With its back financially against the wall due to a failed ballot measure, and suffering from a lack of trust from members of the community due to past litigation, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District turned to property owners and asked them for their input on what direction to take Tuesday evening in Lodi.
"Due to the abysmal failure of Measure C," said district president Tom Hoffman, "we are looking to you for ideas and solutions."
Measure C was defeated 2-to-1 by voters in June. If passed, Measure C could have enabled the district to enact a fee to help it recharge the area's groundwater basin.
Ideas such as selling water to raise money, more transparency from the board, frequent evening meetings, forming alliances with other local districts and the possibility of fees in the future were discussed during the two-hour meeting.
"We need to re-visit Measure C and give the board the opportunity to generate money," said Rob Houge, who serves as a volunteer on an advisory committee for the district.
It costs money to build pipes and maintain them, Houge said, and the district could have several hundreds of thousands of dollars for infrastructure if it wasn't spent on lawsuits.
Houge was referring a 2007 lawsuit in which the district sued ratepayers to impose a fee, as well as lawsuits filed against the district from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Martin Church was one speaker who chastised the district's ideas, specifically Measure C.
"Raising taxes is not the answer," he said.
The district needs a change in management, Church said. He compared the board to a train engineer who operated the vehicle into a ditch and then wants to be given the opportunity to pull it out.
"You can't trust the people who got you in the mess to get you out of it," he said.
Since district meetings regularly take on a cantankerous tone between fellow board members and members of the audience, a moderator presided over the town hall.
John Herrick, a lawyer with the South Delta Water Agency who was raised in Lodi and attended Lodi High School, was chosen by the district to officiate over the discussion.
"He has an interest in what happens here," said district manager Ed Steffani.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Herrick urged the crowd to build off of the evening's discussion. He suggested they continue to attend meetings and bring their concerns either to the district's committee or to the board itself.
"Don't let this be the end," Herrick said. "Let it be the beginning."
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.
Weighing in on water
|Toni Miller||Cecil Kramer||Alan MacIsaac||Sally Morehead|
|“Measure C was the solution. It was a small fee from all. Since that failed, I suggest we could raise the sales tax to share the costs and benefits within the city or district. Finally, I would like to tax or fine those who have access to surface water and don’t use it when it is available.”||“The district spent what little money it did have on an election. It wanted to force its thinking on us. I have no problem with charging farmers who will benefit from certain programs, but I get nothing back. If my well runs dry, they won’t help me fix it. If you don’t get something back, you shouldn’t have to pay.”||“If we are not diligent, our water right will be taken away. There are plenty of entities out there that would love to have this water. We need to be negotiating with other agencies to sell water on a temporary basis. We need to raise capital.”||“I don't know what the solution is. Only God and Mother Nature can supply water. I don't have a solution. You (the district) were the ones who were supposed to give us solutions.”|