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CPUD board welcomes new member

Chester Public Utility District General Manager Frank Motzkus swears in new board member Steve Graffweg at the CPUD’s regular meeting Jan. 21. Photo by Karen Lichti

The first order of business at the regular meeting of the Chester Public Utility District on Jan. 21 was the swearing in of newly appointed board member Steve Graffweg. Graffweg is a local business owner and has been a resident of Chester for many years.

Director Joe Waterman facilitated the meeting, which included a personnel committee update by board member Steve Voboril, who welcomed Graffweg to the board and noted that he would have the opportunity to enroll in a workshop sometime in February to help familiarize him with the workings of the board and its procedures.

Election of 2020 committee members

Board members Voboril and Steve Trotter were elected to the standing committee, and Waterman and Voboril were elected as members of the finance committee.

Two or three board members are usually assigned to each committee to address specific issues as they relate to ongoing matters superseding regular district business.

The board members voted to approve the appointments.


After the approval of the Dec. 17 regular meeting minutes and the Dec. 20 special meeting minutes, which included dissolving the ad hoc committee formed to resolve two recent customer disputes, the board turned its attention to the revised November and December financials reports.

Waterman raised some questions regarding a slew of employee checks, which Cheryl Johnson, clerk to the board, said were reimbursements toward uniform allowances.

A line item identified in the last regular meeting in December regarding exorbitant expenses for postage was cleared as a clerical error.

Other charges for payments to vendors, the cost for some needed materials used in the wastewater plant and a special use permit charged by the Forest Service were briefly discussed and settled.

Director Royce Raker noted there was currently no overtime budgeted for fire personnel or for paramedics, which the board would address at a future meeting.

Waterman noticed in accounts receivables that employees finally received some back pay, but Johnson noted only for 2018, with outstanding amounts still owed by the USFS and other agencies for 2019.

The board voted to approve a motion to accept the financials report with revisions.

General manager’s report

Chester District General Manager Frank Motzkus opened his report by welcoming new hire Steve Altenberg to the position of operator on the operations staff in the wastewater division, adding that Altenberg passed his background check and started work Jan. 13.

SWRCB grant

Motzkus informed the board that the district has received the fifth grant from the State Water Resources Control Board in the amount of $3,279 and included a copy of the grant request to members of the board to review.

A sixth grant request of $3,122 has been forwarded to SWRCB, he added, which he said the district should be in receipt of once it is approved.

The various payments go to The Kahlen Group headquartered in the city of Corona in Southern California toward the planning phase for a major future upgrade in the wastewater collection system.

Pump replacement

Commercial Pump & Mechanical has removed Well Pump #2 for repairs at the company’s shop in Chico, said Motzkus. They would inspect the pump over the next couple of weeks.

He said that while pulling the pump out of service it was discovered that the shaft that drives the pump was twisted. This means that something got into the pump mechanism and it froze, or the shaft itself was weak and had simply failed after over 30 years of service.

The outlay to the district to repair the device was estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $60,000 or more based on prior well pump repairs, noted Motzkus.

New office computers

General Manager Motzkus stated that new office computers are being installed. He said the installation of modern computers takes a lot of coordination with software companies to get the new machines running correctly, adding that he expected the workstations would be fully operational by the end of January or early February.

PCSDA new officers elected

The Plumas County Special Districts Association (PCSDA) executive board met Jan. 9 and elected new officers for 2020. These include Steve Allen, president; Mimi Garner, vice president; and Frank Motzkus, treasurer. Motzkus noted there remained one vacant seat on the PCSDA board that needed to be filled.

The PCSDA provides an opportunity for special districts to share their experiences with a consolidated voice when the need arises to express district concerns.

CSDA representative

The California Special Districts Association (CSDA) has assigned Chris Norden as the organization’s new Northern California representative, replacing Dane Wadle who has been reassigned to another region.

Motzkus stated that he planned to get together with Norden at the Feb. 19 PCSDA meeting so both men could get to know each other better and to obtain information useful to the district.

District audit

The district’s auditor, Robert Dennis CPA, will be gathering information at the end of the month for the FY 18/19 audit.

Fire chief’s report

Interim Fire Chief Brian Layne informed the board that CalFire may store one of its fire engines at Chester Fire Department for the duration of the winter, and would therefore extend the contract until they are able to occupy the new station under construction in Westwood.

Fleet reduction

Chief Layne said the department is looking at the possibility of a fire department fleet reduction, based on Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings.

ISO assigns ratings to fire departments and emergency vehicles using a rating scale, with 1 as the best possible rating, while a 10 means the fire department and/or the condition of its fire fighting fleet did not meet the ISO’s minimum requirements.

Layne said that one of the utility vehicles at the station house and one fire engine may be expendable that do not meet the minimal ISO ratings, while adding that the department would likely extend its contract with the Federal Excess Personal Property program to purchase superior, though used vehicles for the department that do meet ISO requirements for operational quality.

Training class

Interim Chief Layne said he is starting to put together a “confined space” class for both fire department personnel and employees of CPUD.

This special training class provides updated safety procedures in situations where firefighters fight fires in confined spaces like those often found in structural fires such as hallways or attics, as well as during rescue operations.

New fire codes

“We are looking to adopt the 2019 California Fire Code Title 24 Part 9 in its entirety,” said Layne. This is to be sure there are no code conflicts with previous requirements.

Fire department funding issues

Interim Chief Layne and director Waterman have continued to work together mapping out ways to close the fire department’s budget deficit, including possibly placing a ballot initiative asking voters to approve a supplemental parcel rate assessment.

Other options under consideration include a cost analysis that could include fleet reductions that incur maintenance costs, staff reductions, a public safety tax placed on motel/hotel bills charged to tourists, higher fee requests from the Ground Emergency Medical Transportation Supplemental Reimbursement Program that partially defrays the cost of ambulance services that Medi-Cal doesn’t pay, and the formation of a joint powers agreement with other ambulance districts.

Invoice updates

Despite the ongoing disagreement on fire fighting reimbursements due to CFD by the Forest Service on work performed during previous fire seasons — with approximately $1 million dollars in payments still outstanding — the department has received an additional $37,411.12 in fire money owed to it.

Interim Chief Layne said he put in a request to CAL OES for legal help to assist with past reimbursements regarding the USFS.

Responses and ambulance billings for December

There were 34 service calls for the month of December, including two fire responses and one false alarm; 18 calls for EMS in Chester; two for public assistance; along with eight IFT calls and two long distance inter-facility flight transfers to airports for emergency treatments; and one traffic collision was reported.

The district billed out $65,624.95 for ambulance services in December and received $22,826.22 in payments.

Firewise Committee update

CFD Public Information Office and Firewise Committee member Karen Lichti told the board that the Firewise Committee is hard at work planning for the 2020 season.

Besides advocating yard cleanups and creating defensible space around homes to “harden” dwellings against wildfires, she said this year’s main goal is to urge the public to create emergency “to-go” kits containing essential items that individuals and families can immediately carry with them during evacuations.

Lichti said the committee plans to put together such kits containing just a few items that they will sell at the Holiday Market in Chester on May 2, along with handing out a list of additional contents to add to it; not to make money as much as to educate the general public on the importance of being prepared ahead of time in case of a conflagration or other emergency situation requiring a quick retreat. Such to-go kits can save lives she noted.

The goal is to have packed as many necessary items as possible to support a person(s) needs through the first few days of an emergency.

More information on the Firewise program can be found on the district’s website www.Chesterpud.org.

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