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Borrego WaterMaster Board: Meeting News


Last updated 8/12/2020 at 11:35am

The July 30 WaterMaster Board Meeting was the first meeting with newly hired attorney Jim Markman in attendance. Directors Shannon Smith, Jim Bennett, Dave Duncan, Alternate Mike Bozick standing in for Mike Seley, and Mark Jorgensen with Alternate Martha Deichler standing in for him for part of the meeting were the voting members present.

The meeting started as a brief public meeting. The Board heard me explain a letter I had written requesting that the Board publicly release the name of the firm they intend to hire for the ED/Tech Consultant position prior to negotiating the contract to hire. Borrego Water District General Manager Geoff Poole also addressed the Board to say that he and I had spoken about an exchange of letters we had made as attachments to the last meeting’s agenda and had come to a mutual understanding that no disparagement had been intended on either side.

Director Duncan said he had wanted an agenda item to discuss what is allowed under the Brown Act in terms of each Director’s ability to relay information about matters discussed in closed session to their constituents. Attorney Jim Markman came into the online meeting at that point. He said there are no personal exceptions in the Brown Act to the right of privacy imposed on meetings held in closed session. If there is a WMB hiring committee, that committee can be brought into the closed session. As had come up in previous sessions, Duncan said he wants to share closed session decisions with the BWD Board in a closed session at BWD, just as other Directors would like to go back to their nominating committees to consult with them. Attorney Markman said that no one can go back to other people to share closed session matters. People can confer, but cannot tell other people what others said in closed session. Nothing comes out of a closed session – you cannot report to those outside the closed meeting. Poole asked how it would be possible to allow consultation. Could an amendment to the Settlement Agreement make it possible? Attorney Markman said it happens all the time that matters are talked about. For instance, the BWD Board could say there are qualities the Board recognizes in a particular individual (applicant) and it is possible this individual will be hired. They can ask for others’ thoughts at the open meeting. But what others thought or said in a closed WMB session cannot be repeated. The BWD Board can also give instruction in open session about which individual they would like to hire.

Martha Deichler requested an item be put on the next agenda about whether Alternate Directors can attend WMB closed sessions. The meeting then went into closed session to discuss which firm to hire for the ED/Tech Consultant position.

When the public meeting reconvened at 5:30 p.m., WMB Attorney Markman announced that there had been a unanimous vote to direct staff and other Board Members to bring back to the next WMB Meeting in two weeks an agreement to hire the Wildermuth Group to be the Executive Director and Technical Consultant for the WMB.

Director Smith then presented a proposal that was unanimously adopted to make sure that meter reading be ready to begin on Sept. 30. Six pumpers have installed electric meters that can be read remotely. The rest of the 45 wells listed in the Settlement Agreement (with multiple wells in some instances owned by the same pumper) will be read manually.

Steps in the proposal included getting entry agreements signed for manual meter reading (the agreements were already approved by over 90% of pumpers when they signed agreement to the Stipulation Documents that can be read on BWD’s web page). The Executive Director once appointed will arrange for meter reading services, convene the Technical Advisory Committee to recommend rules for meter reading and data collection, and bring a proposal back to the WMB regarding such rules.

Director Duncan brought up the requirement for third party certification of meters that is part of the Stipulation Agreement. He said it is important to certify meters initially or very quickly. It was agreed that this will be brought up at the next meeting. Director Bennett said that he’d been working in Borrego on water issues for the last fifteen years and having meters read on all water being pumped is a big milestone. He also said that the WMB does need to look at calibration to make sure the meter readings are accurate. Director Duncan said that he assumes the September 30th starting date in the Meter Reading Proposal does not preclude a beta test before that date.

The next item discussed was water credits that had been issued in the past. BWD sent a letter indicating that there are no outstanding issues to be resolved on these credits. The one issue there had been was a few barrels with about 500 gallons of unknown material near an abandoned well on a small parcel of land. The owner of that parcel hired an appropriate toxic waste disposer to dispose of that material. The requirement in the Stipulated Judgment that restricted covenants be recorded on all fallowed land before the water allocation can be used was brought up and will be reviewed. Three attorneys present agreed that it would be important to make sure this had occurred for any fallowed land that received water credits before the WMB converts those to water allocations.

Lastly, there was a short discussion of the BWD Board letter expressing the expectation that the services of Geoff Poole and Esmeralda Garcia that have helped the WMB until it hired its own staff will no longer be needed past the end of August.

The next WMB Meeting will be held August 13. Those meetings usually begin at 5:30 p.m., but do check the BWD web page to be sure and for the call-in/log-in information: