In two meetings last week, the Community Services District handled routine monthly business and, at a goal-setting session, discussed whether it should expand its role to serve Murietans better.
Should CSD expand its role to meet Murieta's needs?
The Jan. 16 goals session was like previous versions of the annual exercise, with the conversation ranging widely across district responsibilities. The board’s newest members – Les Clark and John Merchant, who served on the board a decade ago – expressed divergent views of the CSD’s role.
As captured in an audio recording of the meeting, Merchant wanted to expand the CSD’s role and influence, while Clark wanted the CSD to operate by the book.
Merchant proposed a semi-annual joint meeting between CSD and the Rancho Murieta Association. “There’s holes in the middle,” he said of the responsibilities of the two organizations. For example, he said he asked the RMA to talk to the county about Scott Road traffic conditions and was told RMA doesn’t do that. If he were to bring the problem to CSD, he said he would be told CSD doesn’t handle that.
“What we’ve done – right, wrong or indifferent – is taken ourselves off the table with the county as it relates to traffic in our own community because we have nobody to handle it,” Merchant said.
Clark said he wants to keep the CSD’s focus on CSD matters, though he suggested two CSD board members attend every RMA board meeting.
The district was formed 35 years ago to provide essential services. At present, it handles Rancho Murieta’s water (supply, wastewater and storm drainage), security and waste collection. It has other latent powers.
Mark Pecotich, the board president, spoke of his experience trying to get the community’s governing bodies to address the problems of the Lost Lake drainage basin in 2010 and 2011. He was bounced from the RMA to the CSD and back again. “That ping-ponging effect that our community gets because we have different entities involved is ineffective,” he said. “And frankly, it makes us look embarrassing because we can’t seem to open the door across the hallway and say, “RMA, let’s jointly solve this problem and figure it out.’”
Looking to a future of development and multiple HOAs, and with some personality issues between the boards now gone, Pecotich concluded, “We need to start being more united and less divided.”
Clark argued that traffic isn’t a CSD responsibility, prompting a conversation among the entire board.
Clark seemed to be at the one end of the spectrum – pointing to the explicit responsibilities conferred upon CSD by law – and Merchant and Pecotich at the other, open to addressing other community issues. Pecotich said he saw the issues as a “holistic” problem.
General Manager Darlene Thiel reminded the directors the CSD has “a certain defined role and responsibility,” and government code and regulations say the revenues CSD collects must be expended on those responsibilities. “Once you start going beyond that, then you’re exposing yourself to other issues,” she said, with ratepayers possibly complaining that their money is being used for unintended purposes.
At the conclusion of the three-hour session, the views surfaced again.
Clark said he doesn't oppose proactive cooperation, but it must not stray from “services sanctioned by the government code.” Doing anything else would “cloud the expectations of the community,” he said.
Thiel warned CSD doesn’t have a role to play in land use, an interest of Merchant’s. He is one of the leaders of the Saving Our Lakes & Open Spaces group, which is working to influence development plans.
Pecotich argued that Security, for example, is impacted by RMA and Sacramento County, so collaboration is essential.
Said Merchant, “We’re never going to have the luxury of being able to consolidate it into a real, live government. We don’t have a government; we have this. And I’m going to continue to take a much broader approach, probably, than some people....”
He said the pedestrian bridge never would have been built 10 years ago if the CSD hadn’t been willing to reach beyond its basic responsibilities.
He concluded, “I’m not going to sit here once a month and go, ‘Water, sewer, drainage; water, sewer, drainage.’ I ain’t gonna do that.”
CSD will address Via Del Cerrito drainage problem
At its Jan. 18 regular meeting, the board addressed complaints from several residents on Park 4, Via Del Cerrito about CSD’s 2008 installation of drainage pipe to address an erosion problem along a drainage channel. Heavy rains have flooded that location three times since then, they told the board. The board adopted the recommendation of its Improvements Committee to undo the 2008 work and return the site to its original drainage design. Work will be done in the next construction season, the board said.
Board reviews Parks Committee guidelines
The board reviewed changes in guidelines being written by Mark Pecotich, board president and the CSD’s representative to the Parks Committee. The guidelines are an attempt to describe the three 25-year-old parks agreements that are part of the community’s development. The Parks Committee has been awaiting comment from the developers for months. Pecotich said the developers have until the end of the month to share reactions, then the Parks Committee will vote on the guidelines.
Honoring CSD's chief plant operator
The California Water Environment Association honored David Herrmann, the CSD’s chief plant operator, as supervisor of the year. Herrmann, right, is joined by Kevin Reel, president of the Sacramento Area Section of the CWEA. Herrmann first came to the CSD full-time in 1985 and has clocked a total of 23 years with the CSD. His father, Jack Herrmann, was the the community's water superintendent, both under the El Dorado Irrigation District and the CSD. David Herrmann lives near the town of El Dorado.
Stepping cautiously toward a role in recreation
Mark Pecotich, board president, said development representative John Sullivan is encouraging CSD to reconsider a 2011 proposal, never finalized, made to the CSD by the development company that then owned the Murieta Gardens land. Murieta Gardens was approved by the county as a mix of commercial and residential development, including the new supermarket and hotel being built now.
The term sheet outlined the possible use of a five-acre detention basin in Murieta Gardens for passive recreation. The document didn’t obligate either party to do anything, CSD says.
The document suggests CSD would be responsible for maintenance of the drainage system at the site and the mowing of the field in dry times. The mowing costs would be billable to the Murieta Gardens homeowners association, the document proposes.
Darlene Thiel, the CSD’s general manager, said the driver for the document in 2011 was Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli’s concern that the Murieta Gardens development wouldn’t have enough parks offerings for its residents.
Director Morrison Graf said the 2011 letter describes the facility as a trail and benches around the detention basin, while Sullivan has been talking about ball fields.
Graf described the difference as “a natural space that’s going to flood in the winter; it’s going to grassy in the summer ... and people walk around it and sit and look at it,” versus “get down in it and run around on fields.”
Director John Merchant said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, but the CSD needs to understand how frequently the basin would flood. He said the city of Davis uses a similar basin for a dog park.
Director Les Clark said active use of a field like this would require soil preparation and maintenance, and several directors said they wanted to protect the CSD from repair, maintenance or liability costs.
Pecotich said the Rancho Murieta Association isn’t interested in maintaining the proposed fields, and he didn’t want CSD crews obligated to mow lawns.
The board sent the idea back to staff to work with the developers on a more specific proposal.