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February 25, 2019

Mission Springs Water District Board Meetings, February 14 & 19, 2019

This is my summary of the meetings of the Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors on February 14 and 19, 2019.

Public Input

Jeff Bowman spoke first.

President and board members, Jeff Bowman, Living Waters Spa. I apologize up front, I'm recovering from pneumonia.

Steve Grasha, last month I revealed that you were a liar and that your campaign was built on lies. That if the voters knew the liar that you are, they would never have voted for you. The pinnacle of your lie was when you called me a child molester both on Facebook and an email blast to the voters. But as I pointed out last month, your lies did not start with that. They started with your campaign statement "Technical Water Systems Engineer."

This month I want to unravel the truth about you being the chairman of the Riverside County Leadership Forum. Just like with your false claim of being a Technical Water Systems Engineer, your chairman of the Riverside County Leadership Forum is a lie, because the forum is just you. You made it up several years ago. Steve, a real leadership forum would be based somewhere. They'd have an office. They'd have a registered organization either as profit or not for profit with the authorities. They'd have regular meetings and an agenda. Yet you did make a Facebook page for your fake organization. However, dude, you've gotta make it current. The phone number you give fails. Your stated website domain name has lapsed and is for sale. But the real interesting thing to me is that the picture you have is that of the beautiful County of Riverside's county administration center. How more official can you get than that building as your main picture? This shows everybody your forum is real. All right? Yet, you don't hold meetings or anything there. You just make it look like you do with the picture. Then I discovered that you didn't even take the picture. You pulled it from a person's personal Flickr account. Steve, you could not even take your own picture for your own fake organization. You are a fraud. Yet, you use this official sounding, made-up organization to promote yourself. In many of your email blasts and Facebook posts you quoted the forum as supporting you, backing you, recommending you. Talk about having a self-aggrandizing, egotistical, maniac ego.

Last month I outed you on the Leadership County Forum. That must have touched a nerve, because on 1/20 you created a post where you go deeper into your previous libelous and delusional statements. I have handed out that post today because you deleted it less than a day later. If the voters knew the real Steve Grasha, they would not have voted for you. Thank you, Mr. President.

Riverside County Administrative Center
The photo in question, on Flickr
. Photographer: theDarkHalo.

Russell Betts spoke next. He wants the board to take some steps to open up their meetings. He mentioned the fact that they meet in the afternoon and that they don't make the audio recordings of the meetings readily available on the district website. He cited a Riverside County Grand Jury report "2012-2013 Grand Jury Report, Riverside County Water and Sanitation Districts, Compensation and Transparency Report" which makes this recommendation: "Water and sanitation district Boards of Directors shall conduct board meetings after 6 pm to ensure maximum participation by ratepayers, and generate maximum public attendance." Mr. Betts asked the board to make the audio recordings available on the website and to shift their meetings to 6 o'clock.

Karl Baker came up next. He said he was a little disappointed that complete budget information is not available on the district's website. He said that what is there is cursory. He urged them to be more thorough. He then talked about DWA's decision to go to district elections. The population of Desert Hot Springs should give it 1½ board members. Each district should have about 17,000 residents. He said he was having trouble generating enthusiasm for DWA's second hearing on district elections, which would be a the Lozano Community Center the following Tuesday. He thinks that DWA should divide itself into two boards, one for its retail operations in Palm Springs, the other for its more widespread wholesale operations. We should resist laying out the districts in such a way that each district includes some retail territory in Palm Springs.

Pamela Edmondson had some questions: Would her water bill come on time this month? Is there any way to get less hard water? They just put all new plumbing in their house, but even after a week, the water still smells like paint. A plumber said it was due to their trap. A staff person was directed to speak to her at the end of the meeting.


Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Contract Renewal

MSWD has been using Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for lobbying services for almost two years, specifically to deal with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The contract is for $10,000 per month.

Approved 4-0-1 with Director Grasha abstaining. He did not say why he abstained.


TKE Contract Renewal

TKE provides engineering services to the district. The contract is not-to-exceed $250,000. The budgeted amount for them this fiscal year is $79,400, and they've actually used $38,600 of that. Approved 5-0.


Water & Sewer Standby Assessments

These are assessments levied on undeveloped properties that are not hooked up to water or sewer, but have a water or sewer line running in front of the property. The water standby assessment is $26.80 for parcels less than one acre. The sewer standby assessment is $10 for parcels less than one acre. The item before the board now is a resolution to direct the engineer to prepare the list of parcels subject to either standby assessment.

Both resolutions in one fell swoop, approved 5-0.


Strategic Plan

You would think a document called "Strategic Plan" would be something that could be found on the district's website (MSWD.ORG), wouldn't you. Go ahead. Try it. The few hits I got all turned up 404. But I did manage to find it, buried in the agenda packet for the June 2017 board meetings. Unfortunately, MSWD scans its agenda packet with the OCR setting turned OFF, so the resulting PDFs are only pictures of the pages. The text within the agenda packets is not searchable. MSWD is just about the last place still doing it this way. The only way to find something in an agenda packet is to open it and read it with your eyes. I extracted the strategic plan and saved it as a PDF on my Google drive, so you could access it much more easily here: the 2017 MSWD Strategic Plan.

Maybe the problem is explained in the third item listed under "Purpose of the Strategic Plan." "3. Communicate this information to employees, board members, partner agencies and key stakeholders affected by the District." Did you notice which group is missing from that sentence? Customers or ratepayers, unless they are subsumed under the category of "key stakeholders."

Finance Director Matt McCue presented the report. The priority codes (A, B or C) refer to time frames. A = two years or less, B = two to five years, C = beyond five years.

The five goals are

  1. Water Supply - three of the A-priority projects are now either complete or in process. The other three A-priority are contingent upon the outcome of the SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) process or the litigation with DWA.
  2. Infrastructure - of the eight A-priority projects, five are in process or complete. The ones that are not underway are planning related. One of those is "Develop a Technology Plan that incorporates all aspects of the District's internal and external technology, including field operational technology."
  3. Financial Management - there are eight A-priority projects. Six of them are complete or in process. The other two have been discussed and are "on the horizon."
  4. Public and Political Outreach - all seven projects are A-priority. Five are complete or in process. The two that are not started are board-related. Those two are:
    • "Develop a Board Handbook or Guidelines. Components to consider include: role, relationship and responsibility of the Board of Directors and staff, standards of performance and expectations of public office."
    • "Develop a strategy to position the Board of Directors as regional water leaders including elevating their public and professional profiles within the region. The Board of Directors is a resource for the District and the water industry."
  5. Organizational Development - all six projects are A-priority and all are complete or in process.

Mr. McCue mentioned a report on the Strategic Plan that had been distributed to the Directors via Dropbox. I don't know if it was different from what I found in the June 2017 agenda packet.

Director Wright asked if the Strategic Plan is on the website. "It's in the packet. It's got to be accessible to the public, right?" "Correct," was Mr. McCue's technically correct answer. But it was not in this month's packet. It was distributed to the Directors only via Dropbox. And damn me if I could find it on the district's website by any means other than tediously reading document after document. Director Sewell asked which of the Infrastructure projects had not been started. One is described above. The other one is "Conduct an evaluation of alternative energy opportunities including cost and feasibility for each alternative."

President Duncan asked if Mr. McCue had a checklist of which specific projects had been completed or started. Mr. McCue said he had them in his notes and could provide that to the directors on Tuesday. I wish I had been able to share that with you.


New Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Notice of Preparation for the EIR is going out to the public on Friday the 15th of February. There will be a scoping review March 6. The scoping review will take place at MSWD headquarters, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.


I-10/Indian Sewer Financing District

The district is trying to secure a date when it can make a presentation to the Palm Springs City Council on this matter. The same presentation will be given to the Desert Hot Springs City Council, probably in March.


Consent Agenda

Three items: approval of the minutes for January 2019, the register of demands and board compensation. Approved 5-0.


Financial Report

Residential consumption of water is running a little higher than expected. Operating expenses are running about half a million under budget because there have been fewer emergency repairs than anticipated. In addition, the district has about half a million in investment income from CalTrust where the district has more than $30 million invested. CalTrust is not permitted to invest in the stock market. Most of its investments are U.S. Treasury-related.


Counsel Comments

It had been mentioned that the DWA Board would be holding a public hearing on district elections on Tuesday evening at the Lozano Community Center, which generated a little not-agendized discussion of the subject, again. Attorney Pinkney reminded them, again, that it was not agendized, but that if they wanted to discuss it, they only needed to indicate that they want it agendized at the next meeting. As he was saying this, President Duncan made a quick informal poll of the board and got four affirmative nods. Director Grasha's attention was elsewhere. When President Duncan told the attorney that at least four Directors wanted it agendized, Mr. Grasha objected, insisting that it should be a formal roll call vote so that the record would indicate the support was 5-0. Mr. Duncan said there would be no roll call vote. Mr. Grasha, completely failing to understand that he had just voiced his affirmative opinion as loudly (louder, actually) as any other director, continued to insist, but Mr. Duncan wisely ignored him. Consider it a unanimous request, four directors plus one child.


Director Comments

President Duncan had a comment:

Intentionally disseminating or dispersing false information is unethical. In virtually all cultures around the world it is considered lying. The Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors has not voted to establish districts. At last week's study session, we directed staff to add the possibility of districting to a future agenda for discussion or possibly for future action, should we decide to pursue it further. Before we can district, first it must be brought to the Board of Directors for consideration as an agenda item. Secondly, if it is decided to go forward with districting, we must either decide on our own boundaries or hire a demographer, a demographer's firm, to establish district boundaries. Thirdly, we must hold I believe it's up to about five total public hearings on the topic and take public input before we can district. Then and only then can it be brought to the board for a vote. Along with transparency, we must be accurate and honest in our dealings with the public at all times.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | February 25, 2019 at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2019

Desert Water Agency Hearing On District Elections - February 19, 2019

This is a report on the public hearing held by the Desert Water Agency on the subject of "Transition to Elections by Division," i.e., district elections. The meeting was in the Lozano Community Center in Tedesco Park on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, and marks the first time in the history of its existence (well, actually first time in the memory of Nancy Wright, which is probably just as good) that the Desert Water Agency board has visited Desert Hot Springs. All five DWA directors were present.

In the audience, directors from Mission Springs Water District were present, along with Yvonne Parks and Karl Baker who ran for the DWA board in 2018 and lost. No Desert Hot Springs City Council members were present, but this hearing was at 5:30 on Tuesday and the city council meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 o'clock, so they all had a good excuse to be elsewhere.


Intro

You can download the PDF version of the Powerpoint presentation here.

General Manager Krause spoke first, providing some background on aquifers and water districts in the Coachella Valley. Below is a map of Desert Water Agency. You can see they haven't updated it to show the current boundaries of DHS. Desert Water Agency covers almost all of Palm Springs and extends into Cathedral City (about 6,000 people there) and even a tiny segment of Rancho Mirage where 19 people live.

DWA District Boundary

The map below shows Mission Springs Water District. There are small areas of MSWD that lie outside DWA, and there are areas within MSWD that are not actually part of MSWD, but might be covered by DWA. But to oversimplify a little, you can think of MSWD as lying within DWA.

MSWD Boundary Map

In the 2010 census, the population residing in DWA was 89,317. Divide that by five (there are five directors) and each district, if impossibly perfect, would contain 17,863.4 people. Naturally, after each census, the districts would have to be re-apportioned, just as every population-based district in the U.S. does.

DWA Population Map

Below is the map showing the percentage of the population identified as Latino. On the map was this note: "Asian-Americans and African-Americans are not concentrated in large numbers anywhere in the [district]."

DWA Latino Population Map


The Legal Stuff

Next, Desert Water Agency's Attorney Riddell spoke. The DWA was founded in 1961 by an act of the legislature called "Desert Water Agency Law." This particular law seems not to have been entered into the conveniently searchable online database that one would usually use to delve into California statutes. But I did find a Google Books version that you can read.

Attorney Riddell explained the California Voting Rights Act, including recent amendments that created this system that is pushing many agencies and cities to go to district elections. I covered this briefly in my report on the January MSWD meeting. The essential difference is that Desert Water Agency has received notification from an attorney representing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which is why the DWA is actively involved in the process of switching to district elections.

The process first requires two public hearings (this meeting was the second of those), then draft map options are prepared (by a demographer hired for the purpose), then two public hearings on the maps (this is where the real fighting will be), and then a final public hearing where the DWA board will adopt a map of districts.


Yet More Info

Outreach & Conservation Manager Metzger spoke next. The demographer will be the same one used by the cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and the Desert Healthcare District.

Ms. Metzger estimated the adoption of the final map would come near the end of summer. [If I were inclined to be paranoid, I'd say they were going to try to slip it by while I'm at Burning Man, but I don't think I actually figure that highly in the local political scene.]

She showed us district maps of some jurisdictions that meet legal and constitutional requirements. The City of Compton and Glendale Unified School District based their districts solely on population.

Compton and Glendale Unified District Maps

Pasadena drew their districts so that every one touched Colorado Boulevard, thereby giving every council member some responsibility for the downtown area. Central Unified School District drew their districts so that every high school district was in the districts of two board members, so that all parents would have two board members they could go to if they had concerns.

Pasadena and Central Unified District Maps

DWA is sharing district election information on their website at DWA.org/divisions, including the maps I've posted here. In the future, that will be where they post the proposed district maps. You can send comments to divisions@DWA.org or contact any DWA Director.


Public Input

This was regular public comments where you could comment on anything DWA-related (or not related, for that matter). The Public Hearing would follow, where comments were to pertain solely to district elections. This simple concept was explained by DWA Board President Joe Stuart in such a way that it left experienced politicians like Karl Baker and Nancy Wright wondering what exactly he had just said. What it boiled down to was that you could get two separate 3-minute comment periods, if you wanted.

Karl Baker spoke first. He said he was long-winded so he would take advantage of both comment opportunities, if he understood President Stuart correctly. He said that drawing the districts did not have to be solely on racial lines, but that communities of interest could be considered as well [as was shown in Pasadena]. He said potential growth should be considered. The Desert Hot Springs area has great potential for growth, while Palm Springs and other cities south of the 10 freeway are pretty well built up. Mr. Baker estimated that the 2020 census might show the population north of the 10 equal in size to the population south of it (within the Desert Water Agency, of course). He encouraged the DWA board to draw the lines so that the area north of the 10 would get two districts, the other three being south of the 10.

Nancy Wright spoke next. She said she agreed with a lot of what Mr. Baker said. She said that based on the volume of wastewater being treated at MSWD's Horton wastewater treatment plant and based on the number of connections and amount of water being sold, MSWD has a sense that the population north of the 10 has grown tremendously since 2010. She also wondered if DWA had tried to reach out to the unincorporated areas around Desert Hot Springs to inform them of this districting process. She wanted also to confirm that after draft maps are drawn, people will be able to comment on them at public hearings.

Ms. Wright thanked the DWA board for being present, saying that it's the first time she is aware that they have been on this side of the 10 in the past 30 years.

A resident of Desert Hot Springs (I couldn't catch her name) spoke next. She expressed her opinion that there should be two districts north of the 10.


Public Hearing

Now the public hearing was open. Yvonne Parks spoke first. She said she had been looking at DWA's Latino population map. She saw that east of Desert Hot Springs there were large areas of purple, indicating a Latino population lower than 25%. Moving west, she saw more pink areas indicating a Latino population of 75% to 100%. Around those were more areas of yellow (65% to 75% Latino) and green (50% to 65% Latino). So her suggestion was to create two districts, one easterly that would include Desert Edge, the other district more westerly with a higher Latino population.

Karl Baker returned to the podium. He suggested Palm Drive be the line between Ms. Parks' suggested east and west districts, but north of Pierson he suggested the line should "take a jog over east" to include an area "that's different than the Hacienda Heights portion of our city." He then spoke of a coming development out along highway 62 that will include 8,500 homes. He said 2,200 of those homes are "active." Then he spoke of the future development at the east end of Pierson which will be about 1,200 homes. There is also an approved condo development that will have about 300 units at Palm Drive and Camino CampaƱero, he said.

[But the chances of any of these homes being completed, sold and occupied before the 2020 census is very slim, IMO. Those people will have to wait until the redistricting based on the 2030 census.]

Mr. Baker also spoke about the substantial industrial development going on in Desert Hot Springs that would require water. [But would not include any residences, so no population, so it's not very relevant to districting, IMO.]

Nancy Wright came to the podium to say that MSWD's urban water master plan, sewer master plan and the district's water infrastructure master plan would be good references to anticipate areas of expected growth.

President Stuart closed the public hearing and reminded people to follow their website (DWA.org) and social media (Facebook at www.facebook.com/dwawater/) for more information about this districting process.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Politics | permalink | February 19, 2019 at 10:14 PM | Comments (5)

February 12, 2019

Mission Springs Water District Board Meetings, January 17 & 22, 2019

This is a summary of the board meetings of January 17 and January 22, 2019. On the 17th, all five board members were present. On the 22nd, President Duncan was absent.


Public Comments

Jeff Bowman came to the podium.

Jeff Bowman, owner of Living Waters Spa. The office of Director for Mission Springs Water District is critical to the people of the district. They depend on their directors to be smart, honest, caring and, above all, truthful. Steve Grasha, you are not a truthful person. You are liar. You won the seat on this board by lying. The pinnacle of your lies was when you called me a child molester, both on Facebook and in an email blast to the voters. It was so outrageous that even the Desert Hot Springs chief of police wrote an email where he said, I quote, "Mr. Bowman, you are not nor have you ever been linked to child pornography or any type of sexual exploitation of a minor. I have never even heard a whisper of impropriety about you."

But, Steve, you are a liar and you made that up. You started out with a campaign statement that has lies and fabrications in every paragraph. Let me start with the very first. "Technical Water Systems Engineer for 34 years." Doing an internet research on this occupation reveals that a water engineer is someone who deals with the provision of clean water, disposal of waste water and sewage, and the prevention of flood damage. How does one get this very specific title? Well, water engineers must have a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science degree in either civil engineering, geology, environmental sciences, or mechanical engineering.

So, Steve Grasha, where did you get your BS or MS engineering degree? As it turns out, you don't have one. So you lied and deceived the voters about your education. You presented yourself to the voters and told them that you are a "water systems engineer." And by calling yourself an engineer, you're insulting all those who have earned degrees and you deceived the voters. Then you spun your lie even further and you said "I have designed technologically advanced and sophisticated water projects worldwide. Steve, you've never designed technologically advanced or sophisticated water projects. I cannot find your name associated with any such projects. You've never worked for a company as an engineer because you're not an engineer. Last month when you were sworn into office at the end of the meeting you were served a lawsuit we saw. You've been sued many times. What is the reason you're served now. I'm sure we'll find out.

You, Steve Grasha, are a liar, a fraud and deceived your way into public office. Thus, your election is really a sham. It came about by lies. For a fact, if the voters knew these things they would not have voted for you. I'm calling you to resign as you're an embarrassment to the district.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Bob Thiery with People Over Pollution spoke next. He's also on the SSMP long term committee for the Salton Sea. He came to speak about an MOU that he said would be coming before the board soon. It is being circulated by the Salton Sea Authority. The MOU does not include ocean water importation. He asked the board to add an additional "whereas" to the MOU expressing support for including ocean water importation in the long-term plans for the Salton Sea. The City of Desert Hot Springs has already done so, he said.

Dotty Wilder wanted to know if within her park are the water and sewer pipes privately owned by the HOA or by the district? The Finance Director was directed to meet with Ms. Wilder to answer her question.

Dick Cromwell thanked the maintenance department for taking care of the CNG station. During the heavy rains, mud washed across the road and into the CNG station. MSWD staffers cleaned the mud away.


California Voting Rights Act

This was an informational presentation made by the attorney. Voters who are a member of a race, color or language minority group are said to be in a protected class. When there is racially polarized voting, members of a protected class are unable to elect their candidate(s). To determine if there is racially polarized voting, election results are examined. Proof of intent to discriminate is not required.

An agency with at-large elections would be served with a demand letter from a potential plaintiff to force them to comply with the voting rights act. The agency then has four months in which to enact district elections. The attorney then said she believed that 91 days is about four months (obviously a student of Russell Betts). 91 days is about three months. The agency can negotiate with the potential plaintiffs for more time. At the end of the process, the agency would pay the potential plaintiffs $30,000.

A few political entities have refused to comply and have fought back. All have lost and ended up paying far more than that token $30,000. The population of Mission Springs Water District is about half white, half people of color. An agency does not have to wait for a demand letter, but could switch to district elections on its own and be spared the $30,000 payment.

The attorney said many of the demand letters have come from "Southwest Voters and Outreach Project." Google can turn up neither hide nor hair of an organization with that name, but there is the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project which sent just such a demand letter to the City of Palm Springs. Director Grasha asked if they were all lawyers, but without waiting for a complete answer from the attorney, he said he had looked them up and "they're all lawyers." Actually, the President of that organization graduated with a history degree and the vice president with a bachelor's degree in sociology, so there are at least two of them who aren't lawyers.

Mr. Grasha complained that the district had paid an attorney $75,000 last month and there had been no explanation. He said that if the district acts to conform to the California Voting Rights Act it will have to pay more money to attorneys.


Spicer Consulting Group

The district is putting together an assessment district (Assessment District 18) that will allow residents to install sewers to replace septic tanks. This item is for a $39,000 contract with Spicer Consulting Group as assessment engineer. Forming an assessment district is a process that will require a vote of the property owners in the proposed district to form that district. Before that vote, the district will engage in a neutral education effort.

Below is a map showing the several non-contiguous areas that will make up AD 18, the biggest of which is Mission Lakes Country Club. MSWD will seek grants, as it has in the past, that will greatly reduce the cost of building sewers for the property owners.

Assessment District 18

Approved 4-0.


San Gorgonio Pass Subbasin Rules of Conduct

The district is part of the San Gorgonio Pass Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Other members are the Desert Water Agency, Banning Heights Mutual Water Company, City of Banning, Cabazon Water District and San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency. This item is only to approve or disapprove the rules of conduct. An example from the agreement:

The GSP Working Group members agree to work together to create a problem-solving environment and agree to the following ground rules:
  • Use common courtesy
  • All ideas and points of view have value and will be respected
  • Be honest, fair and candid
  • Avoid editorials
  • Honor time and be concise
  • Think innovatively and welcome new ideas
  • Invite humor and good will

They have received a grant of $1 million towards the cost of establishing a groundwater sustainability plan for the San Gorgonio Pass.


Mid-year Budget Adjustments

Operating Budget Increases:
 Replenishment of other budget items
Meter Postage3,500
Returned Check Charges1,000
Smart Meter Pilot Program79,000
83,500
 
Mid-Year Increases to budget
 Legal500,000
Water Prod. Spvsr. Interim75,000
SOMA Annual Report7,000
Credit Card Processing60,000
Valve Maintenance Pilot Program40,000
Wastewater Outside Services15,000
Supplies (warehouse)2,800
699,800
783,300
 
Increases related to changes in Classification Plan3,868
 
Total Operating Budget Increases$ 787,168
% of Total Operating expenses5.0%
 
Capital Budget Increases;
Production Meters50,000
Hydrological Study for Indio Subbasin125,000
Total Capital Budget Increases$ 175,000

The additional legal expenses are for the lawsuit against the Desert Water Agency.

Approved 3-1 with Director Grasha voting against. He did not explain his vote.


Federal Advocacy Services

To renew the annual contract with the district's lobbying service at $48.000 per year.

Approved 3-1 with Director Grasha voting against. He did not explain his vote.


Coachillin' Reimbursement Agreement

Coachillin', the big marijuana cultivation site being developed on the east side of Indian Canyon between 18th and 19th Avenues, will construct sewer and water lines. This 10-year agreement allows Coachillin' to be reimbursed for its expenses as new property owners develop their sites.

Director Grasha asked if water would be supplied to Coachillin' at agricultural prices. The answer is that MSWD does not offer an agricultural rate. Customers in the Coachillin' development will pay the non-residential rate for water. Mr. Grasha then asked if it was going to be an outdoor grow. [FYI, no one has proposed any outdoor grows in the Coachella Valley]. Coachillin' is the industrial property developer that will sell sites to individual cultivators. So far, all are indoors. Mr. Grasha asked what the enforcement mechanism is to ensure that cultivators are not simply dumping their sewage out onto the desert. There are three operating cultivators there now. Two are already connected to sewer. The Regional Water Quality Control Board regulates the sewage that is flowing to a septic system.

Mr. Grasha said he never noticed anything on the site until just a few months ago, even though development of that site has been going on much longer than that. He said he didn't know it was going on, that he doesn't read the newspaper or go to city council meetings. Mr. Grasha said there are some holding tanks on the site. "What are they doing with that...at night?" he asked. A staff member began to reply, but Mr. Grasha didn't wait for the answer and spoke over him saying "'Cause I know what goes on over there." Director Wright who is on the Regional Water Quality Control Board said they know what's going on there. Staff explained that the City of DHS is working out an arrangement to verify that cultivators there are using legitimate haulers to take their waste to treatment facilities that will accept it. MSWD is working with the city on that. Mr. Grasha said that if they are growing hydroponically, then their waste water is toxic. Staff said no one is growing hydroponically there now. Every facility is using reverse osmosis to filter their recirculated water. The two operating cultivators are discharging about 1,000 gallons every three months. There are places in Orange and Los Angeles Counties that will accept their waste.

Mr. Grasha said the cultivators are going to provide a paper trail only for what they admit to. Someone told Mr. Grasha that two police officers keep an eye on this. President Duncan explained that regulations are in place for all businesses governing their disposal of wastewater and no district can micro-manage the businesses in its purview. Ms. Wright explained there are big fines for violating the rules on the dumping of wastewater.

Approved 4-0.


Liens In Assessment District 12, Area J-1-2

Upon completion of the new sewers in AD12, Area J-1-2, the district notified all property owners that they were required to connect to the sewer. The district files a lien against any property that doesn't connect so that they are forced to connect when they want to sell the property. There are only 12 properties being affected by this.

Approved 4-0.


Committee Appointments

The board president gets to appoint the committees. They are...

  • Executive committee: Randy Duncan, Chair, and Russ Martin.
  • Engineering: Ivan Sewell, Chair, and Steve Grasha.
  • Finance: Russ Martin, Chair, and Nancy Wright.
  • Human Resources: Steve Grasha, Chair, and Ivan Sewell.
  • Public Affairs: Nancy Wright, Chair, and Randy Duncan.


Affiliations

The first name listed is the one with primary responsibility for attending meetings of the affiliated entities; the second name is backup.

  • CSDA - Russ Martin
  • CVWD - Randy Duncan, Russ Martin
  • DHS City Council - Russ Martin, Nancy Wright
  • Hoteliers - Ivan Sewell, Nancy Wright
  • RDA Oversight - Russ Martin
  • Groundwater Guardians - Ivan Sewell, Nancy Wright
  • San Gorgonio Pass - Russ Martin, Nancy Wright
  • Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce - Ivan Sewell, Russ Martin
  • Riverside County Flood Control - Ivan Sewell

Director Grasha asked if the city still had a redevelopment agency. Russ Martin explained to him the process by which RDAs were dismantled statewide.

Mr. Grasha said there seemed to be lot of work outside of the district. He said the district has a built-in plan for failure. President Duncan had offered him an affiliation with the Groundwater Guardians, but he had turned it down. Mr. Grasha said there is only one meeting a month and there are so many things on the agenda it's like "you're trying to keep us out of the building."

There are at least two meetings a month, a study session and a business session. In addition, there is often a monthly workshop to focus on one subject. Also, IMO, we don't elect directors to sit in the MSWD headquarters building. The building is for staff. The directors are supposed to be making contact with the public and then voting.

Mr. Grasha said the directors should focus on district business. And they should be able to do that without having to go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in order to receive the per diem. President Duncan explained directors go to other meetings in order to form relationships outside the district and to gather information. Mr. Grasha said the same value was being put on two separate functions. He said young people should never get involved in public life because they would go bankrupt helping their neighbor. Mr. Grasha said the $100 per diem was not enough. Mr. Grasha said that at the business meeting they would be approving a $75,000 payment to an attorney for work "that has yet to be identified as critical."

Mr. Grasha is sadly mistaken on that point. The $75,000 was approved and paid before he came on the board. The actual payment is listed in the Register of Demands this month. The Register of Demands is essentially the checkbook statement. You might disapprove of your checking account statement, but doing so won't make those checks you wrote magically reverse direction and flow back into your account.

Mr. Grasha said the district can't identify why it's suing. He then went on to say that it has been explained to him, but he doesn't understand it.

At this point he was far enough off the agenda that the attorney stepped in and redirected the discussion who offered to discuss the case in closed session. "There's a lot of money flowing in a lot of directions..." Mr. Grasha said, trailing off. President Duncan agreed and pointed out this was only his second meeting and that with time he would learn the purpose of the lawsuit and what could be lost. Mr. Grasha continued to ask for an explanation, but President Duncan said it was not doing to be discussed at this time. Director Wright suggested that Mr. Grasha be given a copy of the lawsuit. Mr. Grasha said he had it and he had read it.

The lawsuit they are talking about is against the Desert Water Agency which is trying to take control of our aquifers.

Approved 4-0.


New Wastewater Treatment Facility

In the past month they have completed the preliminary design report, the geotechnical report, and the permitting technical memorandum. That's about 95% of the Phase 1 tasks. The survey plans are still outstanding. Developing plant specifications and estimates are part of Phase 2, which has now begun. They have completed updates to the NEPA/CEQA project description. They have completed preliminary design on the conveyance, that is, the lift station and pipe to carry wastewater from developed residential areas to the new plant.


Solar Plant

The solar power plant has been tested and is now online generating electricity.


I-10/Indian Sewers

Every property owner in that area has been contacted and "they are, frankly, just not ready to take any action." They may be considering an alternate, more expensive plan from the City of Palm Springs. The district's next task will be to talk to Palm Springs about the current status of our new wastewater treatment facility.


Register of Demands

Director Grasha pointed out two items in the Register of Demands:

Check NumberCheck DatePaid ToDescriptionOperatingCapitalTotal
998550512-20-18Slovak Baron & Empey LLPLegal Fees71,283.85 71,283.85
6688312-20-18Desert Sun Publishing CoMarketing Expense3,332.75 3,332.75

He didn't say anything about these two, but merely read them aloud.

Approved 3-1, Mr. Grasha voting against. When Vice President Martin called for the No votes, Mr. Grasha sat silently. Mr. Martin explained to him that if intended to vote No, now would be the time. Mr. Grasha said he thought that when he pulled it from the consent agenda that would register as a No vote. Mr. Martin explained to him that first the board discusses and then it votes on it. Upon hearing this, Mr. Grasha said he voted No.


Director Reports

President Duncan reported on the DWA meeting he attended where he noted that they were discussing going to district elections in closed session. Karl Baker was in attendance there also and asked the DWA board to move the discussion to the open session, but of course, they did not do that.

When Director Grasha was asked if he had a report to make he said "I do have thoughts."

President Duncan asked "Thoughts or reports?"

"I'm afraid how far afield I'll go if I start on..." On January 8 he attended the swearing in of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He rambled on about working on the Sheriff's election campaign four years ago. He asked the Sheriff to resign in December 2017. He said his endorsement in the Sheriff's race was "circulated on the internet more than any other endorsement in the entire 2018 cycle." He didn't share with us his means for making that measurement. The Sheriff was sworn in "just a few days ago," he explained. "I can't and will not address your allegations because of ongoing investigations. I won't do it." He did not identify who he was addressing when he said that, but President Duncan explained that this was not the part of the agenda to do that. Mr. Grasha said he would have to do it in such a way that no one would understand it.


Director Comments

Director Wright said she was very sad to hear about Greg Pettis passing away. She had worked with him many times. "God rest his soul."

Director Grasha said he was with Greg Pettis the night he got the phone call he was going to be appointed to city council. "He was a lefty! A no good lefty."

Mr. Grasha also commented on the subpoena he was served a month previously. He said that was due to Karl Baker investigating his lack of disclosure. The subpoena was from the Fair Political Practices Commission. He had not been willing to provide his bank account records without a subpoena. If he had submitted them by email, then they could have been accessed via a public records request. He used his personal bank account to finance his campaign which is not legal. He was fined $147.

Mr. Grasha said he thought he was elected to the board because the subject of the Sentinel power plant came up for discussion during his campaign and he got "a thousand likes" on that. He said he had gotten word that CVAG has "promised" that they would "go after $22 million in funding to put Desert Hot Springs back in the CVAG loop." He said he is opposed to CV-Link. He said CVAG is "laying $22 million at our doorstep as a peace offering." When Director Wright said the money had already been divided up (she's right), Mr. Grasha said this was "new funding." (He's wrong.) "This is a victory for Steve Grasha," he said, "not for Nancy." When Director Wright asked him to explain this, he said "No, it's a surprise." He said "You can read about it on the KESQ website."

You can believe that I came home and searched the KESQ website for any recent info on CVAG, Steve Grasha, $22 million, CV-Link, or Desert Hot Springs and found zilch. Repeated my searches the next day and still zilch. Fortunately, a very well-informed person told me after the meeting that Mr. Grasha doesn't know what he's talking about.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | February 12, 2019 at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)