Negotiations between the Community Services District and developers will resume next week, CSD General Manager Ed Crouse announced at Wednesday's board meeting. The board also supported moving towards a tiered pricing structure for water to encourage conservation, although directors emphasized there is no water shortage in the community.
The financing and services agreement would commit the developers to provide a $10 million expansion of the existing water treatment plant and a $3.5 million wastewater spray field in exchange for CSD water and sewer services for their projects.
Crouse reported on the status of two developer-funded escrow accounts required for negotiations for the agreement to resume, and told the board the first session is scheduled for Monday. One account will be used to reimburse CSD legal costs from earlier negotiations by putting $100,000 in escrow and releasing the funds to the CSD when the agreement receives conceptual approval. The developers agreed to cover any shortfall in funding within 30 days of the approval.
The second escrow account covers CSD legal costs for ongoing negotiations. The initial deposit of $20,000 will be released monthly to the CSD during negotiations, based on the district's legal invoices. The developers will
replenish the account to maintain a minimum balance of $5,000.
Funds for the accounts were moved from another account the developers have at the CSD. "It was the developers' money, it was in their account," Director Betty Ferraro said when the board was questioned by resident Don Sams. "It is not CSD's money they are moving."
"It's still a win-win deal for the district," said Director Bob Kjome. "We're getting our money that we already spent and we have a means to get money going forward. There's no loss to the district, there's no diminished capacity for us to receive funds in the future."
Conservation pricing revisited
Conservation pricing for water was the subject of four workshops the CSD held last year. The board revisited the subject this month, starting with a report from the last workshop that summarizes pricing options. It appears in
the board packet. Tiered pricing takes into account differences in winter and summer use, lot sizes, and other variables to set levels of usage.
The district wouldn't realize additional income from the pricing change.
At Wednesday's meeting, the board envisioned a lengthy period of education would be required to prepare ratepayers for the change. President Bobbi Belton suggested using a billing approach that compares present water costs with what costs would be under a new billing system.
Before it can increase rates, the district is required to notify ratepayers and hold rate hearings.
"Given the fact that we're going to have plenty of water this year for our community, I don't think we need to rush into jamming this into this year's rate structure," Director Bob Kjome said.
The community receives its water from the Cosumnes River. According to the CSD, the storage reservoirs of Lakes Clementia, Calero and Clementia are expected to be filled by the end of April, a month before the diversion period ends.
Director Dick Taylor pointed out that there is no shortage of water here. Resident Ted Hart agreed, saying some people in the community are "trying to equate the state's problem with what's at Rancho Murieta."
Belton and Director Steve Mobley referred to below-normal rainfall levels for the area. "We don't have a problem here, but I think we have to participate in the solution," Belton said.
"The community is interested in conservation," said Director Betty Ferraro. "I think getting out to the public information such as we are looking into it to let them know that we do understand...."
Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations, said regardless of whether or not it's a drought year, it's important to have people pay attention to their water use.
Crouse said staff will work with the Finance Committee on a schedule for public education and outreach for conservation pricing. Ferraro said the Communications Committee will also participate.
Conservation pricing would be implemented no earlier than next year.
- The board approved revisions in the district's Internet, e-mail and electronic communications usage and security policy to forbid downloading of games, software programs and other items from the Internet on district computers without permission. Other unauthorized use of computers -- participation in chat rooms and maintaining blogs - is also prohibited. The unauthorized downloads and activities could expose the district's network to viruses and security risks, Director of Administration Darlene Gillum said.
Revisions to the district's developer deposit policy made by legal counsel Steve Rudolph were approved by the board. Crouse said the policy was reviewed "in light of what's transpired" and substantial
changes were made to tighten it up.
- In his monthly report, Director of Field Operations Paul Siebensohn wrote that staff investigated 18 calls about water leaks and repaired 12 that were on the district's side of the water meter. There were 35 water meters replaced in January. Residents can report leaks or water-wasting activities to the CSD here.
In addition to the Bee's front page story referenced above, the February 21 Home & Garden section in the Bee has an interesting and informative article entitle "Make every drop count." It has innumerable water-saving suggestions.
Murieta Gardens is another idea for water conservation.