It was standing room only as residents sat through the Feb. 12 board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District. A meeting that dragged on for well over six hours.
Putting off the most important decision on the agenda, Board President Bonnie McLane, along with Directors Kathy Otermat and Maria Capraun, voted to delay putting out to bid the plans for the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant retrofit with Directors Norm Krizl and Ray Griffiths voting no.
With plans for the plant 100 percent complete, General Manager Hank White reported that the revised cost for the project was estimated at $9.3 million according to Psomas, the engineering firm that designed the plant.
White requested board approval to release the plans to the seven contractors who were previously pre-qualified to bid on the project.
Capraun questioned if the cost of the project could be pared back by eliminating what she called “bells and whistles.” However, Kelly Shively, assistant operations manager, said that while some additional items had been added to the project, including required fire suppression equipment, they had economized as much as possible including not removing the old structure to save money.
Capraun went on to insist she wanted a new budget for the project that included where the additional money would come from, given that the estimated cost had increased from $8.4 million to $9.3 million.
However, resident Ed Grout reminded the board if it didn’t move forward, it could lose grants and loans already approved for the project.
According to White, the district has received tentative approval for a USDA loan of $5 million, a Proposition 50 grant of $685,550, and between $1.1 million and $1.2 million from the Environmental Protection Agency for a total of almost $6.9 million toward the cost of the project. He said the board has until June to supply to the state both approval of the Proposition 50 grant and a bid from a contractor. September is the deadline to qualify for USDA and EPA funding.
Krizl urged the board to move ahead with the project, saying it would be delinquent to do otherwise. “Instead of pointing fingers, let’s come up with how to come up with the difference. Let’s do both,” he said. “Put the RFP (request for proposal) out to bid and look for additional money.” Krizl suggested that perhaps the USDA loan amount could be increased to pay for the difference. “Let’s get this thing built. If we keep putting this off, we’ll lose the $685,550 grant and then the whole thing will fall apart.”
However, a board member objected to increasing the USDA loan since it would mean increasing the surcharge on people’s water bills.
In the end, Krizl’s argument failed to sway McLane, Otermat and Capraun, who directed White to prepare a budget that includes where the additional funding will come from. A follow-up discussion may be scheduled at one of the board’s workshops.
In other actions, the board voted to approve accepting the $685,550 grant from the state, including informing them of the updated cost of the project.
It approved the district financial report. At the end of Dec. 31 operating expenses were at 47 percent of budget.
The board also voted to approve an RFP to hire a new general counsel with responses due by the end of March. The available contract will be advertised in local newspapers. Otermat inquired if she could send it to firms she was acquainted with, but interim counsel John Knowlton advised against it.
The board approved an investment policy for the district and voted to set up a public finance committee with the board treasurer serving as a liaison. Residents are encouraged to contact the district if interested in serving on it. Capraun suggested a finance policy be created along with the committee.
The hiring of a contractor to design a pipe relocation plan for the upcoming road construction at the intersection of Cat Bird Hill Lane and Highway 193 was approved. White estimated the design work will cost $10,000 and actual construction will be $40,000.
An interim agreement with Siren & Associates for consulting services was approved.
Capraun asked for revisions to a resolution approved last year recognizing the general manager’s authority to contract for services up to $10,000. She also asked White to furnish to the board a copy of any contracts he had approved.
This angered Krizl who commented, “This is micromanaging to the nth degree. This is your way of displaying your distrust of the general manager. And we complain about the federal bureaucracy!” The board then directed Knowlton and Capraun to work further on the resolution and to bring it back to the board.
A presentation on an online billing system, including the use of mobile devices for reading water meters, was made. However, it was pointed out that the new system might not integrate well with the district’s existing accounting software. The board asked White to schedule presentations by different software companies to explore the pros and cons of such a system.
McLane proposed holding two board meetings a month and switching to an evening meeting beginning in March. However, the latter suggestion was tabled since evening meetings were not slated to begin until April.
McLane said if extra board meetings were held, board members would receive no extra compensation. However, left unsettled was the additional cost of having legal counsel available.
Other board members suggested that additional workshops might be needed. The board has been conducting weekly workshops since January and those were slated to end this month.
As the board meeting entered its sixth hour, a move was made to shorten it by moving a variety of discussion items to a workshop. Those items included a discussion of the job responsibilities and salary range for a new business and finance manager; a PERS liability side fund; having El Dorado Irrigation District and El Dorado County handle the district’s accounts payable and human resource accounts; contracting with a part-time worker to run the treatment plants on weekends; and new policies governing document retention and general manager personnel file handling.
Reported out of close session was a decision by McLane, Otermat and Capraun to pay 50 percent of a claim by Jan Falkenstein for alleged damage to his property. At the January board meeting, Falkenstein submitted a claim for $791.24. He said a ditch, that overfilled during a storm, caused damage to his property. Griffiths voted no on the motion. Krizl was absent for the vote.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.