Wednesday, April 16, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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Tea Party hosts EID hopefuls

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CANDIDATES for the El Dorado Irrigation District board Division 4 are Dale Coco, left, and Greg Prada, middle. Speaking on the right is Division 2 candidate Jake Flesher and on the far right Darwin Throne with the Tea Party. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

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From page A1 | August 28, 2013 | 41 Comments

Rate increases, debt levels and the long-term financial health of the El Dorado Irrigation District dominated a panel discussion last Wednesday by candidates running for two board positions at EID.

Sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots of El Dorado Hills, candidates Greg Prada, Dr. Dale Coco and Jake Flesher took turns fielding questions from the moderator as well as from the audience. Richard Englefield was absent due to another commitment.

Facing off in Division 4 are Coco and Flesher. In Division 2, it’s Englefield and Prada. All three candidates said this is their first time running for public office.

Flesher, who is the managing partner of a law firm in Folsom, said the election is about EID’s rates, debt and spending, saying his mission as a board member would be to focus on rates by looking at them through the lens of the ratepayers.

Twenty-five percent of EID’s budget is currently devoted to servicing its debt, he said, an amount similar to that paid by the Detroit before it declared bankruptcy. EID is over $400 million in debt and has $30 million in unfunded liabilities, but they think they are in pretty good shape. “Well I disagree,” he said. “When rates have gone up 102 percent in last five years, 11 percent this year and another 11 percent next year, then something is not right.” Flesher also wondered how long EID could stay in business when in 2012, for example, it overshot its budget by $4 million and only cut $940,000 from expenses.

Flesher went on to say that 73 percent of EID’s rate (revenue) comes from Shingle Springs, Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills and he wanted to end that. He also advocated for a moratorium on new debt, saying that portion of the budget devoted to debt service will increase once interest rates start going up again.

Largely agreeing with Flesher was Prada, a retired chief executive and the second candidate to speak. Claiming EID was financially broken and needs fixing, he went on to say that “EID is financial irresponsibility on steroids” with runaway rate hikes of 102 percent from 2010 to 2015, including 11 percent next year. They also have mushrooming debt levels approaching a half billion dollars, including unfunded pensions and health benefits and $60 million of debt. With ongoing deficit spending of $15 million a year, if it was business, it would be out of business, he claimed.

Prada went on to say that the district has some ticking financial time bombs including unfunded pensions, covering health cost for retirees, deferred debt repayment and looming interest rates, which he predicted would result in a 20 percent rate hike in the future regardless of any cuts.

Prada asserted that EID sells less than half of its water and it already has plenty of water for all the development projects approved plus others being proposed. The capacity being added is being done for  developers, he said. As far as trimming costs, Prada said overhead at EID had increased from $7.5 million to over $18 million over the last dozen years and one-third of rates go to pay overhead. That’s too much staffing on Mosquito Road, he added.

Accusing the present board of rubber-stamping everything put before them, he said factors driving the rise in water rates next year are the $60 million in additional debt, a 7 percent wage hike next year for most employees and a 6 percent this year, plus additional benefit costs.

“We need to stop increasing debt, slash overhead and stop the accounting gimmickry,” he said. “I’ve previously been a CEO, CFO and COO and am used to turning around companies that are in the red. EID needs that kind of attention and that’s why I’m running.”

The third candidate to speak was Dr. Coco, who is a retired physician. He said it was time EID focused on “real solutions to the $370 million debt and stop runaway rate increases.” We need a long-term strategy that secures the district’s water at reasonable rates, and we need leaders with solid management experience to make that happen. EID’s management has been managing the board for years and it is time for the board to take control, he claimed.

Touting his management experience, Coco said he previously was the chief of staff at Barton Memorial Hospital and served on several oversight committees at Marshall Medical Center. “I was a project manager who saved hundreds of millions of dollars and increased efficiency. I can do the same as an EID director,” he promised. “There are sewer rate increases every year. Our water rates have nearly doubled. We just had a 11 percent water rate increase and we will have another one next year. When does it stop?” he asked. “We need to get the rates under control. At best, EID has a $370 million debt with one-third of every dollar paid going to service that debt. We also need to get our debt under control.”

Coco went on to discuss outside interests that covet EID’s water, including Sacramento politicians, Central Valley agricultural interests, and those in Southern California. We need to keep our water under local control, he said. He added that nearly half of EID’s debt results from regulatory measures imposed by state bureaucracies. “I have spent over two years studying water issues and since I’m retired, I have the time to lobby and attend meetings to protect our interests.”

Coco continued by saying that if operating costs were brought under control it would stop escalating rate increases, adding that projects were sometimes approved and built without a cost-benefit analysis being done. EID has spent money on things that might happen instead of what will happen, he claimed. He also advocated for increased efficiency in all departments saying, “I have a methodology that can solve those problems.” 

With the moderator’s questions completed, the audience then took turns asking the candidates questions. One had to do with protecting agricultural water rates. Prada noted that such users only pay one-seventeenth what others pay and there is a mismatch in rates, while Coco and Flesher advocated lower rates for everyone.

The audience also asked about salary increases. Prada said most staff got a 6 percent increase this year and will get a 7 percent increase next year. Coco said there should be no salary increases for anyone as long as rates are increasing. He added that board members currently receive a monthly stipend of $1,250 for serving plus health insurance, at which Flesher — who said he was offended  at hearing this information — promised not to accept a stipend if elected.

Asked about priorities, Flesher said EID needs to prioritize what will affect water and sewer rates. Prada responded by saying there are too many priorities and they should be limited by what the district has to spend. Coco advocated doing more than just cutting when setting priorities.

In closing statements, Coco referenced his health care and project background and said he would cut the debt, cut rates and help protect EID’s water supply. He referred people to his Website coco4eid.com for additional information.

Prada said EID is supposed to be for ratepayers, but its board acts more like it’s there for special interests, naming bond salesmen and developers as examples. EID is not for employees either. “I’m not a politician, but I want to make a difference,” he said. “Either I will have a mandate to go in and do what I want to try and do, or you’ll send me home.”

Flesher said things would improve if there were fiscally responsible people on the board. “What’s needed,” he said, “are people who had real world business experience and I think I’m that man.”

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or dhodson@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 41 comments

  • Michael PreszlerAugust 28, 2013 - 7:36 am

    I attended this meeting and found it very informative. Dale Coco was the clear stand out among these three candidates. His dedication to improving EID, extensive experience with complex and challenging organizations, and his passion is exactly what we need. He expressed a focused and clear long-term vision for EID. I’m glad he's running for EID Division 4.

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  • Lynn BAugust 28, 2013 - 5:08 pm

    Dr. Coco also stood out for me. I was impressed by his extensive experience, and the fact that he retired, and is dedicated to fixing EID, not moving up the political ladder. He has the time and the knowhow to fix EID.

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  • Oh BrotherAugust 28, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    Excuse me Mr. Prada; my husband works very hard at EID and has not received a raise in years and will respond 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to whomever needs help for a water issue. He is also starting in November to pay all of his retirement, no more contribution from EID. Who exactly, Mr. Prada, is receiving those raises??? The new employees who get their step raises and then top out??? Sorry, but you can't get rid of the step raises. My husband has worked there a very long time and works very hard in all kinds of bad weather and cares very much about the customer..

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  • Phil VeerkampAugust 28, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    Oh Brother, My Prada knows better. That is why I say that Mr. Prada is a liar. The EID Board will not be well served by a liar.

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  • Oh BrotherAugust 28, 2013 - 6:13 pm

    Thank you Phil Veerkamp and you hang in there as best you can. I would also like to point out to Mr. Prada that if my husband has a one hour doctor appointment during the week and gets called out on a huge line break because they need a lot of staff, he will not receive some overtime because of the appointment. That is the same policy as the office staff. Now, does the office staff respond to calls 24/7 in all weather and work all day and sometimes all night??? These guys deserve the overtime for caring enough to respond to calls such as a 12-27 inch line break. They can't help that they scheduled an appointment in the same week an emergency occurs. And the rest period for these guys is not only a joke but a huge safety issue. And then they are the front lines for the unhappy public who has their water turned off.

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  • LpAugust 29, 2013 - 12:40 am

    Phil, I think you bit off more than you can chew on this one. Round 2?.....

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  • Phil VeerkampAugust 29, 2013 - 3:12 am

    Lp, in "round 2" the facts will remain the facts. Greg Prada's knowledge of the facts may broaden. But if Greg Prada continues as he has been then he will continue misrepresenting the truth - consciously and deliberately. He will continue to be a liar. The EID Board deserves better. The EID employees deserve better. The EID ratepayers deserve better than a liar.

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  • Carolyn B., PlacervilleAugust 30, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Phil can you give a couple black and white areas that Mr. Prada is lying about that I can verify? I'm new to thw area and am trying to get informed. Calling someone a liar rubs me wrong the wrong way and a lazy tactic to debate. That's just name calling. I am not on any side yet. Still forming opinions. Thanks.

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  • Phil VeerkampAugust 31, 2013 - 3:37 am

    Carolyn B., Placerville, Mr. Prada was a member of EID's Cost of Services Committee. As such Mr. Prada has access to and understanding of all EID related data. Mr. Prada consciously and deliberately and repeatedly (with slight variations) presents false information to the community. LINK - "NOT TRUE"(ONCE) "FALSE"(FOUR) I believe in efficiency. I use the short form noun to identify Mr. Prada, Carolyn.

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  • Phil VeerkampAugust 31, 2013 - 3:45 am

    Caroline - LINK - EID GM says gadfly misguided (Prada)

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  • Phil VeerkampAugust 31, 2013 - 3:48 am

    LINK - Fellow committee members rip EID critic - Prada

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  • EvelynSeptember 05, 2013 - 11:05 am

    I would be glad if someone who understands water rates would address the point that agricultural water rates are one-seventeenth what other pay. (1) Is that number correct? (2) What are the merits (or otherwise) of protecting agricultural interests in EDC? (3) What is the historical/economic justification for differing water rates? (4) What determines a fair allocation?

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  • EvelynSeptember 05, 2013 - 2:50 pm

    15 min. VIDEO: EID candidates Q & A

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 05, 2013 - 11:20 pm

    Evelyn, the short answer to (1) is false. The ag. rate and the residential rate are equal ($0.01281 per cf) for the first 1800 cubic feet(13,465 gal.) From 1801 to 4500 cf the domestic rate increases to $0.01546 per cf and the ag. rate falls to $0.00107 per cf (~14.4 times less than residential). Above 4500 cf the residential rate increases to $0.01813 per cf and the ag. rate remains at $0.00107 per cf. (~16.9 times less than residential) Most residential meters are 5/8 to 3/4 inch meters with a base charge of $52.73. Many/most ag meters are 3 to for inch meters with a base charge of $134.13 and $179.49 respectively. It is likely that in the winter time when farmers are not irrigating that their higher base charges produce higher water bills than domestic customers. The 17 times cheaper ag. water is a lazy "fib". - - re(3) - - The tremendous costs attendant to the clean water act and DOHS requirements ought not be born by agriculturalists who were happy with ditch water. Apple trees, pear trees, grapes, grass and growers would probably be better off with "natural" un-chlorinated unfiltered water. If we want fewer orchards and less "rural" then go ahead and raise ag. rates to make it "fair" . . . ooops! I"m starting to yield to sarcastic ranting.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 05, 2013 - 11:21 pm

    LINK - EL DORADO IRRIGATION DISTRICT BI-MONTHLY RATE SCHEDULE - Adopted: March 26, 2012 - Effective:January 1, 2013

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  • EvelynSeptember 06, 2013 - 5:28 am

    Phil: Thank you. Is there any really simple way of illustrating the bare bones of this rates issue that voters like myself can readily grasp? I think it's going to be key.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 8:09 am

    Evelyn, there is a hypothetical example. ~~~~ A farmer with a 2" meter using 10 acre feet of water(435,600 cf) is billed ~$1,047.08 by EID in 2013. A resident with a 3/4 inch meter using 10 acre feet of water(435,600 cf) is billed ~$8,197.02 by EID in 2013. The farmer pays ~7.8 times less than the resident. The farmer produces something that the resident can use. The resident probably produces nothing that the farmer can use.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 11:22 am

    Evelyn here is a shorter more concise answer. Greg Prada is a liar. He is a liar because he is intimately familiar with EID's Cost of Service study. He has made a statement about ag water rates that he knows is untrue. Greg Prada is a liar. EID and EID's rate payers deserve better than a liar.

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 06, 2013 - 12:15 pm

    Good afternoon Phil...are you playing nicely? Im glad to see you not beating around any bushes--I am a firm believer in just taking the brush and beating the person with it. I do agree...I dont like Prada. I like most at EID...they know water. Have a happy day (halo on.)

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 2:18 pm

    If we are saying, "NO SAN STINO" we should also be saying, "AFFORDABLE AG WATER, YES!"

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 06, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    http://www.eid.org/index.aspx?page=26&recordid=251.For Phil...I really like General Manager Jim Abercrombie ...I have worked with his wife--really really nice family :)

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  • Fact CheckerSeptember 06, 2013 - 7:00 pm

    Hey Phil V...cost study says 2 and 2T meters are four times more prevalent than 3 inchers. Is the cost study a lie? And how come you never made management at EID?

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 7:41 pm

    Fact Checker, I'm at a loss as to why you think I challenge the cost study. What are you referring to? As for not making management, I found more satisfaction in the field discovering the nature of "the beast". I was granted an uncommon degree of latitude and autonomy to get "under the hood" and learn wow EID's unique system works AS A SYSTEM. It is one of a kind.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 8:18 pm

    Fact Checker I see what you may be referring to. Within my 05, 2013 - 11:20 pm I made the off-the-cuff assertion, "Many/most ag meters are 3 to for(four) inch meters . . ." But later in my 06, 2013 - 8:09 am calculation I based it on the more prevalent 2' meter'. Regardless I remain at a loss over your implication that I challenge the cost study.

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  • Fact CheckerSeptember 06, 2013 - 8:22 pm

    Phil V...It's troubling that you create cost comparisons using wrong meter sizes than the most common and that you merge a residential rate component into your Ag calculations. Do you really think that's honest? You shouldn't call others liars when your own calculations are materially wrong.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    Fact Checker (Greg), I take it that you do not like my 06, 2013 - 8:09 am hypothetical comparison of the water bill for 10 acre feet through a 3/4" residential meter vs. 10 acre feet through a 2" ag meter. Fine. You pick the "correct" residential meter size and the "correct" ag meter size and I'll recalculate the respective bills, Greg.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    BTW, in my next calculation I'll show my work so that you can more accurately point out where I am "materially wrong."

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  • James E.September 06, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    Rather than use the word liar, instead use intentionally misrepresents. Hey, just a suggestion.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 06, 2013 - 9:02 pm

    Colonel, I am taking your suggestion under advisement. Thank you, Sir.

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 06, 2013 - 9:11 pm

    This is for Phil. Harper you are a LIAR. well Phil--that actually felt good.

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  • Smell CheckerSeptember 06, 2013 - 9:43 pm

    Phil, you nailed it about Fact Checker being Prada. Aliases are lots of fun, but normally candidates use their own names. It's an accountability thing.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 07, 2013 - 6:49 pm

    Fact Checker (Greg), forfeit at 09/08/2013, 12:01 AM

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 08, 2013 - 11:23 am

    Some FACTS for Fact Checker (Greg) When there is a line break: • Apple trees do not care whether or not the lowest ranking repair crew laborer has at least a grade D2 certification from DHS. • Apple trees do not care if the repair crew is current on their continuing educational units(CEUs). • Apple trees do not care if the repair parts are sterilized. • Apple trees do care whether or not a water bacteria sample is taken and passes a lab plate test. • Apple trees are not happier when a spill report is correctly filed. • Apple trees would be just as happy if their water arrived in a ditch. • Apple trees are not safer when the repair crew is randomly drug tested. • Apple trees might be just a tiny bit happier if their water were not chlorinated. • Apple trees would die if agricultural rates increased. • Dead apple trees are not honored when their water goes to delta smelt. (IMHO)

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 08, 2013 - 6:27 pm

    Evelyn, here is my final answer to your "one seventeenth" question. It takes 4.73 EDUs to equal the amount of water used by the average EID small farm on a 2" meter and the residential water bill is ~ 4.5 times greater than ag bill. Or in the reciprocal form, the Ag bill is ~.22 of the amount billed to the 4.73 EID residential customers.(An EDU is an Equivalent dwelling Unit and is presently equal to .77 Acre feet. The average small farm usage is 3.64 Acre feet. The base charge for the 2" ag meter is ~1.77 times greater than the 3/4" residential meter. The first tier of ag and residential usage is equal. The second tier of residential rate is ~14.4 times greater than the ag second tier. The Third tier of the residential rate is ~16.9 times greater than the second(final) tier of the ag rate. I watched the video at the link you provided of the Tea Party presentation. Greg Prada made multiple references to the years that he had spent deep inside cost/rate minutia of EID. Prada stated multiple times that residential users pay 17 times more than ag users. Whether Prada is dishonest or incompetent is irrelevant. Prada is unqualified. - - - just my opinion - - -

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  • EvelynSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:41 pm

    Thanks, Phil. I'll see if I can digest the info in some sort of easy, bullet-point type fashion.

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:45 pm

    Harper from her newsblast: Working together with El Dorado County government and El Dorado Irrigation District (EID), Pollock Pines is working on creating a park for all community residents and visitors. Please contact Jeanne ...Does EID know? Someone is fibbing...Harper--The people who spoke about a new park...EID --the BOS? Two reports...tsk tsk .tsk. I really dont think EID or the BOS knew what was going on..Harper what a tangled web we weave..

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    your bullet points are up line @ 11:23

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:52 pm

    Phil...Good night.

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:56 pm

    Try this bullet point, Evelyn. - - - EID'S RESIDELTIAL WATER RATES ARE ONLY ~ 4.5 TIMES GREATER THAN AGRICULTURAL WATER RATES.

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  • EvelynSeptember 08, 2013 - 9:39 pm

    Phil: Does that factor in that much of ag continues to pay a basic charge throughout the 7 or 8 months of the year when they're using little or no water at all?

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  • Phil VeerkampSeptember 08, 2013 - 9:52 pm

    My methodology is the simplest average which distributes the billing equally, 6 periods, summer and winter, high and low. I do not think that data exists to allow summer residential vs. ag and winter residential vs. ag. comparisons. But almost certainly there are examples of higher winter ag bills due to the high base rate of large ag meters.

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