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November 21, 2018

Mission Springs Water District Board Meeting - November 15 & 19, 2018

The Board of Directors of the Mission Springs Water District meets monthly on a Thursday for a study session and again on the following Monday for the "regular" session. Same agenda for both meetings. Usually, most of study and talking takes place at the Thursday meeting while votes and ceremonial affairs usually happen at the Monday meeting. I write it up as if it all took place at one meeting.


West Valley Wastewater Reclamation Facility

Earlier, the new sewage plant was designed to handle a million gallons of waste per day (1 MGD). But one of the purposes of the WVWRF is to provide a backup for the Horton WWTP and to allow some of Horton's flow to be diverted so that routine maintenance can be performed at Horton. Diverting the flow would mean sending 0.75 MGD from Horton to the WVWRF, leaving the WVWRF able to handle only 0.25 MGD from other sources, which is not enough. Therefore, the proposal now is to increase initial capacity at the WVWRF to 1.5 MGD. That increase adds about $7 million to the initial cost of construction of the plant.

Also, inflation and the general rise in construction costs since the initial cost estimate add another $3 million. Design changes were made to get the construction cost as low as possible, but the total estimated cost now is about $28 million. This plant along with the Horton plant should be able to handle the district's wastewater for the next ten years.

The cost reductions were:

  • Go with one belt filter press rather than two;
  • Use sludge drying beds for emergency backups (as at Horton);
  • Rather than build a brick and mortar building, the district would put up a prefab metal building for sludge handling;
  • Also, the administration, lab and control buildings would be prefab instead of brick and mortar;
  • They would use gravity rather than a pump to move effluent to the spreading basins;
  • The headworks building would be modified to an open air structure; and
  • Defer the rotary drum thickeners until later.

This item was brought before the board to ask, in effect, the question, now that we have a substantially higher price, should we proceed? The board said yes, proceed.

A groundwater analysis showed that the wastewater treatment plant would have no effect on the quality of drinking water from Well 33, which is in the neighborhood. In the future, when the capacity of the WVWRF is doubled to 3.0 MGD, there are potential impacts on the well after 30 years, which is likely beyond the life of the well itself. An anti-degradation analysis was done to measure potential impacts on the groundwater basin there, which is Garnet Subbasin (not the Mission Creek subbasin). This analysis showed potential degradation of the Garnet subbasin with TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) after about 15 years.

From the Water Research Center:

"Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.

The EIR and regulatory approval for the plant will potentially be completed by summer of 2019. MSWD may be eligible for up to $8 million in grants for this project. Construction could begin in the autumn of 2019 with about an 18-month construction time.

President Randy Duncan asked Matt McCue, finance director, his opinion on whether the district could take on this expense. There are variables, he answered, saying that re-doing the most recent rate study may be necessary because there are pressures both up and down. Some predicted capital expenditures that were included in the last rate study have not been made, so perhaps rates could be lower. But at the same time there are other rising costs working to push rates up. The district's debt-service ratio "couldn't be any better," he said. The district has almost zero debt.

The wastewater treatment plant in Yucca Valley that is under construction now is a 1 MGD plant (with MBR) which is costing them about $31 million. MBR is Membrane BioReactor. The WVWRF will be built withOUT MBR, but when additional capacity is needed, MBR will be installed and the capacity of our plant will go to 3 MGD.


Proposed Assessment District 18

Proposed Assessment District 17 (to build sewer lines) failed by only 8 votes to get two-thirds approval by the property owners which only means sewers for the areas that would have been included will be later and more expensive. The defeat of AD 17 was attributed to two main reasons: first, a lot of the properties in the area are owned by landlords who, apparently, are motivated only by short term profit, and, second, about 60 property owners who said they would support AD 17 when polled never returned their ballots during the actual voting.

AD 18 would include Mission Lakes Country Club plus six unsewered areas in Desert Hot Springs. This proposal will be structured so that if the full assessment district fails, any of the smaller areas that received sufficient votes could form their own assessment district.

As in the past, MSWD will search for grants to cover up to 50% of the cost of sewering these areas. If they are successful, the actual per parcel cost for the property owner will be in the range of $6,400 to $6,600. A bargain. (In 2004 this charge was $4,124.) That price does not include the property owner's expense of actually hooking up and mitigating their now useless septic tank.

They hope to have this approved by the property owners in 2019 so that in 2020 they can begin to seek grant funding.


Holiday Schedule

Christmas and New Year's Day are on Tuesdays this year, so this was a proposal to grant employees an extra day off for the Mondays preceding those two holidays. Approved by the board, 5-0.


ACWA/JPIA Captive Insurance Company

This is a proposal to be voted on at the upcoming meeting of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). If ACWA forms its own insurance company strictly for ACWA members, they can get lower rates. The insurance covers third party bodily injuries, employment practices liability, public officials errors and omissions, inverse condemnation, drone liability, and workers' comp. The savings come primarily from greater flexibility in investments.


Solar Plant

Even though the ribbon cutting (or switch flipping) has already taken place at the AQMD-grant-funded solar plant on Little Morongo south of Dillon, electricity is not yet flowing to the system because, you know, Edison. Staff estimated that everything would finally fall into line before the December board meeting. It is expected to save the district more than $300,000/year.


I-10/Indian Sewer Financing District

Not much activity lately. Not enough info has been received yet to put together a resolution. The property owners who will benefit from the sewer are the ones responsible to pay for it 100%, so it is up to them to support a financing district to make that possible. As with any sewer construction project, the longer they wait, the more it will cost them.


Holiday Parade

A discussion as to whether MSWD will participate in this year's Desert Hot Springs holiday parade. It will be Saturday, December 8, in the evening (for the first time in anyone's memory). Not all the Directors will be able to be there, but yes, MSWD will participate.


General Manager's Report

There are substantial leaks in the roof at MSWD headquarters on Second Street. Some drywall has been replaced, some mold has been discovered and mitigated. Bids for repair or replacement are being considered. Initial estimates are around $180,000, but staff expects to be able to lower that.


Farewell to Director Bowman

This was Director Jeff Bowman's last board meeting. President of the Board, Randy Duncan, walked around to the podium and spoke.

Director Bowman, when I saw "we," I'm referring to myself, the rest of the board, staff, and even most or all of our contractors. While we seldom disagree on issues, we have all grown to respect and value your opinions and ideas when it comes to the board, both as a director and a person. Regardless of whether we disagree or not, regardless of the direction we decide to take, we all believe you always have the district's best interests at heart. On a personal sidenote, you and I have competed for the same seat (I lost that one) but that was a clean, fair race. And I respect you for that. I think you can take comfort in knowing that the only reason, I think, you lost this seat was because of a very dirty and unethical race. So now, if I could, you would join me down here. We would like to thank you for nine years of service as a Director of the Mission Springs Water District.

A representative of the office of Senator Jeff Stone presented Director Bowman with a proclamation.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Politics | permalink | November 21, 2018 at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2018

Mac Mini with 4K

I can now watch 4K videos with ease. I've got a couple of cameras that can shoot in 4K, and earlier this year I bought a 4K monitor. I could plug a 4K camera directly into the monitor to watch real 4K, but I couldn't watch 4K videos from any other source in 4K because my old Mac Mini (2012 model) could do no better than 1080. But finally, last month Tim Cook announced the new Mac Mini, greatly enhanced and with the ability to handle 4K.

Here's a test video I used: Driving Downtown - Los Angeles 4K - USA. 4K videos of Oahu, or aerial flights over Paris are quite lovely. But to judge the technical abilities of my hardware, I need to look at something familiar. Three hours of downtown Los Angeles in 4K...on a Sunday, so the traffic is unusually light.

For the new Mac Mini I went with the "3.2GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz)." On all previous models of Macs that I've owned, I've maxed out the RAM, but the max on the new Mini is 64GB! That would cost an additional $1,400. I don't think I've had a computer before that could hold more than 16GB, so I decided I could probably live with 32GB of RAM on this one. And I got the 1TB SSD drive.

The 4K is beautiful and realistic.

Filed under Photography,Shopping,Technology | permalink | November 14, 2018 at 06:02 PM | Comments (2)

Desert Sun on Steve Grasha

Here's the article:

The Mission Springs Water District's newest board member, Steve Grasha, has tweeted at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, that the senator should shoot himself in the head and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should be beheaded.

These and other tweets are part of a long history of Twitter posts that include violent, sexist and racist language from a man elected to serve customers of the water district, which services most of Desert Hot Springs.

By Wednesday, after this article published online, it appeared Grasha had removed his Twitter account from public view. Iinks in this article to his tweets are no longer active.

Grasha was easily elected to the MSWD board last week with 33 percent of the vote. In an interview on Thursday, he acknowledged he uses extreme language in his posts but said he did not think it was inappropriate for a public official.

“I think people should be honest, we have a crisis of honesty in our country,” he said. “What they should be concerned about is newspapers like yours, trying to tear down the only honest person."

Grasha has written many tweets saying politicians or journalists should be executed or urging them to kill themselves. He has used terms like "lying c---" and "stupid c---" to insult women.

Grasha also has repeatedly faced judges in Riverside County Superior Court. He was charged with two counts of felony stalking and one felony count of making death threats in 2013. All the charges were either dismissed or discharged.

He said the case was falsified by former District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. Grasha said he then worked with current District Attorney Mike Hestrin to unseat Zellerbach. A representative of the DA's office said Grasha did not "formally" work for Hestrin's campaign.

“I ended his career with one email, boom,” Grasha said of Zellerbach's tenure in office.

He was also named, along with relatives, in two lawsuits brought by Rimcrest Community Association, a condo and apartment complex in Palm Springs. He was sued by the condo association for minor infractions; both cases were dismissed.

He has also been taken to small-claims court regarding debt collections at least twice; judges ruled against him and ordered him to pay both times.

Further, he was sued for libel in 1999 by Environmental Engineering Concepts after publishing a letter stating the company had its California State Contractors license revoked, which it had not. The company had been a competitor of Grasha's company, TrueFog. That suit was settled in 2000.

MSWD board member Nancy Wright, who was re-elected last week with 31 percent of the vote, said she recently became familiar with Grasha’s social media history and said it wouldn’t preclude her from being able to work with him on water district issues.

“I’m a professional and I can work with anyone,” she said, adding she did have some concerns about a lack of transparency with his campaign finances. Grasha did not file any campaign finance forms with the county this year or in 2017.

California Fair Political Practices spokesman Jay Wierenga said the agency had received a complaint against Grasha and that its enforcement division has an open case involving Grasha relating to "potential violations of the campaign disclosure provisions of the Political Reform Act," according to documents provided by the FPPC.

In a phone interview, Grasha accused The Desert Sun of poisoning children by running print advertisements from the Mission Springs Water District. He also said his constituents had no reason to be concerned about his language.

“The only people that should be concerned should be people like John Brennan,” he said of the former CIA director, whom Grasha accused of being a Muslim who wants to destroy the country.

In response to a tweet from journalist Anna Navarro in October 2017 in which she said 1,000 Puerto Ricans had died after Hurricane Maria and millions were without power, Grasha replied: “Listen you’re [sic] lying c---. Not a single Puerto Rican has died because of that f------ Hurricane. Go f--- yourself b----.”

In August of this year, officials in Puerto Rico acknowledged 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane after the results of an independent study were released.

Grasha has tweeted at journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald to “take a bottle of pills and kill yourself,” and that former President Barack Obama was a “criminal and should be hunted down and trapped like the lowlife scum that he is.” He once responded to a tweet by conservative commentator Bill Kristol about meeting an American citizen who immigrated from Afghanistan and fought against the Soviets by saying if the man was a "hero" he would have killed Kristol.

In response to a tweet from former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward calling for the end of amnesty and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Grasha tweeted he felt threatened at a local convenience store.

“I walked into a 7-Eleven near my house the other day and it literally felt like I was in a foreign country and that I needed an armed security force to get me out of the store safely and alive,” he tweeted Jan. 5.

Other tweets have praised President Donald Trump for his relationship with porn actress Stormy Daniels.

“President banged a porn star and walked away with a $211,000 profit! Greatest. President. Ever,” Grasha tweeted on Oct. 30.

The majority of his tweets are about local or national news, retweets of the president’s tweets or retweets of statements of support for the president from other individuals.

His Facebook profile also contains frequent posts about regional and national news and politics. During the campaign, he posted a picture of MSWD board member Jeff Bowman (who was not re-elected last week) naked, with two other individuals — a man who appeared naked, and a topless woman. Bowman, who owns and operates a clothing-optional resort in Desert Hot Springs, appeared to be officiating a wedding.

In the post, Grasha said Bowman was with “a seemingly underage girl” and accused him in an email, provided to The Desert Sun, of child pornography. In an interview with The Desert Sun, he accused Bowman of possibly molesting or trafficking a child, based on the image he shared, which he said originated from Bowman’s website.

“The voters decided that wasn’t cool,” he said, adding that he didn’t send out the email or Facebook post to be underhanded. “That was a chance I had to take because people have a right to know what might be going on.”

Bowman vehemently denied all of Grasha's accusations. He said the wedding in the photo was from 2006 and the pair pictured were "a lovely couple" who were both of age and had a valid marriage license.

“There’s no words to describe when your life is slandered in such a way that your integrity is called into question, your business,” he said. “For something that was so sacred to be taken and spun 180 degrees and then the slander, defamation of character. I have never met a person that has done something so heinous."

Grasha said he believed the post may have led to action from the Riverside County District Attorney.

John Hall, the district attorney's office spokesperson, said the office was unaware of the photograph Grasha referenced and said the sexual assault task force, which is separate from the Gang Impact Team, conducts regular sweeps of registered sex offenders, and Bowman was neither a target of the task force nor a registered sex offender.

In an email to Bowman, Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Monday said Bowman had never been implicated in any child pornography or child sexual exploitation.

Grasha dismissed that statement.

In addition to a prolific social media footprint, Grasha formerly published an online newsletter, the Palm Springs Village Voice, and is the owner of TrueFog USA, which sells the type of misting systems seen outside many Coachella Valley bars and restaurants.

Grasha made several unsuccessful bids for public office before his election to the MSWD board. In 2014, he ran for the District 1 seat on the Coachella Valley Water District board but was defeated by G. Patrick O’Dowd. He ran for a seat on the Palm Springs City Council multiple times, including a special election in 2002 and a regular election in 2013.

He said in 1999 that he had registered as a Democrat to run for the congressional seat encompassing the Coachella Valley (the 44th Congressional District, at that time). He announced in 2011 that he would run for Congress in 2012 as a Republican, challenging then-incumbent Mary Bono Mack for the 36th Congressional District seat, but did not win.

Grasha said winning an election was a "new experience" for him and said Thursday that MSWD voters had overwhelmingly voted to make a change.

He has flip-flopped between saying he was a Democrat or Republican in previous campaigns, though many local races are nominally nonpartisan, and in a 2003 interview with The Desert Sun he said he wasn’t concerned about the way those inconsistencies would look. That year, he had touted himself as a Democrat to try to get the endorsement of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, a powerful local LGBTQ political group, during the Palm Springs City Council race.

“I understand the process. I understand politics. I understand I should be kissing up to these (special interest) groups,” he said.

In interviews with The Desert Sun during his MSWD and CVWD campaigns, Grasha expressed serious concerns about the levels of chromium-6, a cancer-causing agent found at varying levels in drinking water across the county, and accused Wright and Bowman — and The Desert Sun — of poisoning children.

After his election to the MSWD board, Grasha released a statement on social media saying he was “honored” and thanking Bowman, whom he accused of poisoning children and being a child molester, “for his commitment to public service and our water district since 2009.”

Grasha said in the statement that the water district was facing challenging circumstances.

“I will work together with anyone and everyone who wants to create a better path forward for families that rely on our sacred duty to protect our most precious resource, our water supply,” he wrote. “And I will fight for all of you, each and every day to make your lives better and our entire community stronger."

Bowman was the third highest vote-getter on Election Day, netting 21 percent of the vote. Malcolm McLean finished last among the four candidates, with 15 percent of the vote.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Politics | permalink | November 14, 2018 at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2018

Los Angeles Just After Sunset

Disney Hall Twilight (5252)

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (2112)

L.A. City Hall (2808)

Filed under Architecture,Cities/Urbanism,Photography | permalink | November 3, 2018 at 06:16 PM | Comments (1)