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Woodbridge Sanitary District’s departing members put trust in newly elected successors

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Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:08 am | Updated: 7:02 am, Thu Nov 15, 2012.

Harold Rohrbach and Willie Nelson deferred several items on Wednesday’s Woodbridge Sanitary District board agenda to their successors, who will take over sewer district operations in December.

Rohrbach, 85, who has served on the low-profile board since 1999, and Nelson, 64, an appointed incumbent since January, were defeated in last week’s election by Mary Avanti and Charles Stocker.

Stocker, 79, and Avanti, 65, are outspoken critics of district operations and hope to make some changes on the five-member board of directors. They were in the audience for Wednesday’s board meeting, the last for Rohrbach and Nelson. It turned out to be a quiet 90-minute meeting.

Board President Doug Colucci, Vice President Richard Best and board member Glenda Wall have two years remaining on their terms.

Stocker and Avanti ran for the board on a platform accusing the current board of wasteful spending and a lack of accounting and oversight. They brought their concerns to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury in 2010.

The Grand Jury found several improprieties, but Rohrbach and other board members maintain that they made several improvements to district operations.

The 2011-12 Grand Jury praised district officials for making significant progress. Jurors reported that the Woodbridge district has reduced the number of missing tools to a minimum, established a policy to report to the state any sewage spills, began plans to adopt a capital improvement plan, adopted an employee training manual and made complaint forms available to the public.

“Everything’s working good right now,” Best said. “We did everything the Grand Jury asked.”

The district was formed on May 11, 1949 and covers 531 acres in Woodbridge.

Rohrbach, who will step down after 13 years on the board, takes his defeat philosophically. He will still be busy as a member of the Lodi Grape Festival board of directors and with memberships in the Lodi Eagles, Lodi Moose Lodge, Woodbridge Masonic Lodge, the Ben Ali Shrine, Stockton Scottish Rite Masonic Center and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lodi.

The current board, including the two departing directors, decided to defer four decisions to the new board. They include:

  • Whether to install rip rap, a protective rock, to prevent erosion around three sewer ponds. District engineer Neal Colwell was directed to return the proposal to the board if he found it would cost more than $85,000.
  • Whether to purchase a jetter for $30,000. It is designed to provide high-pressure heat to break up grease in the sewer system. Colwell said the jetter would last about five years before significant maintenance would be needed.
  • Updating an ordinance outlining the purpose and authority of the sanitary district.
  • Whether to give employees medical coverage and other benefits.

In action the board actually took, directors voted unanimously to destroy records that isn’t required by state law to retain. They include entity fund reports from 1968 through 1997, sewage flow estimates from 1958, a phone message book from 1997 to 2002, California Special Districts Association records from 1957 to 1963, makeup of the district board from 1967, governing code vacancies dating back to 1965 and board agenda packets from 2005 through 2010.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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