9/12/2012 AWA Outreach Meeting

AWA Outreach Meeting At six o’clock Sept. 12, the night before the Amador Water Agency board was to vote on the upcountry water rate increase, an outreach meeting was held at the Mace Meadows Golf Club House. With over 70 residents in attendance at the opening, the numbers dwindled to forty six at seven thirty and only fourteen by nine o’clock.

During the hour and a half presentation by AWA staff, the public made several attempts to ask questions only to be fended off by the speakers and asked to hold all questions until the end. At one point, out of what appeared to be unanswered frustration, one resident stood up and walked out of the meeting.

AWA staff and consultant Bob Reed of The Reed Group, Inc. covered eight pages of material provided in two handouts. General Manager Gene Mancebo reviewed the belt tightening steps the agency had taken and a concern regarding the reliability of the current water delivery system. Two options were identified for system replacement; replace and upgrade the current pump stations that deliver water or construct a new much larger gravity fed system. Based on an outside study done by Kennedy Jenks, AWA Project Engineer Erik Christeson informed the Board in 2009 that a two times larger pump replacement would cost $3.2 million and pipe replacement, not required until 2028, is estimated at $4 million, a total escalated estimate of $7.2 million. The other option is the Gravity Supply Line, a three times larger gravity fed system from the PG&E Regulator Reservoir which is estimated at $13.4 million.

AWA has never investigated or researched financing for the pump station option in grants or loans. Mancebo explained the GSL financing as coming from a USDA low interest loan for $8.4 million and a grant of $5 million. This loan/grant will not be awarded to the agency unless it can provide proof to USDA by Sept 2013, of financial stability that will fully support the repayment of the debt. Terms of the loan include a forty year repayment calculating interest out at an additional $6 million, placing a total debt of $14.4 on the rate payers.

The creation of a Community Facilities District was also included in the AWA presentation. This new layer of government will take the GSL portion of the USDA debt and reclassify it as a property tax. The district will also include future customers based on a map created, but not yet released, by AWA. In order to create this financing mechanism it will take a 2/3 majority vote by all of the registered voters. AWA proposes to conduct this special election in March 2013. The question was asked why a CFD could not be created to collect money to pay for the pump station upgrade and eventually the pipeline replacement. After some hesitation consultant Reed responded that he was not the tax expert and did not know.

Wendell Peart, 89, of Pine Acres led off the questions from the public. Disrespectful heckling from one audience member was not stopped by Gary Thomas, Board President, dejected, Wendell took his seat. Questions and concerns were then posed by over twenty other interested attendees supporting both options. A request was made to the board that since a majority voice was not being heard, maybe additional consideration should be made before taking a vote of such magnitude.

Nearing nine thirty the meeting concluded. Despite the previous evenings evidence of a division on options, at the AWA Board meeting, Sept 13, the AWA Board voted unanimously 5 – 0 to proceed with the proposed rate increase notice and the creation of the CFD.