The Community Services District will start looking at different ways the community can be governed in the future and consider adding another patrol officer to the Security force.
The CSD board discussed these and other matters Thursday during a four-hour session to set goals for 2008.
"We really need seriously to begin to find out what it will take to find an avenue through which this community can be administered by a single body," said Director Dick Taylor.
CSD directors focused on how much it costs to run the community now -- "It's probably in excess of $10 million in budgets," said Taylor -- and referred to the strategic plan the district adopted four years ago.
CSD Directors Bob Kjome, left, and Wayne Kuntz listen with Security Chief Greg Remson.
The plan calls for the CSD to "review its own roles and those of the (Rancho Murieta Association) to determine if consolidating some or all required services into one entity might improve services, lower costs, speed delivery and eliminate confusion among the residents."
Director Jerry Pasek said the pros and cons of cities, townships and other forms of government should be examined as a first step. "My proposal would be to set up some kind of a citizens committee to do that. ... In the end, you might not end up doing anything," he said.
Directors Bob Kjome and Bobbi Belton agreed with Pasek about forming a committee to begin the process. President Wayne Kuntz said there would also be legal and consulting costs involved since a consultant could provide information about governing options.
The directors expressed concern about maintaining the delicate balance between public and private that's been part of the community since it was founded in the late 1960s.
"You are the only government we really have here. ... I came here to say exercise your latent powers to control the parks," said resident George Roper, a spectator at the workshop. "We have kind of a polarized community. We have this raging war going on between RMA and CSD that's kind of always boiling somewhere. But I think the level heads should prevail and look out into the future and say we need to get one form of governance here. That government has to be under the Brown Act so that it's transparent."
Roper said there are some directors on the RMA board who have also expressed an interest in consolidation and it was his belief the issue for them is the RMA having the longterm maintenance costs of the parks.
RMA Director Dick Cox criticized CSD in a recent posting on RanchoMurieta.com and followed the criticism with the comment, "It may be time to consolidate our PUD and create a new governing body by joining the efforts of CSD and RMA under one entity. CSD has the charter and authority to run this whole place. It could and should save all of us money thru consolidation of staffs which in many cases duplicate one another. It would also eliminate the continued disagreements between the two boards and perhaps we could actually have a police agency of some type that could really endeavor to provide services like normal cities."
Voters granted various powers to CSD when they voted to form the district in 1982. The district's powers included municipal services. But legislation passed in 2005 requires the CSD to get approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission to exercise powers it's not currently using, Crouse said. He estimated the approval process would take six to 18 months.
The CSD currently provides water, sewer, drainage, security and garbage collection services.
Adding a patrol officer
Director Bobbi Belton proposed having ratepayers vote in November on increasing the security tax to pay for an additional patrol officer. The tax is paid as part of the monthly CSD bill. Adding a patrol officer would increase the tax by $1.66 a month, Belton said -- an increase that would require voter approval. Residents behind the gates currently pay a security tax of $21 a month.
It would cost $5,000 to include the measure on the ballot for the general election in November, and a special election would cost $20,000 to $40,000, according to District Secretary Suzanne Lindenfeld. She said the cut-off date for placing measures on the ballot is April 16.
Belton said the district's recent security survey shows support for having an additional patrol officer. She said 22 percent of the community took the survey, which was mailed to ratepayers along with their bills late last year.
The survey results will be presented at this month's board meeting Feb. 20.
Security Chief Greg Remson said it would be "very helpful" to have another officer and would allow the department to be "consistently fully staffed."
Kuntz said the survey showed people "were willing to foot the bill for that."
"From what I saw, the perception of the need for additional patrol officers was presence because people say they don't see it," said Crouse. "... the other is the perception that we can't get to an incident in time ... so the perception is you have more officers, you're going to be able to get there faster."
Remson assessed the 2007 goals for the department and presented priorities for 2008. They included implementing a reverse calling system for emergency notification of residents.
The department began looking into automated calling systems last year after the Sheriff's Department notified residents of a manhunt near Rancho Murieta using this method.
Other priorities include using computer program upgrades to track incidents and providing patrol officers with laptop computers.
Remson said Security is "still pushing" to get security cameras installed at the parks and the pedestrian bridge. He said the RMA's issue is who's going to pay for them.
Stresses in the relationship between the CSD and the Rancho Murieta Association surfaced in various ways over the course of the goals workshop.
Director Dick Taylor said his efforts to get the RMA to return $88,000 taken from parks fund convinced him the CSD should put the board's position in writing.
"The manner in which the Park Committee finances are handled has become so uncomfortable to me in the sense that it appears to be viewed as a Dick Taylor issue," he said. "The district needs to communicate directly in writing on behalf of its board so that people will believe what we're doing."
Taylor is the CSD representative on the Parks Committee.
General Manager Ed Crouse said the board has directed him to write letters stating board positions "to the Country Club, the RMA, the Board of Supervisors. So that's standard operating procedure. We just haven't identified when, where and how we do that."
"I think it's up to our board then to make that decision in regards to giving (Crouse) direction," President Wayne Kuntz said.
Resident John Sullivan, who has served on the RMA and the CSD boards, urged the directors to simply pass a resolution calling for the return of the money. "You've got past the point of asking Ed to write the letter, you've put Dick in front of RMA. ... Say it.... The war's not going to get any worse based on the resolution," he said.
"How much more emphatic could I have been when I identified myself as a CSD director and said I had been sent by my board?" Taylor said, referring to his appearance at the January RMA meeting.
Director Jerry Pasek remarked, "Well, you've got to recognize who it is you're talking to and the egos that are involved ..."
"That group of people don't hear what you are saying. They are so split among themselves it's unbelievable," Sullivan said.
Kuntz echoed Sullivan, saying, "I don't think I've ever seen an HOA that is so, quote, dysfunctional and so split."
The CSD board is expected to discuss the matter at its next closed session, Pasek said. Taylor said he had asked to have "two or three items" placed on the closed-session agenda.
Belton's goals included having joint meetings of RMA and CSD boards to "air the concerns in a public meeting. ... I think that we need to be open to meetings as appropriate among the full boards."
Belton said she wanted the CSD to respond promptly to erroneous information about its operations and referred to comments RMA board members made about CSD Security at the January RMA board meeting.
Crouse digressed from the goals discussion to respond to Belton's comments, saying the RMA ad hoc security committee followed up the comments with a letter requesting information about the CSD security budget. "A lot of that information was embedded in our budget, but the way they asked it required calculations," Crouse said. Instead of replying, "The information's in the budget. You figure it out," he said he had Director of Administration Les Tyler and Security Chief Greg Remson produce answers and attend a meeting of the ad hoc committee to explain them. "That was a good-neighbor policy way to handle it," Crouse said.
Making Lake Calero deeper
Directors Jerry Pasek and Dick Taylor wanted to look into what it would take to increase the depth of Lake Calero.
"If you're looking at this for drought storage, we don't know for certain what drought storage is needed," Crouse said, pointing out that depends on how many homes will be built, future use of recycled water for landscape irrigation, and the success of water conservation efforts. Once the variables were known, the project could be evaluated for its cost-effectiveness compared with other water augmentation alternatives, he said.
"We have studied it as far back as 1990," Crouse said of proposals to raise the dam.
He said the 1990 study was based on the larger total build-out planned for the community at the time, and "required us to purchase a lot of PTF property adjacent to upper Puerto, raising the dam 13 feet, raising some of the dikes and having new dikes."
In addition to these practical considerations, there were regulatory issues. The community's water rights would have to be amended since "we're only allowed to store 2,610 acre-feet in it," Crouse said.
He noted the drought deficit has gone from 1,500 acre feet in 1990 to "potentially" 400 acre feet because of reductions in density.
The district's Integrated Water Master Plan evaluated drought augmentation requirements at different levels of build-out and evaluated different options to meet them. See the plan here.
The CSD collects a water augmentation fee from new development to address the shortfall that would occur in a 200-year drought. The CSD board made the decision in 1990 to plan for the extreme drought the community experienced in 1977 instead of the 100-year event that's standard for planning.