Tuesday’s board meeting of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District was long and rancorous, although it could have been much longer except for the absence of General Manager Hank White.
Out due to illness, board member Norm Krizl initially suggested postponing the meeting until White returned. Krizl went on to complain about the length of the agenda which numbered over 30 items including closed session topics. He wondered if the board would have another nine-hour board meeting, as it did last month, if time spent on closed session items was counted.
After discussion, the board voted to proceed with those items that didn’t require White’s input and to hold an additional meeting on another date once he returned. Put off were two of the most important agenda items: whether or not to put out to bid the building of the new water treatment plant at Auburn Lake Trails and what to do about the now-vacant position of business and finance manager.
The board then moved on to discussing the reams of paper generated during their workshops, with the longest and most heated discussion being about new board policies. Board member Maria Capraun presented the board with several different items for board approval, including an extensive number of revised or new policies she wanted sent to the district’s interim counsel, John Knowlton, for review.
Krizl jumped on that idea, saying that certain board members were constantly railing about deficits but now wanted to spend money having the district’s attorney review the policies. “This will cost tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. “This is process for process sake’s. The board has not directed that this be done and it will cost a fortune to do it.”
Capraun countered, saying it would only cost a few thousand dollars. “Everything is disorganized,” she claimed, saying that the board needed a “nice path to follow. We’re on a dirt road when it comes to how we handle minutes and agendas. It is not working and that’s why it needs to be completed.”
Board member Kathy Otermat added that in the past the board ran on history and tradition. “Instead of harping on the cost we should harp on how the district was run without policies,” she said.
Resident Dennis Goodenow disagreed with Otermat, saying that anyone who said the district didn’t have policies was wrong. He said he had received an extensive list of existing ordinances, policies and resolutions from White. He suggested making them more widely available and filling in where there were gaps. “This is a huge undertaking that is being done by people who are not knowledgable,” he added.
Resident Dale Miller jumped into the fray saying, “This is what happens when the board doesn’t have the policies it wants.”
Members of the public also questioned the cost of having counsel review the proposed policies at $225 an hour and then paying to have him to review them again once they are finalized. Krizl added, “This is crazy to review a policy the board hasn’t adopted. Unbelievable. Let’s just put an ATM machine in the lobby.”
Resident Ed Grout asked what would be the consequences if board members didn’t follow the policies they were developing for themselves.
Capraun said they were still working on that. “The whole idea is to organize the information,” she said.
Goodenow interjected once again that developing policies was a staff function and he didn’t think the board could do it and be successful, saying that it required a high level of skill and the board was not familiar enough with the day-to-day operations of the district to be able to do it. “Staff has the best idea of how to create a policy management tool,” he said. Goodenow suggested that the lack of a working relationship between the board and staff was the key problem. He suggested burying the hatchet and moving forward. He also noted that some of the proposed policies were poorly done and reflected badly on the community.
Otermat added that other boards have policies and procedures and said the intent was to fill in the gap.
Goodenow responded by saying that everything the board of directors is allowed to do is already codified in state law and reiterated that it was not the board’s job to come up with policies, it was the staff’s job.
The board then went on to approve adopting a table of contents for the policy manual with Otermat, Capraun and McLane voting yes and Krizl and Ray Griffiths voting no.
Capraun then motioned to forward four different policies to counsel for review. However, Griffiths objected, saying that he wasn’t going to vote to forward policies to counsel when he didn’t have a copy of the policy in front of him. “You’re asking us to vote on something we don’t have in front of us to see. You should have provided copies to us and the public,” he said. “It’s illegal to do that.”
Knowlton agreed with that objection and Capraun’s motion failed for lack of a second. The board also agreed to shortening the list of new policies to be sent for legal review since the original list included 21 policies.
In other actions, the date for the start of the irrigation season was set for May 1.
A revised resolution authorizing the general manager’s contracting authority was approved on a 3-2 vote, with Krizl and Griffiths voting no.
The board approved appointing Capraun to replace Otermat on the boards of the Joint Powers Insurance Authority and the El Dorado County Water Agency as Otermat said her job prevented her from attending. Griffiths voted no.
Rich Englefield was selected by the board as their first choice for the special district representative on LAFCO. Their second choice was Alan Day.
Board President Bonnie McLane reported that the workshops held in January and February went well. She thanked the public for their contributions and in particular the input of Dennis Goodenow, even though his input was largely ignored. She said the next workshops will focus on the budget.
McLane also brought up the subject of hiring someone part-time to serve as the board’s clerk.
Krizl reported on the past and upcoming activities of the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association board. At one point he said a friend told him that McLane and Capraun were overheard making negative comments about him at an El Dorado County Water Agency meeting, which his friend said were very unprofessional. “I don’t appreciate this,” said Krizl.
Capraun reported that five people had volunteered for the public Finance Committee. She ticked off a list of items they could tackle including reviewing the budget, developing policies, and reviewing salary surveys, including those for the general manager.
Krizl said the committee should not be developing a budget or developing personnel policies. He recommended the job of the Finance Committee be defined before they hold their first meeting.
Capraun also reported she had come up with a different job title and job description for the business and finance manager and asked the board to review it and decide if the district needed an office manager rather than a business and finance manager.
Krizl objected, saying that the person reports to the general manager. “Talk about micromanaging. We’re getting way off into the weeds,” he said. “This person’s tasks should be laid out by the general manager, not a finance committee. We’re taking everything away from the general manager and then telling him, this is what you have to do. Soon we’ll be telling them how many scoops to put in the coffee machine.”
The board adjourned with no date set for an additional meeting to take up those agenda items that require the presence of the general manager.
The next regular board meeting will be in the evening. It will be held April 9 at 5 p.m. at district headquarters.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.