It was all the board of directors of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District could do to discuss water issues in between discussing agenda items brought forward by board member Kathy Otermat.
The Tuesday morning meeting began with General Manager Hank White reporting they will be posting a notification this week to potential bidders for the Auburn Lake Trails (ALT) Water Treatment Plant retrofit. Bidders will be asked to provide their qualifications for review and approval. He said the template for grading bidders had been prepared and once the winning bid was approved by the board, construction could begin as early as April 2013.
The board voted to approve the end of irrigation season on Sept. 30 and postponed until next month the election of a new treasurer. Otermat was removed from the position after a special board meeting on Aug. 21. The board agreed that it should wait until the full board was present to make the appointment. Board member Norm Krizl is currently on vacation.
The board also appointed Ray Kringel and Michelle Bliss as public members to review the draft financial audit. Their appointment was approved 3-1, with Otermat voting no.
Resurrecting the topic of the type of retrofit for the Auburn Lake Trails plant, Otermat said that at the Proposition 218 hearing in February, White had claimed that a less expensive retrofit had been denied by the California Department of Public Health (DPH). She said she had found nothing in writing about a denial and the DPH told her that a decision of such a magnitude would have been in writing. She asked White to supply documentation of the denial and the reason for the denial.
White responded that two previously prepared engineering reports had recommended the retrofit option the district is pursuing. He said the state also reviewed the information from the reports and during negotiations with the state he came to the conclusion that the only option they would approve was the one they are pursuing. He said the board could vote for a different option, but he thought they would eventually be right back where they started if they did so.
Otermat then accused White of making the decision on his own but of blaming the state for the decision.
“You said the state denied the retrofit, but now today you’re saying, ‘I came to the firm belief that they would not approve it.’ That’s a big difference on denial versus kind of putting the decision they really hadn’t made,” she said.
“I believe you’re twisting words for some purpose that’s ugly, really ugly,” responded White. He insisted that the state had indicated a preference for the type of retrofit for the plant.
Board member Bonnie McLane then reiterated that the two engineering reports had indicated a preference in the type of retrofit and a previous board had voted for it.
“I appreciate the explanation, so I’m thanking you for explaining to me how the originating of the plans for the plant came forward,” said McLane. “The board made the decision and I’m fine with that.”
With that discussion concluded, Otermat moved on to claim there was a discrepancy between White’s resume and a profile of him released at a Chamber of Commerce presentation. She said his resume indicated he had previously worked for public water agencies while the Chamber of Commerce profile only had him working at private agencies. Saying she had not received a response from White regarding the alleged discrepancy, she said she was forced to bring it forward as an agenda item.
Director Bonnie Neeley then asked Otermat, “So what are you trying to prove?”
White responded by saying, “You know, this is absolutely amazing that the board would allow this. I have provided you with a copy of my resume. It has the pertinent information … I question what your motives are and I question why this board will allow this inquisition … You’re just not genuine. You’re hiding things. You’ve taken things out of this office. And now you’re asking for what my address was in 1980 and it’s ridiculous. It’s harassment and I’m just darn tired of it. The board can take whatever action it wants on this, but I’m telling you it’s harassment and it’s got to stop.”
Members of the public then jumped in to the fray with Jack Podsedly saying that they were told the state required the district to do a certain type of retrofit. Now we find out it was not the state, but the general manager, said Podsedly.
In defense of White, Michelle Bliss said she was appalled that the general manager was being attacked after working at the district for over 10 years. She attacked Otermat for pursing a personal agenda against the general manager instead of focusing on water issues. “It’s appalling that this is on the agenda as an item,” she said.
Steve Miller added that while he thought the replacement of the plant was appropriate, he reiterated that the retrofit was a board and management decision, not the state’s decision, and that’s what the public needed to understand. “I don’t think we should revisit it, I think we’re moving in the right direction, but I really resent being lied to,” he said.
Otermat then moved on to her next agenda item by saying that board members, and in particular Neeley, may have violated the Brown Act. Neeley responded by saying she had already apologized for an inadvertent communication mistake, but Otermat insisted that some sort of collusion had taken place between board members during the recall effort against her. General Counsel William Wright’s final comment on the issue was that there is nothing that prohibits board members from participating in the recall of another board member.
Otermat’s last agenda item concerned developing a policy for district compliance with the California Public Records Act. A committee made up of Otermat, Krizl, and resident Steve Miller had worked on a draft policy that was presented at the meeting. Wright noted that the existing act is “clear and concise” and wondered if a policy unique to the district was necessary. He suggested that before adopting it, the district investigate the policies of other agencies. Otermat volunteered to research the topic and to continue working on a possible policy with Miller.
The meeting closed with resident John Plymyer criticizing Otermat for the items she had placed on the agenda. “These were strictly personal items and I’m embarrassed that these discussions took place in an open meeting,” he said.
“These items should be discussed in executive session. This idea of accusing people in public because you have your own goal, and we all know what it is, and to do it in public is just absurd and I’m embarrassed to have you as a board member. That’s why I was part of the recall committee and I’m very disappointed that it didn’t follow through. And I’d join another recall committee against you because I don’t think your work benefits this association whatsoever. You’re doing all this for your own personal gain.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or email@example.com. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.