CSD candidates Les Clark, left, and Morrison Graf offer the board a way to resolve the stalemate over their election.
The Community Services District board named a new director at last week’s meeting and fielded complaints from Murieta Village residents who are unhappy about the possibility of losing bar-code access through the gates.
Choosing a new CSD director
The board selected Morrison Graf, a Murietan for 18 years, to fill a board seat that will come up for election in November 2016. The vacancy was created by the resignation of Paul Gumbinger, who moved from the community.
Graf, educated as a civil engineer, retired in 2013 after three decades in the construction industry – as a contractor, a construction company executive and as a Sutter Health construction executive. On the personal side, he was a Boy Scout troopmaster in Rancho Murieta for five years and has coached youth soccer.
In addition to Graf, the board interviewed candidates Les Clark, Stephen L. Murphy and Larry Shelton:
Clark is a civil engineer who retired from an engineering firm after a career focused on large master planned communities.
Murphy, a licensed general contractor, is retired after 43 years as a supervisor in commercial construction. He’s a frequent attendee at CSD meetings.
Shelton, who has also filed as a candidate for the Rancho Murieta Association board, has lived in the community less than a year. He retired after 40 years with the U.S. Geological Survey’s water resources division.
“I was absolutely amazed that we had four super-super-qualified candidates to apply,” said Jerry Pasek, board president. “It’s amazing what this community has in talent and expertise. It is usually not the case where you get four people who have direct, applicable, technical, experience and backgrounds to support what we’re doing and what we need.”
To win the seat required three votes from the existing directors, but the wealth of candidates made those three votes hard to get.
In their conversations about the candidates, the directors all ranked Graf and Clark as the top two. Here’s how the first round of voting went:
Pasek nominated Clark but didn’t get a second to his nomination.
Director Mark Pecotich nominated Graf, a move seconded by Director Betty Ferraro. Pasek voted no. Director Mike Martel resisted voting, saying he didn’t like the voting process and thought all four candidates were great so he wanted each to have a turn at being nominated.
Martel nominated Murphy. There was no second.
Pasek nominated Clark. Pecotich seconded it. Ferraro voted no. Martel voted no, saying he wanted to nominate Shelton, who hadn’t yet been nominated. Pecotich abstained.
Martel nominated Shelton. There was no second.
Pasek said the board should narrow its focus to Graf and Clark, since each had been nominated and seconded. Ferraro said she couldn’t choose between the two to offer a nomination. “So why don’t we put Mike (Martel) on the spot?” she asked. Martel said he would be happy with any of the four and didn’t offer a nomination.
General Manager Darlene Gillum suggested the board bring Graf and Clark back to the mic to talk more about their candidacy. As this was going on, the two candidates were conferring in the audience, and they arrived at the mic with a compromise that seemed to offer the board a solution.
“Both of us are very comfortable that we have expertise and both think we can bring value to what’s going on,” Graf told the board. “Certainly, if I don’t get the position this time, I can make the commitment right now – I’m running in the next election. Les said (the same thing) in his presentation. So, either way this gets decided, you’re not losing either of us.”
Clark agreed, echoing Graf’s suggestion that the person not chosen become involved in CSD activities as a volunteer.
“We’re going to be here for the community,” Clark said. “You won’t hurt either of our feelings,” Graf said.
The second round of voting:
Pasek nominated Clark. There was no second.
Pasek nominated Graf. Pecotich seconded it. The board elected him unanimously.
Graf was sworn in, and the audience of about three dozen applauded.
Village residents protest possible loss of bar codes
A couple of dozen residents of Murieta Village were on hand to object to the possibility that a new gate policy being developed by the Rancho Murieta Association and the CSD could mean they'll no longer get bar codes to enable quick access through the gates.
Jon Nickles said he moved to the Village a decade ago. “Part of the reason I bought,” he said, “was because I understood that buying there – and you buy when you buy in the Village – you’re part owner of this 3,500-acre community. You’re not renting a lot. I’m not sure everybody understands that in this community....”
Nickles said his Village ownership grants him access to all 3,500 acres of Rancho Murieta, a view that drew murmurs of support in the audience.
“It was the reason a lot of the people in the Village bought,” he said. “...Now we’re being told that we’re going to be disenfranchised from those rights because we’re the Village. We no longer have a right to go visit our lakes that provide our water, or walk in the woods that are part of the 3,500 acres that we are part owner of.”
Before even worrying about a possible lawsuit, Nickles said the people making the decision should think about the possible “bad publicity of having 200 angry old folks with their canes, and their walkers, and their wheelchairs, peacefully protesting in front of the gate, while the television cameras and the newspapers show up and record exactly what’s happening in this wonderful, heartfelt, free-thinking community.”
At last month’s meeting of the Security Ad Hoc Commttee, the committee discussed eliminating bar-code access for non-RMA members, which would include Village residents. The group discussed allowing existing bar-code holders to continue to keep them until the property is sold, though the ad hoc committee’s report says that since that meeting, RMA has discussed applying a sunset to those bar codes even before a property transfer.
Jerry Pasek, board president, tried to make the RMA’s argument gently, saying the issue boils down to ”those who pay for the maintenance of the lakes and the parks and the roads are those who get convenient access to those.” And besides, Pasek said, the RMA’s proposal would only make it less convenient for Village residents to come through the gates; it wouldn’t bar them altogether.
Director Mike Martel joined Pasek’s effort, pointing out the Village has a clubhouse and a pool that are only open to Village residents because they pay the upkeep. It’s the same principle, he said.
Nickles responded, “Are we part owners of this community, or are we not? Do we have a right to visit the lakes and walk in the woods, or do we not?”
“Their argument would be no,” Pasek responded, “because you’re not paying the portion that it costs them to maintain all that stuff.”
Pasek said the final policy decision will be RMA’s. General Manager Darlene Gillum said the RMA board hasn’t seen the policy document available at the CSD meeting. It was put together by the CSD based on what was said at last month’s Security Ad Hoc Committee, which is working on a joint RMA-CSD gate policy.
Village speakers argued they let RMA members use their roads to come to the weekly Bookmobile visit, the seasonal crafts fair and the crab feed.
Developer John Sullivan drew strong applause from the Village crowd when he told the board association members received a 2005 RMA legal opinion that says the community’s CC&Rs grant owners of annexable property access to the streets, common areas and parks of Rancho Murieta.
More work remains on plans for security-camera system
After 18 months, Director Mike Martel and Security Chief Greg Remson delivered the Security Ad Hoc Committee’s report to the board. The committee was asked to figure out how to best use per-lot security fees that will be paid by developers, develop a plan for cameras to expand Security’s reach without expanding its payroll proportionately, and to work through a new North Gate policy with the Rancho Murieta Association.
The committee has had a rough road, including meetings last year that were held without public notice and bringing in hand-picked contractors to bid on the camera deployment, again without public notice. Just last month, at a meeting that was supposed to wrap up the committee’s work, the CSD and development representative John Sullivan had a fundamental disagreement about how to use the one-time fees the developers are providing, which Sullivan said will total $2 million.
General Manager Darlene Gillum said of the report, “There’s still some work, in my opinion, that needs to be done. ... And that is, that the board itself ... needs to make the decision how far does the district go in supplying this camera surveillance plan.”
She said the committee’s interim recommendation, last spring, was smaller than what emerged at last month’s committee meeting, when the committee proposed to look at “a district-wide surveillance camera plan.” That path would require a better definition of public-access areas that would qualify for cameras, Gillum said.
“From there, we have to work further on the use of the security impact fee policy,” she said of the fee charged developers and how and where it should be spent. She called the draft policy being put before the board “a very preliminary-stage draft.”
Jerry Pasek, board president, said a lot of work remains to be done.
Gillum said the first step will be for the board to decide on the scope of the system. Then there can be a bidding process for the project, which she said would have to be built in phases, since the impact fees would come to CSD only as each new home is built.
Board OKs $52,000 for recycled-water plan
The board voted unanimously to spend $52,889 for a plan to implement a recycled-water program, when – and if – there’s enough reclaimed water that it’s available for home uses. The move concluded a board conversation that had stretched over several meetings.
Right now, the Country Club uses all of the community’s reclaimed water to irrigate the golf courses. The club could use, on average, another 100 acre feet of water per year, CSD staff said, so the club pulls raw water from the river to meet its needs.
“It’s not imminent that this thing will be implemented,” said Jerry Pasek, board president, “but we need to know the steps involved so that if and when housing development picks up in significance, we know what we’re going to do and when.”
The contract was awarded to AECOM, a global company that offers professional technical and management support services. About 80 percent of the cost will come from CSD reserves; the rest will come from developer funds.