June 30, 2011
Colbert Super Pac Approved
Today, in Washington D.C., we scored an important victory in our ongoing fight to remain victorious. The Federal Election Commission ruled that we can form Colbert Super PAC - which means I can take unlimited money from people and unions and corporations and use it to influence the upcoming elections. All of us have worked long and hard to get here. Well, mostly I worked long and hard. I’m really not sure what you did, but, if you did something, thanks.
Sadly, now is not the time for celebration. Due to a technicality called “the law”, your email addresses cannot yet be used for Colbert Super PAC, since Colbert Super PAC did not exist when you gave them to me. So, Nation, go to my new site, ColbertSuperPAC.com, and sign up again. If you do, you will receive a handsome, suitable-for-framing thank you email.
And while you’re there, why not donate to Colbert Super PAC? That way, you can ensure your voice is heard, if by “voice” you mean “money” and by “heard” you mean “deposited.” Because that’s what I mean. So click the big red button below and sign up now! Together, we’ll be “Making A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” today.
Yours in freedom,
The Colbert Report
[In lieu of a big red button]
Pit Bull Shot & Killed
In Bermuda Dunes...
Press Release: Man Shoots Dog
Station Area: Indio
Incident Date: 6/30/11 Time: 5:28 PM
Incident Location: 40,000 block of Starlight Lane, Bermuda Dunes
Reporting Officer: Lieutenant Terrence Tingle #1200
Deputies went to a report of a shot dog in a residential yard in the unincorporated community of Bermuda Dunes. The officers found a dead pit bull and an injured kitten.
According to deputies who went to the scene, the pit bull, possibly from a neighboring home, went into the yard carrying the kitten. The homeowner, concerned about his four grandchildren (ages one through nine) who were on-property, threw items at the pit bull who temporarily retreated, but returned. The homeowner retrieved his shotgun and fired once at the pit bull as the dog charged the homeowner. This shot apparently killed the dog. Based on our investigation to this point, we believe the homeowner committed no crime. A Riverside County Animal Control officer came to the scene to deal with the injured kitten and the dead dog.
That High Speed Chase From Cabazon
The Sheriff's Department press release has more information than is showing up in the Desert Sun this morning.
Press Release: Hit & Run - Stolen Vehicle Pursuit, and Subsequent Arrest
Station Area: Cabazon
Incident Date: June 29, 2011 Time: 5:40 P.M.
Incident Location: Main Street at Apache Trail, Cabazon
Reporting Officer: Sergeant Anthony Williams
On June 29, 2011, at 5:40 P.M., a deputy assigned to the Cabazon Station attempted to stop a white 2001 Chevrolet Camaro after monitoring radio traffic from the California Highway Patrol, describing a similar vehicle having been involved in a "hit & run" accident on Interstate 10, near Apache Trail, Cabazon. The deputy observed the vehicle exit the Interstate onto Apache Trail and travel the wrong way on the round-a-bout. When the deputy activated his overhead lights on Main Street at Apache Trail, the driver and lone occupant of the Camaro failed to yield to the deputy, and a pursuit of the suspected intoxicated driver was initiated.
The driver fled east on Main Street at a high rate of speed and entered the eastbound Interstate 10 freeway at the Main Street on-ramp, where he continued east at a high rate of speed. The Camaro exited northbound onto Highway 62 from Interstate 10, where the front right tire on the Camaro blew and the vehicle came to a stop at Highway 62 and Dillon Road in the unincorporated county area of Desert Hot Springs. The driver was taken into custody without incident. Through subsequent investigation, the vehicle was determined to be an unreported stolen vehicle from the city of Desert Hot Springs.
The driver of the stolen Camaro, identified as Michael Martin, age 21, of Joshua Tree, Ca., was subsequently transported and booked at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility on felony charges related to vehicle theft, possession of the stolen vehicle, reckless evading of a peace officer, and misdemeanor charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. Officers assigned to the San Gorgonio office of the California Highway Patrol are continuing to investigate the reported hit & run accident.
June 29, 2011
DHS City Council - June 21
When it came time to approve the minutes for two previous city council meetings Councilmember Pye asked staff to investigate whether having both written minutes and a video of the council meeting redundant. And is it the best use of staff time. Mayor Pro Tem Betts said the written minutes serve as an index to the video. Councilmember Baker said that some of the public records requests received by the city could be handled by referring the requestor to an online video.
Golden Bear Awards
Dennis Cheshire, a representative from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, came up to present Golden Bear Awards which are given to police who make at least five identifications from latent fingerprints. Desert Hot Springs Police have identified more criminals through latent fingerprints than any other police department in Riverside County. Awards were given to Jason Hunter (5 identifications), Sergeant Eddie Cole (5 identifications), Mike Chilner (7 identifications), Rene Olague (5 identifications), Tom Pittinger (9 identifications), and Terry Sherman (7 hits in 2010 - sixth consecutive year receiving a Golden Bear).
Dr. Anne Kalesik, principal at DHS High School presented recognition to Detective Raul Sandoval who was the school resource officer at the high school. (Rene Olague is the new one). Detective Sandoval had been the school resource officer for a couple of years.
Dot Reed announced that she has a friend, Charlie Henkel, who can and will repair electric fans. He then donates the repaired fans to the Senior Center where they can be distributed to those who need them. If you have a fan to donate you can call him at 760-671-5551.
Mike Platt said Little League All-Star baseball is coming up. There will be tournaments for 9 and 10-year olds from seven different cities and for 12-year olds from four cities in the desert. Games will be Wardman Field. July 2: 9 AM, 12 noon, 4 PM, 7 PM. Same times on July 3. July 5: 7 PM. July 9: 9 AM, 12 noon, 4 PM, 7 PM. Same for July 10. He asked everyone to come up and support the teams. The Little League fireworks booth is at Rite Aid.
Updated Local Mitigation Fee
This was the very same presentation made by Jim Sullivan at the study session on June 13, but now the TV cameras were on so you can see the presentation on the video when it becomes available.
Richard Webber commented that he understood CVAG was responsible for grading the shoulder of Pierson between Indian and Little Morongo and he wanted to express his appreciation for that. Also Auto Zone was involved in a CVAG oil filter and oil recycle program.
iHub Advisory Board Appointment
Mayor Parks nominated herself and Councilmember Pye as her alternate. Approved 5-0.
Public Safety Commission Appointment
Marilyn Heidrick rose to speak. She said that there were five commission applications and they included a requirement that the applicant be "a registered voter in Desert Hot Springs." She suggested it should say "City of Desert Hot Springs," since two of the five applicants are not residents of the city. But if you live in Mission Lakes your mailing address is Desert Hot Springs.
Mayor Parks said that they had noticed that Erin Begley lives in Mission Lakes, so she was not qualified. Wayne Clemons uses a post office box in North Palm Springs as his mailing address, but he lives in the city - Skyborne, to be more specific.
Mayor Parks appointed Kelly Brady, who has been serving as Alternate Commissioner on the Public Safety Commission. Approved 5-0.
Councilmember Matas nominated Wayne Clemons to fill the now-vacant Alternate Commissioner seat. Mr. Clemons is a COP and Councilmember Pye asked the attorney if there was a perceived conflict of interest there. Attorney Duran said there is no conflict because the Public Safety Commission is an advisory board which makes no decisions on the spending of money. Approved 5-0.
Fire Ad Hoc Committee Appointment
Only one person requested the appointment, David Hoopes. Councilmember Baker asked if the committee required a specific ratio of members. Mr. Matas said that the agreement was three from Public Safety and two from the City Council. Mr. Hoopes is a Public Safety Commissioner and is replacing Tim Young who was a Public Safety Commissioner.
General Municipal Election - November 8, 2011
The standard resolution to make the election happen. Plus this time there is a resolution establishing a fee that candidates will pay for the candidate's statement in the voter's pamphlet. That is optional and there is no filing fee to pull papers to run for city council. The deposit for the candidate's statement is set at $375, but the actual amount will vary according to the actual number of candidates.
Awarding Contract For Health & Wellness Center
Rudy Acosta led this discussion. The bids:
- Doug Wall Construction - $8,017,111
- Sun Group - $8,100,000
- Davis Reed Construction - $8,299,950
- PW Construction - $8,443,000
- Robert Clapper Construction - $8,876,000
Initially, there were ten bids in February 2011, but there were significant flaws in the bid, so the City Council rejected them and put the project up for re-bid. Five new bids were received in April. Doug Wall was the low bidder both times.
"Total project costs for the Desert Hot Springs Community Health and Wellness Center is $12,302,840, which included Land, Design, Engineering, Site Improvements, Fixtures, Furniture and Equipment, and Administrative costs."
Councilmember Baker pointed out that 26,000 s.f. is more than half an acre and suggested it will probably be the largest building built in the city. He probably meant the largest city-owned building in the city. Target stores, for example, range in size from 95,000 s.f. to 135,000 s.f. He said it was incredible how close the bids are to each other.
Mayor Pro Tem Betts described the community building in Yucca Valley and said it's about time Desert Hot Springs got a building like this. He said the planning work has been done to cover on-going expenses after the building is completed.
City Manager Daniels said the building will be complete within 10 to 12 months. He said the money for this building has come from many sources. Congressman Lewis and Senator Boxer put together $3 million in earmarks for it. The city is using DIF money. Donations have been received from within DHS and from across the Coachella Valley - millions of dollars. The single largest amount of money ($4 million) going into this is coming from the city's redevelopment agency. Without the RDA money, funding for this could have been delayed as much as a decade. There are pending requests with PSUSD, Riverside County, and the Desert Healthcare District. Donations from them may be used to replace RDA funding (which is, I believe, technically a loan).
Doug Wall came to the microphone to be introduced to the city council. Mr. Daniels said that Doug Wall Construction is located in Bermuda Dunes and asked him about local employment. Mr. Wall said he contacted every subcontractor to identify how many DHS residents would be employed. He said a substantial number would be employed.
Approved 5-0 (to applause).
RDA Plan Amendment
This item has been continued and re-continued from May 17. Same recusals, who are Councilmembers Matas and Pye. The public hearing was closed May 17. Responses to all comments have been provided. This agenda item included six different actions which had to be voted on one by one in the order listed. So we had six votes, all 3-0.
Attorney Duran said that Robert Bentley had just submitted written comments to the city clerk at this meeting. Those comments will be placed in the record, but that since the public hearing was closed over a month ago, so no written replies are required for his late submittal.
Approved 5-0 without discussion:
- Authorized a grant application by the police for an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Association Grant for $27,736 which will be used to help pay for police overtime.
- Authorize the City Manager to execute an Administrative Service Agreement with Riverside County regarding the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This simply restates the formalities in using a special assessment ($1.56 per home, a rate unchanged since 1993).
- A resolution establishing a police for presentation of fund balances in accordance with Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). This is to conform with a 2009 change that altered categories and terminology.
- The register of demands.
- The City Treasurer's report of May 31, 2011.
MOU With CPV Energy
CPV Energy who will be building the new gas-fueled peaker power plant has agreed to put their office in the strip mall behind Starbucks, in front of K-Mart. They will do all their purchases from that office, generating up to $3 million in sales tax revenue to the city.
Councilmember Baker reported that the Mosquito and Vector Control District's Red Imported Fire Ant parcel tax has been reduced again.
City Manager Daniels said that the Carl May Center will re-open in a month.
The Senior Center is open from 8 AM to 2 PM, Monday through Friday, as a cooling center for anyone who needs it.
Mr. Daniels brought up the subject of the NSP home where a line item said the cost of replacing carpet was $24,000. He said that $24,000 included many activities: removal of the existing floor and disposal thereof, construction of a new floor, new pad, new carpet, also bonding, insurance and overhead for the project.
Andy Dean had gotten to the meeting a little late, so his public comment came at the end. He had created some confusion by indicating his subject would be "agenda 21," while there were only 13 items on the agenda. You can listen to his comment here:
Finally, Rick Daniels announced that Rudy Acosta would be getting married in Sedona, Arizona, the following week.
DHS City Manager Memo - June 24
As edited by Ron:
- Groundbreaking for the Health & Wellness Center. Construction to begin July 18.
- "Met with [Twentynine Palms Marine] base representatives as to mutual economic development plans." (Huh, I wonder what that's about?)
- "Met to assist the Principal in emerging from the underperforming status of the High School."
- "Working on New Market Tax Credits MOU and Presentation."
- Preparing bond estimates and agreement to guarantee improvements at the Village At Mission Lakes.
- "Received 65% design plans on 5 intersections" as part of Safe Routes To Schools.
- A consultant was chosen for the citywide traffic speed survey.
- Evaluating the draft Pavement Management Study.
- A consultant has been selected to perform preliminary analysis and provide alternatives to resolve flooding problems on 8th Street.
- Offer letters were prepared and will be sent to owners along Sonora Drive for easements.
- An offer letter will be prepared by the attorney for an easement for the traffic signal at Palm and Camino Campañero.
- "Met with MSWD to discuss projects of mutual interest, including CVMSHP, Landscape Guidelines and the possibility of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding projects of mutual benefit."
- The median landscaping at Acoma and Palm is expected to be completed the week of July 4.
- Citations have been issued to the new owners of the former Flamingo Hotel due to blight and lack of landscape maintenance.
CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS
INCIDENT: Hit and Run Collision with Injuries
DATE OF INCIDENT: 06-28-11 DAY: TUESDAY / TIME: (2:44am)
LOCATION: 66621 Mission Lakes Blvd., DHS
DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT:
Tuesday morning at about 0244 hours, Officers from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department responded to a single vehicle collision, vehicle into a tree. Dispatchers relayed that the driver was out of the vehicle and the vehicle was on fire. Upon the arrival of the first responding officer, it was observed that the front half of the vehicle, a 2004 Chrysler Sebring convertible, was fully engulfed in flames. No driver was observed within the vehicle, or outside of the vehicle. The first arriving officer began fire suppression, at which time a 34 year old white male adult (Desert Hot Springs resident) was observed in the front passenger seat. Three additional Desert Hot Springs officers arrived and the passenger was pulled through the shattered passenger window by the officers, assisted by members of Cal Fire (Station 37).
The driver of the vehicle, a 16 year old white male juvenile (Desert Hot Springs resident) was located a few blocks away, identified and detained, before being released for transport to Desert Regional Medical Center for his injuries. Both driver and passenger sustained non-life threatening injuries. This investigation is ongoing and any witnesses are asked to contact the Desert Hot Springs Police Department.
June 28, 2011
Feel free to repeat whatever cliché you prefer.
Dose Effect Study Of Psilocybin
Five scientists at Johns Hopkins University plus Robert Jesse of the Council on Spiritual Practices conducted a study to determine the effects of a range of doses of psilocybin. Here's the press release (PDF). And here's the PDF (17 pages) of the study.
Participants were 18 adults (17 hallucinoge-naïve). Five 8-[hour] sessions were conducted individually for each participant at 1-month intervals. Participants were randomized to receive the four active doses in either ascending or descending order (nine participants each). Placebo was scheduled quasi-randomly. During sessions, volunteers used eyeshades and were instructed to direct their attention inward. Volunteers completed questionnaires assessing effects immediately after and 1 month after each session, and at 14 months follow-up.
Looking back over a year later, most of the experimentʼs 18 volunteers (94 percent) rated a psilocybin session as among the top five most or as the topmost spiritually significant experience of his or her life. Under higher doses, up to a third experienced great fear or anxiety or had delusions, yet those reactions, the researchers report, were managed with gentle reassurance from the study monitors and did not outlast the session or harm the volunteers.
Most volunteers (89 percent) also reported positive changes in their behaviors, and those reports were corroborated by family members or others, the researchers say. The behavior changes most frequently cited were improved relationships with family and others, increased physical and psychological self-care, and increased devotion to spiritual practice.
While the positive effects of psilocybin increased with increasing doses, the likelihood of fear or delusions increased sharply at the highest doses. At the second-highest dose given, two-thirds of the volunteers rated the experience as among the five most spiritually significant of their lifetime, and just 5.6 percent reported intervals of "extreme" fear or anxiety during the session. With the highest dose, the percentage of participants having a top-five experience rose modestly, from 67 percent to 78 percent, but the percentage of those having psychological struggle rose sixfold, to 33 percent.
One ongoing study at Hopkins is exploring whether psilocybin-induced peak experiences can help alleviate anxiety and fear of death in cancer patients. Another study is testing whether psilocybin can help smokers quit cigarettes.
A third ongoing psilocybin experiment at Hopkins is working with healthy volunteers engaged in spiritual exploration. The research examines the outcomes of psilocybin sessions in combination with various spiritual practices such as meditation, awareness training, and dialogue with other study participants.
My guess is they will have better success at conquering the fear of death than with helping people to quit smoking.
But surely the budding young spiritual doctor or therapist is asking "What dose? What dose?!" The answer may be found in these two graphs on page 12 of the study:
The horizontal scale is doses as milligrams per 70 kilograms of body weight. 70 kg is a little more than 154 pounds. So the answer to the dose question appears to be 20 to 30 mg.
Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins and lead author of an earlier Hopkins paper on hallucinogen safety, explained that “safety with psilocybin encompasses more than its direct pharmacological effects. We know that psilocybin is remarkably non-toxic to the bodyʼs organ systems. But there are indirect risks: if someone experiences high anxiety, fear, or paranoia during a psilocybin session, itʼs not hard to imagine them behaving in ways harmful to themselves or others. We can also imagine the possibility that strong, transient negative emotions could leave someone thrown off course, not knowing what to make of the experience.” Johnson, also an Page 5 of 5 author of the new study, continued, “Both of these risks appear to be minimized when volunteers develop a trusting relationship with a skilled monitor, who remains present with them for the duration of the substanceʼs primary effects, and who is available afterwards for consultation.”
[T]he sessions took place in an aesthetic, living-room-like setting, and the volunteers were encouraged to recline on a couch, put on eye shades and headphones, and to turn their attention inward as a program of music played. The program, used for all sessions, consisted of classical and world music chosen to complement the arc of the psilocybin action, from onset, through the peak of the effects, and subsiding back to baseline.
June 27, 2011
Roy's - Amboy
Prop 8 Proponents Appealing Judge Ware's Decision
Judge Ware of the ninth circuit recently ruled that Judge Walker did not have to recuse himself from Prop 8 trial because he was in a long term relationship. That decision is being appealed to the very same ninth circuit appeals court that is hearing the appeal on Judge Walker's ruling on Prop 8.
DHS City Manager's Memo
As edited by Ron...
- Assessed a hotel $18,000 for unpaid TOT.
- Held a hearing for a $40,000 TOT assessment for a different hotel.
- Easement documents have been submitted for Sonora Drive that will allow the road to be improved to accomodate traffic for the new middle school.
- Work is underway on the median landscaping at Palm and Acoma.
- Submitted a grant application for $124,000 for the Skyborne emergency operations center.
Flooding and the faults under the Salton Sea
A marine geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Massachusetts (a very wet and humid country) has studied all of those little faults at the southern end of the Salton Sea.
At least four out of 17 small fault slips in the lake bed records coincided with floods, though whether earthquake or deluge came first is anyone's guess. In at least one case, a big quake on the San Andreas occurred at about the same time.
We have correlation, but do we have cause and effect? "'When you take a hard look at the data,' says Ray Weldon, a geologist at the University of Oregon, 'you have to ask yourself: "Is this just a coincidence?"'"
Dozens of faults, probably thousands of quakes, millennia of floods. It would be almost impossible for for there NOT to be a quake during a flood.
Lone Pine Photo Wrap Up
A section from the Los Angeles Aqueduct on display at the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine.
The Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine. I believe the agencies are the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and LADWP.
Looking down into Saline Valley from the Inyo Mountains. Yes, you can see the hot springs area in this photo.
Down below you see Big Pine, not Lone Pine.
At the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where it was cold!
June 26, 2011
MSWD Board Meeting - June 20
Lorraine Becker, President of Cabot's Foundation, spoke. She presented a copy of On The Desert Since 1913 by Cabot Yerxa to each of the directors. She also said the Cabot's Foundation Board wanted to express its thanks to the water district for its support of "An Evening At The Pueblo." She said that the bottled water provided by MSWD to Cabot's Pueblo is "an absolute delight," and the museum's guests rave about it. Not only do they enjoy the water, but they appreciate the [award winning] bottle design. She said there will be a water display at the Visitor Center.
Director Russ Martin pointed out that in the photo on the cover of the book Cabot Yerxa is holding a sign that says "Walk 14 Miles For Water 1913." He said that if certain entities had their way, we might be walking 14 miles again.
Camille Linde spoke about her water. She gave a special shout out to Jeff Nutter who was at the pipe display at the MSWD celebration day. Ms. Linde had complained about the quality of the water at her house. He came out and flushed the water lines at her house, and that fixed the problem. General Manager Wallum said that sometimes that is required in a cul de sac if the pipes are not in a full loop. Newly constructed cul de sacs should have a full loop, but older ones may not. Those older ones need to be flushed occasionally to maintain good water quality.
Richard Cromwell thanked Gary Brockman for the research he has done on the fountain for the Mary Gibson Memorial Garden. He expressed concern about the item on the agenda about selecting a firm for the annual audit. It's a three year commitment and he thinks it would be good PR to use a different firm. In his experience at SunLine, he learned it was important to have an auditor who understood public/private partnerships.
Mr. Cromwell also commented on thank you letters received from students who had gone on a tour of the Horton WWTP. One of them said "I enjoy seeing where the poop goes." He wondered at the age of the students. The answer was that they were 8th grade students. As a former school board member, Mr. Cromwell said things are not going well. He was disappointed with the penmanship and sentence structure.
Approval Of CEQA Exemption For Two Sludge Drying Beds At Desert Crest
MSWD operates two sewage treatment plants. In addition to Horton, there is Desert Crest, a smaller facility. Desert Crest has four sludge drying beds. They need to add two more to improve efficiency. This item is simply to approve a resolution to adopt a finding of a statutory exemption from CEQA for this construction.
In response to a question from Vice President Bowman, it was explained that Wayne Robertson, who is in charge of both treatment plants, proposed this expansion. He has been seeking this expansion for a while, since they have been transporting sludge from Desert Crest to Horton for treatment.
The only serious concerns from residents of the area of Desert Crest are with ducks who sit in the aeration tanks and then fly to nearby swimming pools.
General District Election
The routine process of authorizing the election of directors in November. This year the county is asking all agencies to specify who is responsible for the cost of publishing the Candidate's Statement. That expense has always been paid by the candidates, and this resolution now makes it explicit.
ACWA Health Benefits Authority Balllot
Director Wright suggested voting for Dennis Michum and Tamara Wickland. Approved 5-0.
AD-12 Sewer Construction Loan Funding
The district is seeking a "principal forgiveness" loan of $5 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This resolution dedicates special assessment district funds, charges and fees along with net revenue to the district to repay the loan. Finance Director Matt McCue explained that the State Revolving Fund requires a debt service ratio of 1.25 so some net revenue must be pledged to reach that amount. General Manager Wallum said that only in a worst case scenario would net revenue actually be required.
Vice President Bowman asked if this funding was locked into areas "F" and "M." He said he would like to have a discussion of where sewers should be constructed next. Mr. Wallum said the application has been in process for two years, and it is specific to those two areas. The areas are closed to Well 29. Some traces of effluent have been detected in that area. Area "M" is in Dos Palmas. Here's a link to the map of sewer construction areas. Area "M" looks like the eastern half of Dos Palmas. Area "F" is south of Hacienda, north of Two Bunch Palms Trail, east of Cholla and west of Verbena.
Mr. Wallum said that the board could have a discussion and set priorities for the next areas to get sewers. Brent Gray said that priority for sewer construction had not been set by the board, but by staff using a 10-point criteria system. Mr. Bowman said it's a higher priority with the voters now to protect the hot water. President Brown said that if the board determines that the spa areas are going to be the next area for sewer construction, then the board must direct staff to do the design work. The board directed staff to bring that information to the board in a study session soon.
The resolution was approved 5-0.
Auditors for District Financial Statement
RFPs were sent to three souther California CPA firms. Nigro & Nigro came back with an extremely low bid. The other two firms, Lund & Gutry (the firm that board has been using for years) and Ahern, Adcock, Devlin were close. Staff recommended renewing the contract with Lund & Gutry for three years at $19,800 per year. Finance Director McCue said that the low estimate was so low, that Nigro & Nigro could not possibly do the required work in the number of hours they budgeted. He said continuity is valuable and there is an efficiency advantage in keeping the same accounting firm. The field auditors sent by Lund & Gutry are switched every year.
Mr. McCue pointed out that "the issue" (by which he meant some fraudulent activity that was discovered and corrected) had been found by staff, not by the auditors.
Mr. Bowman said he was totally underwhelmed by the presentation from Lundy & Gutry last year. He also asked if the low bidder was given the contract and the work took longer than estimated, would they charge us more. The answer is no, the bid is "not to exceed." Mr. McCue said that Nigro & Nigro (the low bidder) was a qualified firm, but smaller than the other two.
Director Wright agreed that she had heard other auditor's reports that were a lot more clear and a lot easier to understand. She suggested that staff direct Lund & Gutry simply to send a different person in the future.
Director Martin asked why the contract is for three years. Mr. Wallum explained that when a new auditor comes in there is a lot of work getting their files set up and developing a familiarity with the district. In subsequent years they can rely on the work they set up in previous years. Mr. Martin said that Lund & Gutry should already have that set up. Director Wright asked if they would give us the same price for one year. Mr. McCue said he was sure they would.
Director Furbee had already made a motion to approve staff's recommendation. President Brown asked if he'd like to amend his motion to renew the contract for one year. Mr. Furbee had misunderstood and thought the contract was just for one year, but Mr. Brown clarified to him that it was for three years. He has used Lund & Gutry himself and they have done good work for MSWD. They are the pre-eminent accounting firm in the valley, he said.
The vote to approve a 3-year contract renewal with Lund & Gutry failed 2-3 with Directors Furbee and Wright voting in favor. Thereupon, Mr. Furbee made the motion to renew it for one year. That was approved 5-0.
Renewing Engineering Services Contract with HEITEC
In the current fiscal year, $22,000 was budgeted for miscellaneous engineering expenses for HEITEC. Only $11,000 had been spent through June 1, 2011. Another $5,000 was budgeted for contract inspections. None of that had been spent. The contract specifies hourly rates and is limited by the budget approved by the board.
Brent Gray said that staff always keeps a close eye on the cost of consulting versus staffing. It would not make financial sense to consider hiring an engineer until the expense of contracting out gets in the neighborhood of $140,000 per year. Mr. Wallum suggested adding a provision that the contract not exceed $100,000.
Contract For Preliminary District Engineering in the I-10/Indian Area
This is a proposal for a contract with Webb and Associates for phase I and II assessment engineering for sewers in the I-10/Indian area. Some development in that area has been hampered by the lack of sewers. The Regional Water Quality Control Board has approved fast food development, but has yet to approve a proposal for a small motel.
Ultimately, an assessment district may be formed in that area to finance sewer construction. The initial cost to begin the regional sewage treatment plant to handle sewage from that area would be $10 million. It would have a capacity of 1 million gallons per day. The collection system would be in addition to that.
President Brown said that Mayor Pougnet told him that the business at the Pilot gas station at Indian and I-10 is the number one source of sales tax revenue for the city of Palm Springs.
He also said that this was an example of the water district planning for the future and helping to build our community. The initiatives that will be on the November ballot would hamper and even prevent the district's ability to do this pro-active development. They would tie the district's hands so that development could not be planned.
Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12
The details were discussed at the meeting earlier this month. Approved 5-0.
Delinquencies To The County Tax Rolls
The annual story. The total is about $26,760. Last year was $56,300. The difference may be partly due to timing, or people are paying their bills, or they're using less water. The biggest single delinquent bill that I could find was $852.43, dating from July 2010.
This included a "Make The Connection" loan of $2,350 to help with the expense of hooking up the sewer at 16705 Avenida Manzana.
The net operating income for July 1, 2010, through April 30, 2011, (a loss of $2,499,4349, actually) is within 0.7% of budget. Non-operating income was $1,400,085. Total net income was a loss of $1,099,255. That's 18% better than budgeted. Depreciation through the end of April totaled $3,090,064. The actual decrease in cash was $297,762, putting the balance at the end of April at $6,267,377. As of June 1, 2011, cash on hand is slightly more than $6.6 million.
Vice President Bowman said that the district belongs to all the people, and that this is the nicest financial statement he's seen during his tenure on the board. The actions the board has taken to direct staff to cut expenses and to raise rates have moved the water district out of its cash-negative position. The citizens, the owners of the district, need to get that picture, he said. The district has "done a phenomenal job of getting this boat back up to floating." He ran for the district because he was concerned about the deficit spending.
Water production was 13% higher in May 2011 compared to May 2010. For the whole period July 2010 to May 2011, water production has been 3.2% lower than July 2009 to May 2010. There were six new sewer connections in May 2011, making a total of 50 this fiscal year. The average daily flow at Horton WWTP in May 2011 was about the same as in May 2010.
In the monthly report from Van Scoyoc Associates, our Washington lobby firm, it says the Army Corps of Engineers has released their FY 2011 spending plan. It includes no Section 219 projects. Progress on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is slow. Authorizations for the State Revolving Fund are overdue. Senator Boxer wants to revise the allocation formula in the SRF to get a higher allocation for California.
Mr. Bowman, reporting on the meeting of the Hoteliers Association, said they are making a TV commercial for Desert Hot Springs spas that will air within our "drive market." That would be southern California and Las Vegas, I imagine. The Hoteliers asked the water district to put a link on MSWD.org to VisitDesertHotSprings.com, the Hoteliers' website.
Mr. Bowman said that at a Desert Valley Builder's Association networking function he learned that "a person from outside our district" who had supported the initiative petitions is "persona non grata" throughout the valley. I imagine he was talking about Jim Jones. Mr. Bowman said that the people on this side of the freeway need to learn that, too.
This year's Water Quality Report is available on-line.
General Manager's Report
G.M. Arden Wallum provided his report in written form.
- Mr. Wallum met with representatives of Veolia Water to tour the Palm Springs wastewater facility.
- MSWD staff met with Economic Development Director and Public Works Director for Palm Springs to discuss infrastructure needs.
- Met with Robin Trotochau regarding supplying water to the area of proposed Annexation 29. Development is several years away.
- $2,500 was raised for Family Services/Food Now at the May 26 event at Playoffs where Mr. Wallum was the celebrity bartender.
- The issue of the backflow device for the residence of Andy Hillstrand in Whitewater has been amicably resolved. The district bought the equipment and Mr. Hillstrand will reimburse the district. He still complains about rusty water, although the district can find no evidence of it.
- Mr. Wallum has been selected for the Desert Sun's "Monday Newsmaker" feature that will appear on June 27.
- So far, 67 customers have signed up for electronic billing.
- The feasibility of accepting credit card payments by telephone is being examined.
- District staff is researching the possibility of putting residential sewer bills on the tax rolls, rather than billing monthly as they do now.
- Staff is researching the possible ramifications of a rate rollback.
- 8th graders from Desert Springs Middle School visited the district as part of "Career Exploration Day."
- Projects underway: Brisas de Paz; Health & Wellness Center; County clinic: Skyborne (power issues, maintenance, standby contract for a booster pump); Villages at Mission Lakes; YK Spa; 2 Springs Resort; Arco AM/PM at Indian and I-10.
- The car wash is now in full compliance with the Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG) Program requirements.
- Eleven service lines have been replaced.
- The pump at Well 22 has been reinstalled and will be back online.
- The district has established 6 groundwater monitoring wells as part of the required California State Groundwater Elevation Monitoring. Two are in the Mission Creek subbasin, two in the San Gorgonio Pass, and two in the Desert Hot Springs subbasin (the hot water aquifer).
Food To Serve To Enemies
Which Household Device Is The Biggest User Of Electricity?
In many homes, it's the HD DVR and cable box. On average, they use 446 kilowatt hours per year, which is 10% more than a 21-cubic foot refrigerator. The problem is that the devices have no low-energy or sleep mode. European DVRs do go into standby mode, but American cable companies say that American consumers will not tolerate the time it takes for the device to reboot from sleep or shutdown.
June 25, 2011
After visiting the Salt Tram, the next stop on our tour of the Inyos was the Cerro Gordo silver mine.
Cerro Gordo was a silver, lead and zinc mine in the Inyo Mountains east of Owens Valley. The mines are still there, but inactive. There's also a ghost town with three residents. You can get a tour of the Cerro Gordo museum and some of the buildings in the ghost town. The permanent resident of the ghost town is a retired teacher. He's working to extract valuable minerals from the tailings. Another resident is a recent chemistry graduate of UCSB. Unable to get a job in his field, he's spending some time at the mines, getting a feel for the real world.
Here are our two guides for the tour of Cerro Gordo. This is the American Hotel.
Antique wiring in the American Hotel. It works and the place hasn't burned down yet.
The young chemistry grad. Note the pistol on his hip. He said it was for rattlesnakes. Their policy is to shoot rattlesnakes that are found in the ghost town because so many naive, foolish tourists come to visit.
Currently all water for the residents (and landscape material) has to be hauled in. There is potable water at a depth of 700 feet in the mines, but the pump is broken. This past winter has been the driest for them in many years. Before LADWP drained Owens Lake, it used to rain twice a week on the western face of the Inyos where the Cerro Gordo mine is located.
Great Mystery Of The Sierra!
On Memorial Day weekend a bunch of under-prepared guys got caught in some snow in the Sierra National Forest. They abandoned two vehicles, leaving food in at least one of them, as they made their escape in a single 4WD vehicle. They came back a few days later only to discover [cue dramatic, fateful music] SMEARS ON THE WINDOW of one vehicle.
What could it be?!
There is no denying the horrible truth: IT WAS BIG FOOT!
Two questions remain to be answered:
- Can we tax it or make it buy a permit to help balance the state budget?
- Could it have been a gorilla or baboon?"
That second question is not a joke. The smear will be DNA-tested to rule out gorilla, baboon and even bear. BEAR! Whoever heard of a bear in the Sierra leaning his paws up on a vehicle and pressing his slimy nose up against the glass to check for food. Oh, come on!
Big Foot, fershur!
Or chupacabra, maybe.
June 24, 2011
Cottonwood Charcoal Kilns
These are only about half a mile east of 395 in the Owens Valley. Just look for the sign.
These date from the 1870s. Timber from the Sierra was brought here to be turned into charcoal. The charcoal was hauled to Owens Lake and crossed the lake on a steamer. From there it was hauled up the grade to the Cerro Gordo mine. The mine had already exhausted the forests around itself.
Marriage in New York
It passed the New York Senate 33-29. The Assembly passed it last week. Governor Cuomo has said he will sign it. The law goes into effect 30 days after his signature.