Public: ‘IWVGA needs a finance committee’

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

As local fees for pumping groundwater are being discussed, the public asks why the agency responsible for implementing these fees hasn’t yet established a standing finance committee.

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority began meeting during summer 2016. For nearly a year, members of the public have grilled boardmembers on how they can justify administrative costs and potential pumping fees when financial discussions aren’t vetted through a public committee.

“I think you need to have a financial committee to figure out what your legitimate expenses are and which ones are extraneous,” said Penelope LaPomme during the authority’s regular meeting on April 19.

“The public would really like a finance committee,” echoed Sophia Merk, who referred to the authority’s workshop meeting earlier this month where similar requests were made.

“You have to have a standing finance committee; we should have had one a year ago,” said Stan Rajtora at the earlier meeting. Rajtora said he had been asking for months and still hadn’t seen any movement in that direction.

During its February meeting, the IWV Water District board of directors also urged IWVGA Representative Peter Brown to continue pushing for a finance committee.

“Peter has said he was in favor of a standing finance committee for over a year. I’d like to ask him to be more assertive,” said Rajtora. “The sooner we get a finance committee the better. The longer we wait, the worse off we’ll be a year from now.”

IWVWD president Ron Kicinski agreed, and the board reached a consensus to push for the committee.

“We made a referral at the last meeting to review how we’re going to manage and control costs – identify what costs are valid and not valid,” said Authority Boardmember Mick Gleason, Kern County 1st District supervisor. “If we need to set up a formal finance committee to meet with the [Technical Advisory and Policy Advisory Committees], I am willing to entertain that idea.”

Despite verbal support from boardmembers, no agenda information has indicated the formation of any such committee.

The problem resurfaced recently during the workshop meeting where Bob Page, authority representative from San Bernardino County, noticed a nearly $1-million change in the budget between drafts. Most of the costs were to pay Water Resource Manager Stetson Engineers, but an increase of $250,000 was allocated for legal costs.

When California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act passed 2014, Gleason led the charge to create a Groundwater Sustainability Agency in the form of the IWVGA. During discussions he has frequently stated that “There are going to be lawsuits” and that it will be difficult to predict what the costs associated with litigation will be.

For meeting agendas and more information on the IWV Groundwater Authority, see iwvga.org.

Story First Published: 2018-04-27