The Chester Public Utility District’s regular board meeting convened Aug. 20 with one seat left vacant when director Ben Thompson resigned after serving for more than 15 years as a board member.
Currently, the board is composed of Steve Trotter, Steve Voboril, Royce Raker and David Shawles.
The board members acknowledged they were sorry to see Thompson leave after serving such a lengthy time on the board and his committed service to the district.
Anyone interested in applying for the open board seat must be a registered voter in the district.
The position would be open until the Nov. 5 elections, at which time a new director could reapply if no one else on the ballot has been elected to fill the seat.
Personnel Committee update
Chair Steve Trotter said the Personnel Committee has not met in the last month, so he expected the committee to meet again shortly to discuss issues dealing with staff and fire personnel, particularly in filling the Emergency Director/Fire Chief position, currently held by interim Fire Chief Brian Layne.
Financial Committee update Trotter said the district is contemplating where additional funds from the reserve account can be invested to earn interest other than in CDs.
The board members approved the June and July 2019 financials reports.
The July report elicited a couple of minor questions raised by chairman Trotter involving a routine billing charge and monies from water usage from a special meter rental. Cheryl Johnson, clerk to the board, was able to answer questions to his satisfaction.
General Manager’s Report
Chester General Manager Frank Motzkus said he has met with representatives of The Kahlen Group, an engineering firm, and Spatial Wave, a company that digitizes records, on Aug. 7 to kick-off the collection system project that will use grant funds received from the State Water Resources Control Board.
He said the all-day affair included discussions on what the companies intended to do on behalf of the Chester Public Utility District, with the expectation that the completed plans would be ready September 2020.
The Kahlen Group’s task is to create a modeling of the system to find out where the bottlenecks are and where upgrades were needed, he said, and once that is done a report would be written on what capital improvements in the collection system are needed, before submitting it to the SWRCB for its approval.
After those plans had been submitted, Motzkus explained to the board that they would go to the SWRCB again to request a construction grant, potentially valued in the millions of dollars, which could be awarded to the district by late next year with construction expected to begin sometime in 2021.
Cease and desist
Motzkus stated that he has yet to hear back from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding the district’s wastewater discharge permit and Cease and Desist Order (CDO) under which the district must comply.
The CVRWQCB was dissatisfied with the lack of progress with the CDO, resulting in 2 1/2 years into a “new” permit without a plan for compliance.
PACE Engineering is assisting the district in fulfilling the Water Control Board‘s requirements for a properly certified permit.
“From what I understand they are seriously backed up in paperwork, so I don’t know when they’re going to get back to us,” said Motzkus.
Motzkus told the board members that CalPERS has an investment program that will help the district pay for Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEBs) for retired Chester personnel.
“It’s called the California Employer’s Retiree Benefit Trust (CERBT) fund,” he said. “I will be discussing the opportunity with the Finance Committee at a future date.”
Former lead supervisor Clint Tissot with the wastewater/water division had his last day with CPUD on Aug. 9, Motzkus informed the board.
Allan Homme has been promoted to the lead supervisor position and Matt Ackley has been promoted as a full time operator, with plans to enroll them into the necessary certification programs.
“Allan is learning the ropes of the lead supervisor position and is doing very well,” Motzkus assured the directors.
Pay scale change
Motzkus said that on Aug. 9 there was a letter signed by the Engineers Local 39 Union that changed the way the pay scales of the firefighters was calculated.
“While putting the new pay scale into the PERS system it was discovered that the original pay scales were calculated using the wrong figures. As a result, the pay scales were recalculated and they were actually up to $4 per hour less than what the board agreed to.”
Motzkus provided copies of the new pay scales for the board members to review.
Motzkus said he has once again revised and updated the CPUD/CFD organizational chart, which denotes where each staff member and fire personnel were positioned in relation to management and the board.
A motion to approve the new organizational chart was passed by the board members with none opposed.
The Plumas County Special Districts Association(PCSDA) recently scheduled a harassment/ethics training class that included a free lunch and run.
The PCSDA provides an opportunity for special districts to share their concerns with a consolidated voice when the need arises to express special district functions and issues.
Fire Chief’s report
Chester Fire Capt. Chris Dean read the Fire Chief’s report to the directors, stating that all annual maintenance and Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections are complete for all Chester Fire Department equipment.
In addition, the safety Memorandum of Understanding union contract with the firefighters was approved and ratified.
The 2019 Volunteer Fire Assistance grant, a federal 50/50 matching grant administered by CalFire has been approved, Dean said, and awaits a board resolution.
The Chester Fire Department would match the grant in the amount of $9,885.32 for several sets of handheld field radios used during fire fighting.
Until the new CalFire firehouse in Westwood is built, CalFire staff personnel are sharing the Chester Fire Department’s living quarters, which Dean said is working out well.
Dean said the department has received $227,463.42 in invoices in the month of July from CalFire for fire services rendered last year. That leaves approximately $2 million left outstanding.
A combined amount of $1,000 was collected in rental fees from the district’s property at 198 Main St. in Chester and from one other source.
Water tender returned
Capt. Chris Dean noted that water tender no. 32 that had been on loan was returned to CAL OES mainly due to budget constraints.
Emergency Funding Committee
Dean told the board that Fire Chief Brian Layne has requested that an Emergency Services Funding Committee be formed to discuss ways in which the Chester Fire Department could reduce its deficit.
Service calls and ambulance billing for the month of July
There were 65 service calls for the month of July, including four fire calls; 16 EMS calls in Chester and 18 calls outside Chester; 15 inter-facility flight transfers to the airport; two traffic collisions; one false alarm; four outside district overhead support calls; and five calls for public assistance.
The district billed out $108,384.75 for ambulance services and had received just $22,341.42 for the month.
The next regular CPUD monthly meeting will be Tuesday, Sept 17, at 3 p.m., inside the CFD/CPUD conference room, 251 Chester Airport Road in Chester. The office phone number is 258-2171.
Three invited guests attended the CPUD regular meeting Aug. 20, which included a presentation of the prepared final district audit report by Certified Public Accountant Robert Cooper of Dennis Cooper Associates of Rancho Cucamonga; an energy savings presentation by Jay Langner, account executive for Eco Green Solutions in Laguna Niguel; and Terri Hiser-Hayes, president of the Lake Almanor Forest Owners Association, who was seeking board approval to install a sign on district property.
Cooper presented the results of the district audit, noting that no significant discrepancies or deficiencies were found in the district’s financial statements.
“We’re happy to report that we can offer a clean accounting,” he said, after the company’s audit of the funding for the district’s water, sewer, lighting, contract and fire divisions “met all the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) generally accepted accounting principles.
GASB is a private organization that creates accounting standards, Cooper explained to the board.
Board Chair Steve Trotter advanced a motion to accept the results of the 2018-2019 Audit as presented by Cooper, which the board members voted to approve.
Energy savings proposal
Langner of Eco Green Solutions presented an energy savings loan program in partnership with PG&E that would retrofit the current interior and exterior fluorescent lighting in the main facility with energy-efficient LEDs, not including the wastewater plant, which would be a separate consideration.
“Every public entity, municipality, commercial property and homeowner pays into this fund every month as a small portion of their PG&E bills, which is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission,” adding that this money is then set aside to fund these types of programs, Langner explained.
“I came in and did an energy audit of all the lights and put together the numbers; i.e. wattage, hours of use, cost per KWH” and so forth, “and what we do is put together an energy-use report called an Audit.”
This completed audit “is sent to a third party engineering firm that checks all of our calculations and then submits it to PG&E, which goes over the energy audit and approves the use of the funds for the project.”
This agreement is between the customer and PG&E, he noted.
“The program is paid for by the energy savings that are realized every month over the loan period of 8.2 years at zero interest with a fixed payment and no prepayment penalty over the lifetime of the loan,” Langner said.
Eco Green Solutions already submitted the energy audit to PG&E, and the cost of the program and pay-off period had been approved, he said, with funds already set aside for the project.
Payments on the loan would come from the monthly energy bill, so there would be no upfront costs to the district, he said.
“We provide the install and warranty the product for one year, parts and labor, and also honor the manufacturer’s warranty through the life of the payoff period.”
Langner said if the board were to be interested in moving forward, the next step would be to sign the existing five-page All Bill Financing contract with PG&E.
Trotter suggested that he and director Royce Raker form an ad hoc committee to go over the proposal and report their findings at the next board meeting in September, at which time the board could decide whether or not to accept the proposal.
Hiser-Hayes recently submitted a letter to the board requesting that the Lake Almanor Forest Owners Association be given permission to locate their covered bulletin board and association sign on district property at the corner of Watson and Willhoit roads.
A motion to accept the proposed signage was approved by the board in a vote.
Karen Lichti, Chester Fire Department PIO and Firewise Committee member said the paperwork has been signed to create a fuel break behind Martin Ranch, plus PG&E’s subcontractor has started the clearing project along a portion of Fourth Avenue that will follow the transmission lines, removing a lot of the willow trees and brush and creating a 40-foot clearance on each side of the transmission lines.
Lichti again wanted homeowners to be aware that they could contact her regarding the number of hours and dollars spent “hardening” their homes against fire utilizing information provided through the Chester Firewise program.
That information can be shared with the Firewise Committee by printing out a form at: www.chesterpud.org/property-owners-time-and-expense-sheet, and mailed to:
Firewise, Attn: Karen Lichti, P.O. Box 177, Chester, CA. 96020, or hand delivered to the CPUD/CFD main office located at 251 Chester Airport Road in Chester — or by calling Lichti at 258-3456 or emailing her with the necessary data at [email protected]
She said this information can be collected through October 30.