Borrego WaterMaster Board: Meeting News
Last updated 7/16/2020 at 10:31am
The June 25 Watermaster Board (WMB) meeting was short for the public since it was mostly held in closed session. However, it was quite long for those who sit on the Board since interviews were held in closed session for the position of Executive Director/Technical Consultant. Jim Bennett, County Water Resources Manager, took his seat on the Board for the first time, so all five WMB Directors were in attendance.
After the meeting was called to order, and the roll was called, there was a vote to change the agenda, so the meeting went right into closed session, postponing approval of minutes for May 14 and May 28 until it reconvened later that evening.
Once the meeting resumed publicly, the WMB voted to accept some revisions Director Shannon Smith and I each made to the minutes about the discussion on a possible External Communication Policy that he had proposed at the May 14 meeting.
Borrego Water District Attorney Steve Anderson talked about some changes he recommended to the proposed contract from the legal counsel the WMB chose in private session, James Markman and team of Richards, Watson, & Gershom. The changes were that the WMB legal counsel would NOT represent the WMB in the adjudication, as the individual parties to the Stipulated Agreement that will be brought before a judge for affirmation are to be represented each by their own legal counsel. However, if the court issues a preliminary injunction (which would preserve the water agreement that has been negotiated and the WMB itself prior to the court’s final judgement), if there are those not complying with the terms of the negotiated water plan, then Markman would be engaged on that matter.
Since I have previously expressed concern that Mark Jorgensen, the Director representing the Community’s interests, alone among the WMB Directors doesn’t have his own legal counsel, I asked Anderson if Director Jorgensen could ask the WMB legal counsel for advice pertaining to the adjudication process at any point. Anderson said that he could, but since a cost for time would be involved, the WMB would have to approve that expense. Presumably that would apply to any of the WMB Directors, as well.
On BWD General Manager Geoff Poole’s invitation, Director Dave Duncan, Smith, and Jorgensen commented on the closed session discussion that had resulted in the choice of Markman and the water law team at Richards, Watson & Gerson as the legal counsel for the WMB.
Smith mentioned that the firm’s long tenure on water agencies and matters made it the clear choice. Duncan mentioned that the tone of Markman’s answers to questions made everyone comfortable. Jorgensen mentioned that Markman was the clear frontrunner and that there wasn’t much dialogue about a distant second.
A formal vote was held and the vote was four in favor of approving Richards, Watson and Gershon as legal counsel, with Jim Bennett abstaining since he wasn’t a part of the interview and review process, having just taken his seat on the Board.
Had the public known in advance of the June 25 meeting agenda that Markman was the final choice of the WM Board, I would have asked in person or in writing how he views his responsibility to the residents and business owners of Borrego Springs in light of his position as legal counsel to the WMB, since the public is a party with a great interest in the management of the basin. Perhaps he was asked this question in closed session, perhaps he will address this at an upcoming meeting or perhaps we’ll learn about this over time.
The last item on the agenda had to do with meter reading options. Smith reported that a number of meters will need to be manually read. Respective pumpers have been asked to provide data so that the number of pumps involved is known. He would like to ask BWD to perform this service, supervised by the WMB, and requested that this be put on the agenda for the next meeting.
Duncan asked if this service included certifying meters or only reading them and Director Smith replied that BWD would only be asked to read the meters. A vote was had to issue a Request for Proposal to hear from BWD on the cost involved and for an alternate if needed. Four Directors voted in favor with Duncan, on the advice of Anderson, abstaining from the vote.
The next WMB Meeting is scheduled for July 16, 5:30 p.m., and the WMB agenda says it will be held at the BWD office, but I expect it will be another meeting held on the internet with a phone-in option.
The BWD web page states that meetings are noticed 72 hours in advance, but since they are still not regular meetings, meeting notices and agendas are often posted or updated as little as 24 hours in advance at www.bvgsp.org.