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RMWD Postpones Public Hearing on Rates

Clerical error causes 10,050 letters to be reissued to water district customers, pushing 45-day deadline to late October.

Ramona Municipal Water District sent out 10,050 letters the first few days in August, notifying customers of the board’s intent to raise rates for sewer services and untreated water, with a public hearing set for Sept. 13.

A clerical error by the district’s legal counsel left out the time of the public hearing. General Manager Ralph McIntosh told the board of directors at its Aug. 23 meeting about the omission. Due to a 45-day waiting time between customer notification and the actual public hearing taking place, a new date of Oct. 25 has been set. It will be held during a regularly scheduled board meeting, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Once the proposed rate increases are approved by the board, they will go into effect Nov. 1, instead of the previously reported Oct. 1, McIntosh said.

The law firm of Best, Best & Krieger, which is represented by District Counsel Sophie Akins, will cover all costs of reissuing the letters, McIntosh said. The notification letters were expected to be mailed by Aug. 26.

The letters are in accordance with state Proposition 218, which was passed by the voters in 1996. It deals with compliance requirements for proposed increases in water and sewer rates.

McIntosh also announced the district’s Poway Pump Station will be temporarily turned off at 12-hour intervals between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1. San Diego Gas & Electric requires the shut-down while power poles in the vicinity of the pump station are replaced, taking out the old wooden poles and installing new steel poles.

“They (SDG&E) found an area they have to continue to work on to complete the project,” McIntosh said.

The general manager was informed by SDG&E representatives last week that the power at the pump station needed to be turned off the following day and stay off for 12 consecutive days. McIntosh did not agree.

“I told them that would not occur,” McIntosh said, adding that he suggested SDG&E wait for the rainy season but that was not acceptable to SDG&E.

A compromise was reached for the power to be off every other day for no more than 12 hours at a time. McIntosh said it is scheduled to start Aug. 26 or 27 and be completed no later than Sept. 1.

“They may be able to get it done in four days, instead of 11 or 12,” the general manager told the board.

The new schedule will allow the district to have enough water pumped through the station to meet the needs of RMWD customers. Overtime costs for district staff will be borne by SDG&E.  

McIntosh said the steel poles will be taller and capable of withstanding higher wind speeds of 85 miles per hour as opposed to 56 miles per hour for the old wooden poles.

In other business, the board heard a report from Assistant General Manager David Barnum on the county’s proposed emergency evacuation route through the Santa Maria sprayfields in Highland Valley.

Barnum, along with an engineer from Dudek & Associates, pointed out the impact of problems that could occur with an evacuation route through the sprayfields.

Once the district plans for the fields are implemented, there will be tiered areas, instead of a level field, which would need to be fenced off so evacuating vehicles would not be driven into the fields.

There are four major points to be considered:

  • SDG&E utility poles in the area of the proposed route would need to be relocated, switching to underground wires.
  • Stephen’s Kangaroo Rat is still present on the sprayfield property, according to a study completed in July by the county and would require relocation to other areas.
  • Loss of effluent disposal land would occur if the proposed route is approved. RMWD currently operates the sprayfields on county property under a lease agreement with the previous property owner.
  • Maintenance of the evacuation route, such as mowing of weeds, would need to be determined in advance to determine which agency would be responsible.

Jim Piva, chairman of Ramona Community Planning Group, and Kristi Mansolf, planning group secretary, suggested to the water board that any action on writing a letter to the county be postponed.

Piva said more meetings should be scheduled with the county and consideration should be given to other routes as well as the one proposed through the sprayfields.

“I think those recommendations would be better if they brought the county in and see what they can do,” Piva said. “When you bring all the people who have to work together to make it happen, they know the answers.”

After a lengthy discussion, however, the board accepted a staff recommendation to draft a letter, with a 4-0 vote. Board president Bryan Wadlington was not in attendance. Vice president Darrell Beck led the meeting.

Once the letter is drafted, it will be presented to the board for final approval before being sent to the county Board of Supervisors. The letter will request the county partner with the water district, and the county should take the lead in negotiations with SDG&E. It will not give approval to the proposed route through the sprayfields.

The next meeting of the RMWD Board of Directors is Sept. 13, beginning at 4:30 p.m., at Ramona Community Center, 434 Aqua Lane.

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