The newly constituted board of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District hammered through a series of decisions at their Tuesday meeting that shifted control of the district into the hands of a voting bloc made up of Bonnie McLane, Kathy Otermat, and Maria Capraun.
Taking the lead in reordering things was board member Bonnie McLane who recommended switching the board meetings in April, May and June from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., which she said would invite more public participation. While some board members and those in the audience disagreed, saying that doing so in the past had made very little difference, the motion was approved anyway by board members Otermat, McLane and Capraun with Norm Krizl and Ray Griffiths voting no.
McLane also proposed holding workshops every Thursday in January and February from 4 to 6 p.m. on various topics. Krizl said he wasn’t against the workshops, but suggested coming up with a list of topics before scheduling them. However, he was outvoted by Otermat, McLane and Capraun, with Krizl and Griffiths voting no.
The first workshop will be held Jan. 3 on board policies and procedures with other subjects yet to be determined.
General Manager Hank White reported that the recent storm brought 10.76 inches of rain in November as measured at the Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant. The additional rain caused Stumpy Meadows Reservoir to rise 4.5 feet.
He noted that the Environmental Protection Agency notified the district that it would receive a $1.4 million grant for improvements to ALT water plant. He said it would help with design costs and other expenses. Originally the grant was for building the Greenwood Lake Water Treatment Plant. That project was later abandoned due to its cost. White said the actual amount of the grant needs to be clarified as some of the original funds have already been spent.
He also reported that the district had received approval for a loan from the USDA to pay for the ALT retrofit.
The board approved a rate reduction to homeowners within the Auburn Lake Trails zone of $2.15 a month. The reduction will start with the next billing cycle. It includes homes within a housing development that are not connected to the community disposal unit. McLane said the cost reduction was in keeping with a cost of service study done two years ago.
Different objections were raised regarding the reduction because of concerns that a rate change would cut into reserves. In addition, it was mentioned that homes currently connected to the community disposal unit are underpaying, according to the same cost of service study. Board member Norm Krizl suggested having a workshop before making any rate changes, but Otermat, McLane, and Capraun voted for the change with Griffiths and Krizl voting against.
Otermat also reported on her contact with Caltrans regarding the potential relocation of utility infrastructure in Kelsey associated with a Highway 193 improvement project. Two options have been explored: relocating certain pipes during construction or working around them.
Originally Otermat was only asked to gather additional information from Caltrans and report back to the board. However, in November she met with Caltrans staff accompanied by local contractor Steve Miller and Otermat’s husband, David, who is also a contractor.
Based on the meeting, Otermat made her own engineering recommendations to the board for what’s called a “Protect-in-Place” plan, saying that it would obviate the need for a surveyor or engineering firm.
The discussion on this item prompted White to say that the board was starting to dictate the day-to-day operations of the staff and that it shouldn’t be inserting itself into negotiations with Caltrans.
The board finally decided to have White contact Caltrans for more specific information on the project and to copy the board on the e-mails. That motion was approved by Otermat, McLane and Capraun with Griffiths and Krizl voting no.
Otermat’s next action was to recommend replacing General Counsel William Wright with an interim counsel until an RFP is issued to find a permanent law firm to advise the district. Wright submitted his resignation at the last meeting but offered to stay on as long as needed to help the district transition to a new legal firm.
Otermat suggested the board write the RFP, saying “counsel works for the board, not the general manager.” In making her recommendation, Otermat said she had already contacted several potential lawyers, including attorney John Knowlton who is a member of the Shafer Law Group in Auburn. Knowlton was in the audience on Tuesday.
Otermat went on to accuse Wright of helping Bonnie Neeley with her ads for Otermat’s recall. Wright responded by denying he had anything to do with the ads.
Wright reiterated that he was available to help the district until it selected a new law firm.
After a short break in the meeting, Otermat, McLane and Capraun voted to remove Wright from his duties effective immediately and to hire Knowlton as interim counsel. Krizl and Griffiths noted no. Wright was paid $200 an hour for his services. Knowlton will be paid $250 an hour.
It was reported that the district had to spend $528 for Life-Lock after the incident in which Otermat was accused by employees of photographing their private information. She was removed as treasurer as a result. The credit protection program was bought for employees worried that their credit information could be compromised.
Mary Pat Frick, who is the district’s business and finance manager, was recognized for her 10 years of service with the district.
The board also requested that the general manager’s contract be brought up at the next meeting.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.