By Judy La Russa
During the May 16, 2017, Shasta County Board of Supervisor monthly meeting, Jones Valley residents belonging to the County Service Area No. 6 rejected a water rate increase through a majority ruling mailed-in ballot that was developed by the Community Advisory Board (CAB) committee. As result, the board requested Director Public Works to give a statement on operations, revenues and expenditures and County Counsel Rubin E. Cruse, Jr. and County Executive Officer Larry Lees to report legal operation alternatives concerning the CSA #6 at next Board meeting.
Link to the complete detailed report (Pages 164-174)
During the June 13, 2017, Board of Supervisors meeting, Public Works Director Pat Minturn gave his report on the CSA # 6 — Jones Valley that provides water service to approximately 500 customers.
The Public Works staff recommends that the Board consider potential revenue enhancements and/or cost attenuation measures by—accessing late charge fees; the prohibition on excessive users; a restriction on new connections/meters; and addressing the lack of CAB members to constitute a legal quorum.
Minturn said that over a third of CSA#6 customers are routinely 30 days late each billing cycle. Hundreds of reminder shutoff notices are sent. CSA #6 incurs over $20,000 in related costs annually. Currently, no late fees or disconnection fees are collected and only a $25 reconnection fee.
The director said that each gallon of water delivered to customers costs more than the incremental revenue received. Consequently, the more water that the customers use, the more insolvent CSA #6 becomes and thus be wise to limit excess use. The median water bill is approximately 116 gallons per day and propose to limit maximum use to 225 gallons per day. It is reported that there are some that are using over 100,000 gallons monthly.
Minturn asked the Board to address the problematic Community Advisory Board lack of members to present a quorum. Each CAB has seven seats and a quorum of four is required to convene a meeting. The CAB began 2017 with five members and two vacancies. One CAB member has since resigned and another has moved away. As a result, the CAB may be inactive for the duration of the year.
During the public comment period, three gentlemen addressed the Board.
Peter Scales said the presentation from the Public Works Director was all “smoking mirrors,” and said Minturn does not know how to handle a water system. Scales said he is deceitful and compared him with Hilary Clinton.
Steve Boyd, who called Mr. Minturn a liar earlier during the meeting, said the “pay rate is a disgusting problem and he is not presenting the facts and the CSA #6 is not upside-down.”
Roy Vincent, Chairman of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) told the Board that he has been looking into another water agency like Mt. Gate and Bella Vista Water for annexing the CSA#6. (Minturn informed the Board that Bella Vista Water General Manager David Coxey said they are not interested at all.) Bella Vista Supervisor Baugh reminded Vincent that he cannot represent the CSA because they do not have a legitimate CAB for a quorum and can only work as an individual. Vincent expressed he is happy to represent, “I have the time and would like to see a resolution.” Vincent said he would like to see the CAB downsize and has been asking the Board for a year. Supervisor Rickert said she was willing to meet up with Vincent to talk about solutions and to include Pat Minturn. Vincent said he would like to meet with Rickert and Minturn next week.
Concluding comments from the Board
Supervisor Baugh listed the items to be addressed at next meeting for voting conclusions. He also expresses concern about lack of representation from the Jones Valley community and comments that it is just the same few voices being heard during Board meetings. He adds, “The buck stops here. This CSA has to operate in a financial sound matter.”
Supervisor Moty said he would like to see another shot be given at a letter sent out to CSA #6 residents that the first one was sent by the CAB committee was one-sided. “If I read that, I may have voted no too.” Moty said he cannot understand the complaints that their rates are still lower than most agencies. He also said he would like to see the county reach out to any other water agency with a formal response and would like Mr. Vincent to make contributions. Moty said he would like at a later date to see large water users being charged a tiered rate.
Supervisor Rickert reiterated the need for penalty fees, restriction for excessive users, and a new letter to be sent to the Jones Valley residents. Rickert shares about the Fall River Community Service District (CSD) and how they are tricky to run. “A CSD needs a viable board and needs to run like a business.”
Supervisor Morgan expressed his dismay of why there are not more participation from the Jones Valley community. He shares how he attended one of the Jones Valley CAB meetings and it was chaotic. Morgan also reiterated the need for penalty fees and usage regulation to 225 gallons per day. He also mentions that there should be no more new meters till things get straightened out. Morgan said, “A rate increase is in need one way or another.”
The Board unanimously voted to keep the Community Advisory Board to seven seats.
Decisions from the Board as follows to be discussed and voted on at next board meeting. 1) to access late charges; 2) limit to 225 gallons per day to prevent excess users; 3) to include shut off penalty fee; 4) revisit another letter mailed to customers on new rate proposal; and 5) set forth the path for annexation from other water agencies.