I chatted with Jim Mosher, from the Friends of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, to catch up on the latest SLVWD meeting. This past April, when the Press Banner checked in, the SLVWD was debating whether to move forward with a five percent rate increase, approved before the COVID-19 Emergency. The Friends had proposed keeping the rate increase, to maintain the infrastructure of the water district, but also promoted a new program, for low income rate payers. On May 7th, the SLVWD gathered again (remotely) to further discuss these proposals.
According to Mosher, “while the meeting was quite odd, it went really well… Four out of the five board members expressed support for the LIRA program after a half hour discussion. Only Director Fultz did not take a position.” At the beginning of the discussion, “a few board members proposed to wait for the state to step up and instate a statewide LIRA Program, but Lois Henry [the Vice President], insisted that the state has too much on its plate to step in anytime soon.” The Friends of SLVWD echoed her sentiments and urged the board to follow through with the program separately from the state. Mosher hopes with the current trajectory, “that we can have at least a pilot program by next fall.”
One of the final obstacles, for the passing of the LIRA Program, has been frustratingly out of reach. Mosher explains, “We need the Budget Finance Committee to meet and review the program, but they haven’t met since March. We’ve already lost two months or else this would already be in place. They’re scheduling a meeting for June, but no one has explained why they haven’t met virtually yet, like the Water Board has been.” Until the board can offer more specific relief, they have stopped water cut off due to late payments, “which has been a temporary reprieve, but ultimately a band aid won’t solve the bigger issue.”
The other large discussion at the meeting, as aforementioned, is the upcoming 5% rate increase for 5 years throughout the district, which will help pay for unexpected maintenance and staff pensions. Ultimately, the board voted 3-2 in favor of the rate increase, but the official vote won’t take place until May 21st. Mosher commented on a unique occurrence during the discussion, “10 members of the public called in, and all of them supported the rate increase. That’s the largest and most positive public commentary I’ve heard during a meeting.” Mosher seems assured in the increase’s passing, “We spoke highly in favor of the increase, we’re very pleased on the preemptive vote, and see this as a reflection of the board’s maturation. The Friends have a positive impact and we work well together [with the board]. We’ve lessened conflict that’s been detrimental to the district and rate payers in the past.”
If you’re more curious about the SLVWD’s last meeting, you can read the minutes here: https://sanlorenzocawater.pt7.civic-cms.com/sites/sanlorenzocawater/files/agendas/bod_5.21.20_with_backup.pdf. Don’t be alarmed at its size (200 pages!) when you open it! Here’s your handy guide: last week’s meetings minutes begin on page 130. You can read about the LIRA Program discussion from 132-133, and the rate increase from 133-136.