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Other topics: CSD board pursues RMA on legal expenses ... Security survey presented ... Rio Oso tank repair ... Recycled water disposal

It's time to consolidate Rancho Murieta's different governing bodies into one, speakers told the Community Services District board at Wednesday night's meeting.

"Maybe we have reached that period where you have one entity that is driving everything," resident Ted Hart told the directors.

Hart called the Country Club the community's anchor and said he was concerned about the financial challenges the club faces, as well as the confusing mesh of RMA and CSD codes that govern the community.

Ted Hart

"Why are we even part of the county?" Ted Hart asked the CSD board.

Control was another issue for Hart. "I guess what triggered most of what I was looking at with this is when we got into all of the ‘hey rubes' down at the county," he said, apparently referring to county action on development plans last year.

Hart is a member of the Rancho Murieta Development Concerned Citizens Committee, which led community opposition to the proposals. "Some of us began looking at it and saying ... why are we even part of the county? Why are we not incorporated as a community, city, call it whatever you want," Hart said.

John Merchant, a past president of both the CSD and RMA, reprised remarks he'd made at Tuesday's RMA meeting about the financial benefits of consolidating the RMA and CSD budgets. He estimated a 20 to 25 percent savings would be realized to offset rising costs, and added that consolidation could address enforcement, peace officer status and other issues.

Merchant noted that a "firestorm" ensued when consolidation was proposed in the 2004 CSD strategic plan. But now, "There's a wind blowing," he said, referring to the support that's being expressed.

The CSD board set forming an ad hoc committee to look into other forms of government as a goal at a workshop held in January. The matter will appear on the March agenda.

Board pursues having RMA repay legal expenses

The board took action to have CSD legal counsel send a letter to the RMA requesting the return of $88,000 in parks funds the RMA took for its 2005-2006 legal expenses for the pedestrian bridge. If the RMA doesn't act on the request, the matter will come back to the board as a resolution at the March board meeting.

John Merchant, who was CSD president during the bridge project, spoke from the audience and told the board he supported its efforts to get the funds returned.

John Merchant

"I applaud the stance that you took on this because you're right and they're wrong," John Merchant told the board.

"What's left in that fund is a finite number. There is no new development," he said. "The fact that they took that $88,000 and didn't defer it, that's $88,000 that isn't going to get spent on parks. ... I applaud the stance that you took on this because you're right and they're wrong. And I applaud the fact that you're going to put out a resolution and get the damn money back."

The board also authorized Director Dick Taylor to present his recommendations for new procedures for handling parks funds at the Feb. 28 Parks Committee meeting.

Taylor, who represents the CSD on the Parks Committee, said the funds should be kept in an independent account. Currently, funds are kept at the RMA and released under the signatures of the RMA president and the RMA general manager. "The money does not belong to the RMA," Taylor said.

"The only reason they were able to get their money is they had the checkbook," Merchant remarked.

The Parks Committee deadlocked on a vote to return the funds at its January meeting, when RMA representatives Mike Martel and Paul Gumbinger, the chairman of the committee, voted against the motion. Taylor and the South developer representative voted for the motion. The fifth voting position on the committee is currently vacant because the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers has not designated a representative for North development.

The parks fund is made up of per-lot fees from developers triggered by new development, with smaller contributions from the RMA.

Although the pedestrian bridge was a Parks Committee project, funding came from developers. South developer Reynen & Bardis provided $1.53 million in funding under a financing agreement signed by the developer, the county and the RMA in 2003. The terms of the agreement required RMA to "diligently pursue the construction of the bridge." The agreement gave the Parks Committee the authority for the expenditure of funds for the project. See the agreement here.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved a temporary ordinance for the project in 2003 and approved additional developer funding of $250,000 for cost overruns when the permanent bridge ordinance was passed in 2005, a year before construction began. Only $71,500 of the additional funding has been paid and it is unlikely the entire amount will be paid because of reductions in development density. Parks funds were used to meet the shortfall.

Except for the RMA legal costs, all the overruns were reviewed and approved by the Parks Committee for payment.

After voting not to return the funds, Martel offered a different view when he attended the CSD meeting Wednesday. "I believe a whole lot of money has been paid out of that (parks) fund that should not have been paid out of that fund," he told the CSD board.

Martel revisited comments he had made at the RMA meeting the previous night, saying a document the CSD produced in 2004 to update the parks master plan shows the Park Development Agreement was illegally amended to include the bridge project. Among the changes included in the 2004 document are relocation of a park site on the South, combining plans for two separate community centers into one, and the pedestrian bridge project.

Mike Martel

"You guys paid yourself for a variety of services that were done," Mike Martel told the board.

"In 2004 they amended the Parks Agreement to include the bridge to allow the CSD to be the lead agency," Martel said. "I'm challenging you ... to put all the money back into the parks fund that the CSD and the RMA and all the other entities took out of the parks fund and did not have the authority, and that we can cleanse this thing and come up with a pure process. ... As the lead agency, you guys paid yourself for a variety of services that were done."

Taylor responded, "We have not been paid, Mike. Please listen."

"Dick, I respectfully disagree," Martel said. "Legally, if both parties want to put a couple thousand dollars into the pot and send it to the court to resolve I'm all for that."

The CSD took on the role of lead agency for the bridge in 2004 at the RMA's request. The CSD's authority as lead agency extended to preparing and approving the environmental document for the project.

The CSD agreed to advance the $42,000 cost of preparing the environmental document and said it would not ask to be repaid until 2009, when it was thought the fund would have a bigger balance. The RMA board voted unanimously to direct its two Parks Committee representatives to vote in favor of the approach, and the Parks Committee approved it.

Once the CSD approved the environmental document in January 2005, the way was cleared to obtain the permits required to construct the bridge.

But the project came to a halt in August 2005, after the RMA and the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers failed to reach agreement on easements. At this point, the superstructure of the bridge had been fabricated and about $900,000 had been spent.

The CSD acquired the bridge site to satisfy the PTF's liability issues and the Parks Committee approved using parks funds to pay for a $55,000 insurance policy the PTF required before the project could proceed in May 2006.

In addition to the lead agency costs, the CSD expended about $40,000 in legal fees in 2006 that have not been reimbursed. The Country Club was not reimbursed for a similar amount in legal fees for the project.

The RMA withdrew a total of $88,351 from the parks fund for its legal fees. The first withdrawal was $48,467 for 2005 legal expenses. This was made in March 2006, two months before construction began on the bridge. A second withdrawal of $39,883 was made for 2006 legal fees in August, months before the bridge was completed and the final costs were known.

"All the soft legal costs that everybody had, those come with the territory of your share of building the bridge," Merchant said. "If the Parks Committee wanted to go back and agree ... that everybody ought to be reimbursed, that's a different story."

During his comments earlier in the meeting, Martel maintained the bridge and the trail system were "never part of the original Parks Agreement." But under the heading "Pedestrian and Bike Trail System" on page three of the 1990 Park Development Agreement, the following appears: "the trail system may include a river crossing, subject to any required approvals and any conditions imposed thereon by any applicable government. ... Changes in the plan shown in Exhibit E will be subject to the consent of the Park Committee, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld."

The 2004 addendum refers to Exhibit E and notes it was modified by the Parks Committee to reflect the location of the pedestrian bridge. Under the heading "River Crossing," the document continues, "The Park Committee, including the District Board members who sit on that Committee, have recommended and proposed the construction of a single pedestrian/small vehicle bridge ..."

Results of Security survey presented

Betty Ferraro, a member of the ad hoc committee that prepared the recent CSD customer satisfaction survey on Security operations, presented the results to an audience of more than a dozen people. There were 556 responses to the survey, about 23 percent of the community. The survey was sent out in the monthly CSD bill late last year.

Betty Ferraro

Betty Ferraro was one of the volunteers who put the survey together.

The survey was a volunteer effort from start to finish, said Director Bobbi Belton, adding that she was really delighted with the community involvement the volunteers demonstrated. In addition to Ferraro, Wilbur Haines and Jack Tavolario worked on the project. A summary of the survey results is available here.

Rio Oso tank repair

The repair and rehabilitation of the Rio Oso water tank has encountered problems from top to bottom, the board was told. The footing for the 1.2-million-gallon tank is not as deep as specified in drawings for the tank, said Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations. The specified depth is necessary for seismic improvements, necessitating a change order, he said.

At the top of the tank, there was more corrosion damage than expected, and the roof and part of a metal ring forming the tank are no longer usable, prompting another change order.

The tank is offline during the repair process. An alternative water distribution system is being used to serve residents who live north of upper Guadalupe Drive.

Recycled water disposal

The board approved accepting an easement grant for acreage at the neighboring VanVleck Ranch. The district received the first grant of 49 acres in December 2007. The grants of easement are being donated to the district for tax purposes, General Manager Ed Crouse said.

"We'll have about 150 acres of land available for excess recycled water disposal," said Crouse, adding that a temporary use permit extension is being processed to allow the CSD to irrigate 60 acres of pasture land using recycled wastewater.

Developers are expected to donate an additional 60 acres to the district sometime in 2009 to meet the future disposal needs of their developments, Crouse said.

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

Excellent coverage!

Thank you once again for your excellent, detailed coverage of such complex issues as the bridge funding controversy, and especially for your inclusion of the underlying agreements themselves. Without your excellent coverage most residents would have absolutely no way of understanding and assessing why community leaders are growling at each other over $88K or who may have the better argument in that scrum.

I'm encouraged to hear the recurrent talk, which may foretell an emerging consensus, about reforming or even consolidating the forms of governance out here. I have my doubts that everything can as a practical matter be consolidated under one roof, but shifting some major functions around and eliminating by consolidation some duplicative ones, and coming to a clear, universally shared understanding redefining who's in charge of what, would serve the community very well.

Andy Keyes's picture
Joined: 08/22/2007
Posts: 289
Post rating: 120

Finally the light goes on

Not being able to make this meeting I am pleased that the subject of a government in our community has been mentioned.  RMA and CSD being the biggest players here need to settle the turf wars and move forward with the issues that face our community.  Wastewater disposal looks like its well on its way to being solved now if we can just find a way of piping it up to Stonehouse for irrigating the fields and maybe the Frank vineyard.

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