As requested in a board meeting two days prior, General Manager Hank White presented to the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District board printouts for the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant during a workshop study session Jan. 10.
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An expense by year report ranging from 2009 through 2013 was presented along with the ALTWTP proposed project schedule ending in 2015 included with a specialized engineer’s estimate for 90 percent completion of the projects.
White and Assistant Operations Manager Kelly Shively fielded the majority of the questions brought up by both Board of Directors and audience. Both men seemed to do their best to explain there are 25 percent of the project’s total in district reserve funds available to begin the project, not to mention $1.2 million left over from the Doolittle grant which U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein got permission for a change of use of funds from an abandoned Greenwood project to the Auburn Lake Trails plant.
The expense report shows how much of the public’s money has been going towards the retrofit project since 2009 with the majority of the early project expenses naturally weighing heaviest in the engineering category. White noted that the district received a $200,000 grant in 2011 to offset the engineering expense, making the out-of-pocket expense for district customers significantly less than it would have been.
Board Treasurer Maria Capraun was not satisfied and wanted “more detailed accounting to the public on how we’re spending their money.” She said she would like to see a complete breakdown of the project indicating exactly where funds come from and which part of the project they are scheduled to go towards.
She requested of the general manager a budgeted plan on where the money is coming from and how the district is going to pay it back. She also wants White to account backwards and show where the funds came from for the amounts spent on the project up to date.
How much time would she like the manager to spend accounting for the past? She brought up fund reorganizing from two years ago although she remembered no details. Capraun insisted the information she would like to see in front of her in writing is exactly where the money comes from.
The simple answer given to the board treasurer is the capital budget funding source is the capital facility charge — the big bill customers pay to hook up to the public water system.
The payback she refers to is a $5 million USDA loan which GDPUD is applying for. As with construction type loans, White explained, funds will be given out to begin and commence construction. Probably midway through construction (early 2014) the projected ending cost of the project can be figured and the loan cap will be placed, at which time the payback will begin. White said of the loan payback that the district will most likely be making bi-annual payments.
White assured the Board of Directors it will presented with all bids and proposals very soon for approval. Further worries came from the women of the board about potential surprise expenses and developing a contingency plan to be prepared for or avoid them.
As the audience (mainly Dale Miller) continued to nit and pick over exact numbers projecting and estimating costs that will be incurred and eventually paid, Vice President Ray Griffiths, said, “It’s a ballpark figure, nothing is going to change dramatically. We’re going to find out in about three weeks, so let’s continue, and finish this. We’ve beaten this dead horse for almost two hours now.”
Audience member Steve Miller said, “Where we are right now, I think that’s the right course of action. If we put together contingencies one year ago or two years ago that would be one thing. But where we stand right now, to spend any kind of money on a contingency, before we even know what the answer is going to be, assuming the answer is going to be right around the corner, it just seems like a waste of time effort and money.” Murmurs of agreement, thumbs up and “here-here” were heard among the audience and President Bonnie McLane thanked the public for their input for this workshop.
Audience comment was also heard when discussion of an interim retainer agreement with attorney John S. Knowlton, however, no one answered their questions. The public asked GDPUD directors if they had interviewed any other attorneys besides this one; silence and heads shaking. The audience then asked, Why did you choose a litigation attorney when usually you are asking him policy and procedure questions? Silence. How many of you interviewed him? How many of you checked his background? Have you seen a resume, anything other than the five-minute presentation and half page letter? Usually you have three bids for all projects, but have not done due diligence in seeking counsel.
The ladies of the board said they thought they’d need one temporarily and are asking him to eventually tele-conference rather than physically attending meetings. Three ladies voted yes, the two males voted no. Motion to approve interim retainer agreement with attorney John S. Knowlton was carried, but only after two changes were made to the contract.
Final agenda item passed with all yeses was the board to selected Directors McLane and Capraun to form a committee to conduct labor negotiations with employee units. The next regular GDPUD meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 12.