By Jason KUROSU
Beginning July 1, the Crescenta Valley Water District raised water rates at an estimated cost of $4.57 per household, citing infrastructural and maintenance-related necessities. As expected, there was backlash from CVWD customers, who have regularly lamented rising water rates.
At the July 9 CVWD board meeting, the board discussed some of the district’s latest projects and expenses, starting with slurry seal paving on the 3100 block of Santa Carlotta Street. The paving will come at a cost of $9,641, with some of that money coming from the residents of Santa Carlotta Street, at approximately $250 per household.
CVWD engineer David Gould said that CVWD sent letters to the residents on Santa Carlotta Street but that they have not received a response back. The water district will begin construction, tentatively scheduled for sometime in August, only after they receive payment from the residents.
“If none of the payments are received, then we have the right to cancel the contract for the project,” Gould said.
The second project is the construction of a new chlorination station and metering vaults. The engineer’s estimate for this project is $505,000. According to Gould, the cost of the project is higher than originally planned, due to prices for the electrical system components going up since the original estimate was made, among other factors.
The third item was the hiring of new staff members to fill vacancies within the district due to employees retiring or moving out of state. The positions CVWD hopes to fill include maintenance and utility workers, an IT assistant and a customer service clerk.
CVWD general manager Dennis Erdman pushed especially to have the maintenance and utility positions filled.
“It’s my desire to see this crew used more in the area of long term reconstruction of our system rather than just doing band-aid style repairs,” said Erdman. “We have that capability. We have the right equipment and knowledgeable workers. We need to backfill those workers from time to time.”
Though most of the board seemed amenable to the proposed hirings, board member Kerry Erickson said, “We have an opportunity to tighten our belts a little bit without affecting anyone directly. We’re not laying anybody off or what have you. I think we ought to capitalize on that.”
Erickson suggested finding different ways of providing efficient service without increasing costs.
Board member Judy Tejeda echoed Erickson, saying that the district should find a “middle ground” between spending and efficiency.
“We just got done going through this when we were going through the rate increases. I want to know how we can have good practices and safety and good service without having it be as full bore as it has been.”
CVWD Treasurer Ron Mitchell said that certain programs have not progressed as planned because the district lacks the necessary personnel. In regards to the hiring of a customer service clerk, Mitchell said, “This would be the only position wholly dedicated to customer service. Every other position we have has had to be dual function.
“We feel that these positions are necessary and they need to be filled at this point to continue operating the system, making it reliable and keeping the level of customer service and reliability to customers where we expect it to be. We pride ourselves in our customer service.”
The IT and customer service positions would be part-time positions, which would ostensibly yield some cost reduction.
All three actions items were approved by the board, though Erickson and Tejeda voted against filling the customer service position.
Other expenses included the purchase of water from the Foothill Municipal Water District.
“Rainwater is down,” said Gould. “What can we do about it? Nothing much more than a rain dance. As the summer goes on, we’re going to be buying more Foothill water.”
Another project will be the replacement of pipelines throughout the district. The project was scheduled for discussion at the next CVWD board meeting, which will take place on Aug. 13.