in disarray but the reflection is on our employees,” she said. “We need to stand by our employees and give true information on what we do and that we are moving forward.”
Capraun said she put $10,000 into the proposal because it is the limit on Shively’s contracting authority and that it would be used to communicate what the district is doing.
Board President Bonnie McLane asked if it would be like an annual report to the community.
Board member Norm Krizl said no, it would not be that kind of report. “This is not about Kelly,” he said. “If you were concerned about Kelly you wouldn’t dictate every last detail to him on every other item that he’s supposed to be doing. This is about using my money, ratepayer’s money, to improve the image that you have created for yourselves. The Mountain Democrat has had five different reporters here. Every one of them has been harassed by at least two of you. Roberta Long was threatened with a lawsuit. Five different reporters and you don’t like what any of them say. So at some point, maybe it’s not the five reporters because they are all coming up with the same conclusions. Maybe it’s you all.”
Maybe it’s the editor, suggested Otermat.
“So take it up with the editor,” suggested Krizl. “Spending $10,000 to improve your image is dead wrong. Anybody with a brain can see that.”
Griffiths said his objection with the idea was that it had more to do with the board than the water district. In essence, money will be taken from ratepayers and be used for something having to do with what the board does, he continued. This has nothing to do with water. It has to do with bad PR about the board and not the district’s employees.
Capraun went on to say she wanted more publicity about what the district is doing and less about the board.
Different residents at the meeting then added their own comments. Dale Miller suggested the need for other communication vehicles so ratepayers are better informed about upcoming changes having to do with the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant and another Proposition 218 process. Ray Kringel said the district should make better use of its Website or some pennysaver-type publication, saying spending $10,000 on a PR firm would be throwing money down a rat hole.
Resident Richard Milner added, “with all due respect to the board, if you’re going to go to war with Mountain Democrat, you’re not going to win … I went to the last meeting and in my personal opinion, everything she (the reporter) said was absolutely accurate. If you want to spend $10,000, spend it on image control for yourself telling you guys how to stop arguing, bickering, never making a decision, postponing things over and over again. You’re feeding them the problem and now you want to fix your image. Where else are you going to go? I challenge you to put this on the television so they can watch what goes on at these meetings … You’re at war with each other and you wonder why the press comes out bad?”
He suggested that considering the district’s financial problems, spending $10,000 to remake their image might lead to talks of recalls and politically the board can’t spend money to protect itself. “This just looks really bad,” he concluded, advising the district to put out press releases rather than hire a PR firm.
McLane concluded the discussion by saying that no action would be taken, but that the district needs to get more information out, especially as they look to future rate increases or going through another Proposition 218 process.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.