PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Opinion

Dysfunctional board

By From page A4 | June 26, 2013

The Georgetown Divide Public Utility District Board of Directors continues to be run by a majority of amateurs who are making Georgetown feel like a Third World country.

The state has required GDPUD to meet a higher standard of water treatment, meaning it must revamp a water plant. The plant chosen by the general manager and the board was Auburn Lake Trails Water Treatment Plant.

An engineering firm hired by the district designed a plant upgrade that was estimated to cost $9.3 million. Plans were completed in February and the board, with a newly elected member joining two others, delayed going out to bid until mid-May.

Bidders had already been prequalified in February. There is still a likelihood the bid will come in under the engineer’s estimate, but that prospect has dimmed over time. The El Dorado Irrigation District has seen bids come in higher recently from big contractors as the economy has picked up. Only months before those same bidders had been low bidders. Despite the increased competition for quality construction engineering firms, EID has still managed to attract qualified low bids under the engineer’s estimate.

At Georgetown the board, led by the gang of three, delayed and delayed and delayed going out to bid, hoping for more money. One board member tried to second guess the engineer by coming up with an $11 million estimate for the project.

Then this month, when two from the audience asked if the board had a “Plan B” if the bids were high, the three amateurs considered spending $32,000 plus time, travel and other expenses for “value engineering” to review the project that the board already unanimously let out to bid the month before.

Plan A, B and C should be a capital improvement budget funded by water rates. The district has incredibly cheap water rates. And hookup fees are $9,000 — a reasonable fee, compared to the $20,000 EID wants to charge.

What’s really dysfunctional about this board is the way it has driven every qualified person out of the district and now the gang of three is trying to manage the district from the board room, doing everything from interviewing office managers to making up organizational charts. Without consulting its interim manager one board member proposed cutting the hookup fee nearly in half. Hookup fees have to be justified and arrived at after careful study of capital improvement needs. Most districts hire an outside expert to make recommendations that have a basis in fact rather than whim.

So far all the new majority has done is drive off its longtime counsel, pay a temporary lawyer even more and run up legal bills by having the lawyer review a mishmash of policies that often duplicate what’s already on the books.

It might be asking too much if the majority of three tried to work with the other two board members, kept delivering good quality water as its goal and let the staff work to achieve that goal.

Mountain Democrat

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