An embattled local water district needs to start looking for a new director, as well as additional sources of revenue such as a groundwater assessment, district board members said at a meeting Tuesday morning in Lodi.
Ed Steffani, manager of the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District since 1999, presented a letter to the board announcing his plans to resign from the district in the coming months. However, Steffani said he would stay with the district until a suitable candidate is found.
"I will not bail on you," Steffani said.
While the district won't officially begin the search for Steffani's replacement until after the November election, the board will begin to draft a job description for the new manager.
Besides serving as manager, Steffani also conducts engineer's reports for possible district projects, a service that could cost from $30,000 to $50,000 if the district were to independently contract the work to an engineer.
Steffani said he wasn't stepping down because of conflicts with anyone on the board.
"I'll be 78 in a few months," he said. "I'm ready to not be working anymore."
Seeking additional funding
At the meeting, the board members also discussed possible ways to generate additional revenue for the district. The district is still waiting on an appellate court decision regarding the collection of two year's worth of payments from users. If the appellate court rules the district was correct in asking for the fees, Steffani said one last round of collection letters would be sent before taking the people to small claims court.
Karna Harrigfeld, legal counsel for the district, said the decision from the court should be coming in the near future.
"I thought they would have had a decision by now," she said.
The district also received its budget report at the meeting.
Although it has roughly $215,000 in available funds, Steffani said the district isn't spending money unless it has to.
The only expenditures for the district right now are salaries, PG&E bills and maintenance costs, he said.
Board approves motion to seek assessment
In an effort to generate more revenue, the district voted 4-to-1 to approve a process to begin work on collecting an assessment for groundwater recharge.
The board will put a report together to figure out what the potential charges would be for each property, Steffani said.
The vote would then be conducted through weighted ballots, meaning property owners who used more water would get more votes.
In order for the adopted charges to be in place for the county's tax bill for 2011-2012, Steffani said the district would like to have a motion in place by late spring.
The possibility of grants was also discussed. The district announced it was unsuccessful in its attempt to secure a grant for the Tracey Lake project. There are currently applications out to rehabilitate the first mile of the district's north and south distribution systems.
For the south system, the district is working with Alliance for $750,000 from the Farmington Recharge fund. If approved, the district would have to provide $250,000 in funding.
The board is also working with the Groundwater Banking Authority for a $750,000 grant from Proposition 84 for the first mile of the north system. If the grant were approved, the district would need to provide $250,000 in funding for that project as well.
However, obtaining the grants is easier said than done, Steffani said.
"Our biggest problem is the local match for grant programs," he said. "Without the groundwater charge, it's virtually impossible for the district to qualify for grants."
Following up with grand jury suggestion
The follow-up to the grand jury's report was also briefly discussed Tuesday.
As part of a series of recommendations from a Grand Jury, the district needs to continue working on its policy manual. Directors Bryan Pilkington and Mark Beck were chosen to outline a manual, but work has yet to start.
Pilkington said he wanted to wait until after the election to start work on a policy manual since there may be turnover on the board, but board president Tom Hoffman said he wants some groundwork in place by the first week of October.
A policy manual would outline director job descriptions and responsibilities.
A call for action
During the meeting, Pilkington was urged by Steffani to have more concrete ideas in place for moving the district forward in the aftermath of Measure C's defeat. Measure C was a controversial ballot measure that would have enabled the district to impose a fee to build infrastructure and help recharge the area's groundwater basin. It was defeated by more than 60 percent of the voters in June.
"I'd like to hear a plan," said Steffani. "It is time for you to speak."
Pilkington said he has talked with Dante Nomellini of the Groundwater Banking Authority and plans on releasing a written plan to the board in December.
Steffani said Pilkington's plan should be announced before the November election so voters know what they are buying into.
When Steffani asked for specifics into the plan, Pilkington declined to comment.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.