[Edited Sept. 25] At Wednesday's board meeting, the Community Services District board cleared the way for a settlement totaling $200,000 for violations of the cease and desist order and wastewater discharge requirements last year.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control board levied the fine against the CSD in February.
CSD counsel Steve Rudolph pointed out that the maximum penalty could have been $31 million, and said the negotiated settlement was not an admission on the part of the CSD.
"It's the judgment of the district that it's in the best interests of the community," he said, noting that $100,000 will come back to the community in the form of an environmental rehabilitation project. The other half of the settlement will be paid into state funds.
Most of the fine is related to the CSD's decision to deliver reclaimed water to Bass Lake during a rainy period in the spring of 2006. The CSD says the goal was to relieve storage constraints at the wastewater treatment plant that dated back to 2003. At that time, the district says, a new requirement for treating wastewater delayed deliveries to the Country Club for a large part of the irrigation season, which resulted in carryover storage.
The CSD supplies treated wastewater at no cost to the club to water the two golf courses. The water is treated to standards set by the state Department of Health Services.
The water delivered to Bass Lake from April 10 to 26, 2006, was disinfected and then dechlorinated to lessen its impact on the Cosumnes River, according to the CSD.
Ted Hart, a member of the Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee, which opposes North development plans, told the board he supported the settlement but was looking for accountability.
"... Are we going to ever find out who's responsible for the $200,000 fine?" he asked. "... I'm interested in the board finding out what's going on."
Director Dick Taylor said various ways were considered to eliminate the excess water, and "We took decisions based upon what we thought was the best possible information at the time. ... As it ended up, due to a wetter season than we anticipated, we obviously were wrong. ... If there was anybody responsible, it was the board seated at that time."
"We looked at half a dozen different ways (to reduce the excess). A good portion of them came from the regional board and not one of them was realistic," said President Wayne Kuntz. "We were in a double whammy ... because of the 400 acre feet of over-storage we had because of their requirements. ... We made a decision, right, wrong or indifferent."
The CSD has since been able to reduce the carryover storage and expects to be well under the level mandated by the regional board by mid-October.
Paul Siebensohn was promoted from acting director of field operations to permanent director.
Director of field operations selected
It's official. Paul Siebensohn, acting director of field operations overseeing the community's water and wastewater operations, has won the post on a permanent basis. He was previously treatment plant supervisor.
Among those congratulating him on his promotion at Wednesday's board meeting was resident Larry Larson, who praised Siebensohn earlier in the meeting for his "unbelievably fast" response to a vexing water pressure problem Larson and his neighbors have been experiencing for a long time. Larson also wrote a letter to the board expressing his gratitude.
The previous director of field operations, Joe Majarucon, left for another position in January.
Drug concerns revisited
Resident Jerry Smith put together a list of 13 measures to discourage drug use in the community's parks after he held a forum about drugs in August.
Now he's asking why the list wasn't acted on by the CSD and the Rancho Murieta Association at their meetings this month.
As reported previously, Smith wants cameras, lighting and signage installed at the parks, adoption of county ordinances pertaining to drug and under-age drinking, and peace officer status for Security patrol officers to combat what he calls a serious and urgent drug problem.
At Wednesday's meeting, Smith said Security officers aren't arresting juveniles engaged in drugs and asked whether they are hindered by the law or by their employer. Security Chief Greg Remson replied that sheriff's deputies and Security patrol officers have been on the lookout for drugs but have not witnessed any drug sales. He also pointed out that off-duty sheriff's deputies regularly work in the community. If Security officers witnessed the selling of drugs, they would detain the person and call in the Sheriff's Department, he told Smith.
Director Dick Taylor said the CSD board decided against seeking peace officer status for Security patrol officers. "The cost is huge," said Taylor. Remson added, "It's a lot more complicated than it seems."
Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Zdobnikow advised the board to follow a path like the community's CC&Rs, which could result in fines for parents.
Smith said he has lived in the community for seven years and learned about drug use in the last few months from members of a church youth group. Smith is a volunteer with the group.
Smith told the CSD board his presentation at the RMA meeting the night before was met by silence, and noted the CSD agenda included an item pertaining to curfew, but none of his other measures.
"Sometimes we move slowly," said CSD Director Bobbi Belton. "Personally, I see the graffiti, the drug use and the curfew violations all to some extent interrelated ... ."
The board acted to amend the existing curfew ordinance to define what "public" means in the context of a private community. The ordinance is based on a county ordinance that sets a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for minors.
Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Zdobnikow, who attended both the RMA and CSD meetings to learn about the process here, suggested looking into remedies that are civil rather than criminal, more along the lines of CC&R violations that would "hit parents in the pocket."
'Purple pipe' study
The board approved a proposal from the engineering firm HDR for a feasibility study, costing $43,898, on recycled water. The study will show what's required to implement a recycled water program and the advantages and disadvantages of using purple pipe for residential, commercial and park landscape irrigation.
More than half the water used by the community goes for watering landscaping. The CSD is currently investigating conservation pricing to reduce water use also.
Public workshops are included in the study's costs.
Country Club diversion project delayed
The delay in the Country Club's project to divert storm water drainage from lakes that are used for golf course irrigation was a topic for conjecture at the CSD meeting.
Club President Vince Lepera said in a phone interview the next day that the discovery of rock around Bass Lake on the North Course will increase the cost of installing underground drainage pipe by $175,000 to $200,000, and the entire diversion project will cost under $2 million. Using a tank instead of lakes to store the water would cost $8 million, according to Lepera. He said flatly, "The tank solution is dead."
The club's landlord, the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, is committed to paying the cost of the diversion project, Lepera said, adding, "We're moving full-speed ahead, hand in hand with the PTF."
The club is required to end the rainy-season spills under the terms of the cease and desist order issued by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board last year.
Lepera said the club expects to have the agreements and contracts necessary for the project in place shortly, and to complete the diversion work on South Course by the end of the year. "We have everything in place. It's just signing the contracts," he said.
In addition to construction contracts and agreement with the PTF, the club needs an agreement with the Rancho Murieta Association, the owner of the lake.
The club will ask regional board staff about extending the Jan. 30 deadline by 90 to 120 days so the Bass Lake work could be completed in the spring of '08, Lepera said.
Rio Oso tank rehabilitation
The board approved a contract for rehabilitation work on the 30-year-old Rio Oso water tank after a two-year delay increased costs 24 percent. When the CSD signed the contract in 2005, the cost was $630,919. It's now $778,620.
The entire cost of the project is over $1 million, CSD President Wayne Kuntz said.
The project was delayed until a way was found to maintain water pressure while the tank is off-line. The tank provides water for about 30 percent of Murieta North households.
After the CSD received the contractor's price increase, replacing the tank with a new one was considered but rejected because of cost and time considerations.
The project is expected to get underway next month after the official end of the fire season.
Update on zero-read meters
The board adopted a policy to allow for estimated usage charges in the event a water meter has a zero reading. The estimated usage will be the same as the same month in the prior year.
An average of 20 meters a month fail to register water usage and are replaced as part of the CSD's ongoing replacement strategy, which the district says is cost-effective. Meters typically last 10 years or more.
The district had 58 zero-read meters in August, according to a report from Les Tyler, director of administration. Of that number, 21 were new zero reads and 27 were accounts that are locked off, vacant, undeveloped or CSD meters that had no usage for the month.
The district has committed to replacing zero read meters each month after recently eliminating a backlog of about 200.