Garberville Sanitary District Develops Budget for 2017/2018
General Manager’s Report
During the General Manager’s report on page 35 in the agenda packet , Ralph Emerson, said he is still working to finalize the District’s request for Measure Z funds. In May, Emerson had reported the District would receive a $60,000 award from Measure Z for replacing eight fire hydrants that cost $2,300.00 a piece. The request has now been approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and will be made available to GSD by the Measure Z committee.
In his report, Emerson acknowledges the Granny Flat law brought to the District’s attention by ratepayer Charlie Butterworth in May. Emerson writes:
I have been meeting with and communicating with General Managers, Supervisors and County officials throughout Humboldt County and California to pass ordinances, which prohibit accessory dwellings without input from the County, service agencies or towns that are impacted.
All of those I have talked with are equally as concerned, so we will be meeting to develop ordinances to protect from excessive dwelling impacts to a community or infrastructure. Counties have approved accessory dwellings for many years but have always requested input from local service agencies and the planning departments prior to approval but this new policy, bypasses the County and local agencies that will be impacted. There is language within the policy to address what impact accessory dwellings will make on infrastructures, roadways and communities through the permitting process. I will keep you updated on when the next meeting will take place.
On another matter, Emerson told his Board the County “has no intention of filling the hole” near the hospital clinic’s parking lot on Cedar Street. The hole is described as being about 30 ft x 15 ft in size. Emerson says no GSD water or sewer lines are in jeopardy. He says the problem started when paving contractors hired by Humboldt County paved the street while the underlying ground was wet from rains. The Board agreed it should write a letter asking that Public Works address the matter.
Emerson addressed the Board saying the impression that costs for water and sewer services are rising for GSD customers is not accurate. Emerson said he opposes raising rates for people who use less than 500 gallons of water per day.
Emerson’s written report also mentioned the District’s performance during the fire at the Presbyterian Church. The report said,
There was a fire on Friday June 16, on Locust st. at about 3:00am which required large amounts of water through our new hydrant and distribution system. At one point there were 7 fire hoses drafting from our system and we were able to provide sufficient water without depleting tanks or forcing us to increase the amount of water we draft from the river. The Fire Department liked the hydrants we installed because the discharge pipes could be isolated from rest of hydrant. (Verbally he told the Board this allowed multiple hoses to use one hydrant) This was a very good test of what we are able to provide in the event of a fire and I want to thank Dan for showing up early and working with Brian to make sure all water needs were met.
In May GSD moved toward using Jamie Corsetti CPA less for its monthly reports to save money.
On this topic, the Board heard from Special Projects Coordinator, Jenny Short, who works on a consultant basis. Short explained that the financial reports in the packets will now run a month behind so the QuickBooks reports can be completely closed before the Board receives them.
Ratepayer Charlie Butterworth said he feels that public perception of this decision is not good and that “you need outside eyes” to look at the district’s finances on a regular basis. Emerson says the CPA will still give quarterly oversight.
2018 proposed budget
Jenny Short, Special Projects Coordinator, made an extensive presentation on the Year to Date spending through
May April 30, 2017, as part of the budget she is developing for 2017/2018. The budget presentation begins on page 28 at this link.
Short tells the Board the proposed budget is based on an assumption of a return to normal water volume being used and paid for now that the drought has ended in Humboldt County.
The 2018 budget proposal includes:
$135,000 combined total for the District’s loan payments
$342,000 for salary, benefits, insurance and associated costs for 4 full time and two part time employees.
$10,000 for planning the Bear River Crossing for the water supply.
Currently, the water going up to the meadows is piped down to the bottom of the deep Bear Canyon between Garberville and Alderpoint Road and back up again. Logistical challenges exist when the crew needs to work on that line due to extremely steep terrain and no access road.
An overhead cable crossing exists with enough integrity to hold the water line. Last month GM Ralph Emerson said he’s looked at it but prefers to run the water line under the Bear River Canyon Bridge on Redwood Drive and up the Alderpoint Road to the tanks in the Meadows subdivision for ease of access.
$6,500 for a utility dump trailer
$10,000 on telemetry for a tank at the back of the Meadows subdivision on Wallen Road
$15,000 for a flow meter to accurately measure the sewage coming down into the sewage treatment plant. The flow meter intersects the line before it crosses the river at the Blue Star gas company.
Last year, during the budget process the Board approved a plan to replace two fire hydrants each year. Measure Z funds will now cover this expense.
Townsquare’s food truck and public restroom
General Manager Emerson reports he met with representatives from both the Garberville Town Square and the Garberville Public Restroom Working Group (GPRWG) toward the goal of merging the plans of their respective projects into one utility service for the District to serve. Emerson says the Town Square wants to allow a food truck which requires a grease interceptor.
Emerson recommended the Town Square pay for the grease interceptor and to upgrade the sewage line to get to the Pine Street collection line. The Board agreed and decided the restroom must be plumbed into the grease interceptor to catch any trash that might get inappropriately flushed into the toilet.
The Restroom Group has until late 2018 to get a public restroom built at the Town Square site or GPRWG will have to pay new connection fees which are now much higher. The Restroom Working Group paid the old connection fees for water and sewer services that were around $2,200. If they miss their deadline, the group will have to pay the new fees of $8,000 to continue toward building a public restroom.
Base Rates are what this District operates on
The Board heard a request for a reduction in costs for a landowner presented by General Manager Ralph Emerson for the owner of the building on Conger and Locust where Tsunami Surf shop and AsIs Internet are located and in which Sicilito’s was located when it was open. There are also four studio units upstairs. Sicilito’s is now closed and three units upstairs are unoccupied until renovations on the building can be completed.
The owner of the building is paying the bill for a large 1½ inch water line. The total water and sewer bill comes to about $520 a month. The building’s owner has fallen behind on the GSD bill. Emerson proposed the owner pay all the arrears that have accrued and that the District allow the building to operate from a pre-existing ¾ inch line for a base rate comparable to a family home. Emerson acknowledged that “base rates are what this district operates on,” but suggested it would give the owner some savings. The reduced bill would be about $300 a month.
Board member Richard Thompson stood strongly opposed. Thompson said, “Just because their apartments are empty isn’t our fault.”
After much discussion of putting the 1½ inch line on a hiatus fee of $500 dollars a year and collecting the New Service fee for the unused ¾ line, Board Member Thompson still was not willing to agree. Board Members Anderson and Bryant were absent, so the vote was not held.
40 days to the shut-off
The board had a first reading of the water ordinance governing the timeline of water being shut off to customers who fail to pay their bill. The proposed ordinance says that 30 days after a bill is mailed, if it remains unpaid, a 10-day shutoff notice will be hand-delivered to the house or apartment in question. At 40 days after the original bill was mailed, the water service will be shut off if the bill remains unpaid.
$100 to get the water on again
And the board had a second reading of the ordinance regarding water disconnection and re-connection fees in the event water services are shut off due to non-payment.
The district voted to remove the $25 disconnection fee “because it isn’t being collected anyway” according to Emerson. And to increase the re-connection fee from $25 to $100. The re-connection fee must be paid in addition to the outstanding bill.
Commercial cannabis rates to be considered next time
Commercial rates for cannabis will be considered at the next meeting. Emerson says people are approaching the District asking what the rates will be.
The next meeting of the GSD will be Thursday, July 27 at 5:00 pm. The agenda can be found here a few days before the meeting. The public can also request the packet be emailed when it is ready by filling out a form in the office