Hayman appointed to GSA

New council sees shift in committee, board appointments

Hayman appointed to GSAMayor Peggy Breeden (center) with councilmembers (from left) Lindsay Stephens, Wallace Martin, Scott Hayman and Mike Mower — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Ridgecrest City Council newcomer Scott Hayman was appointed the city’s representative on the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday evening. This marks the first time a city representative other than Mayor Peggy Breeden will sit on the multi-agency board since its formation in 2016.

With 2018 election results certified this week, the council bid farewell to former Vice Mayor Eddie Thomas and welcomed Hayman as well as the return of incumbents Breeden as mayor and Mike Mower as councilmember. In doing so, the council was asked to go through its nearly two dozen committees and boards to make new appointments and fill vacancies for the coming year.

The IWVGA board has representatives from the city, IWV Water District and counties of Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo with nonvoting advisory members from federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Navy. The board was formed as a Groundwater Sustainability Agency in accordance with the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

These agencies are tasked with engaging local stakeholders and developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020 to halt the decline in the IWV water table. The IWVGA has been called the most important agency in our valley, and many believe groundwater management is long overdue. Others have complained about the unfunded state mandate and have criticized the board for the several million dollars in costs it has racked up over the years.

Breeden said that she asked Hayman to step in for Mower as her alternate representative to the board, but Hayman said he was willing to serve, but “not as alternate.”

“I am very interested in the water issues that face our community,” said Hayman, who added that groundwater was one of the primary topics of his campaign. “At this time, I would like to volunteer to serve as the lead representative.”

As the mayor was preparing to ask for a motion, Mike Neel approached the dais to make public comment, but was reminded by City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen that the public comment period had not been called.

Breeden asked to determine first how to proceed with multiple nominations.

Neel asked if the board was going to vote without public comment, but Pilchen reminded Neel that council was not obligated to call for public comment. Neel was asked to return to his seat. He continued to argue that public comment has always been a part of discussion items, but Pilchen said that discussion items were reserved for the council.

After a brief back and forth, the mayor opened public comment with the two nominations on the table.

“I support Mr. Hayman for the seat on the IWVGA,” said Neel. “I think we need new blood on that. I’ve personally seen what I would view as too much on-side getting together of primary members of the IWV Authority Board.”

Neel alleged that he “personally witnessed” Breeden with other boardmembers and staff having dinner together and said it’s a “pretty regular” occurrence.

“That does not make me feel comfortable,” he said.

Breeden acknowledged later that sometimes certain members of the board and staff go to dinner together after meetings, but never as a quorum of the board and never to discuss official matters.

The Authority board has addressed and ceased activity in the past that was potentially in violation of the Brown Act, but going out to eat after meetings was never brought into question.

Member of the public and China Lake Alliance Executive Director David Janiec came out strongly in favor of Breeden’s remaining on the Authority board. Janiec said he was also a member of the IWVGA’s Policy Advisory Committee, but was not speaking in that capacity.

“We’re 12 months away from a GSP being due. It’s a real complex issue,” said Janiec. “Our water basin is one of the most studied in the state, and we still don’t understand it entirely. But it requires knowledge and it requires relationships that have been established.

“This is a tipping point right now. I respect very much what I’ve seen about Councilman Hayman. But I would recommend Mayor Breeden. I trust her honesty, her integrity, her knowledge and relationships that she’s formed.”

Janiec said he didn’t doubt Hayman’s abilities to serve once he came up to speed, but suggested that he be considered as the alternate representative. He added that San Bernardino County and the Navy recently had new appointees, and that both the primary and alternate representatives from the IWV Water District no longer hold office.

Janiec said he wouldn’t advise “switching horses” when two of the five voting members are already relatively new to the board.

Marilyn Neel also spoke during public comment to voice her support for Hayman.

“Water is critical, and I understand the complexity of this issue,” she said. “I think what is really critical is to have someone to see the Constitution and their oath to the Constitution, both state and federal, and the rights of the people to be the most critical issue.”

Neel added that the Authority board isn’t its own elected body, which is something many members of the public have asked for since before its formation.

“I believe we need to have some new blood on there. Step back and take a look if this is really the direction we want to go. Not what’s best for the state, not what’s best for somebody else’s agenda, but what is best and what’s constitutional for the city of Ridgecrest.”

Member of the public Scott Miller agreed with Janiec that Hayman, as a new councilmember, should be brought up to speed as alternate before serving on the board as lead representative.

“I think that Hayman would do a great job, not that Peggy hasn’t,” said member of the public Elaine Mead. “But I think that maybe we need a new perspective. I think that Peggy would be great as a second person that would help Scott get up to speed. Though in talking with him, he’s not very far behind.”

Councilmember Wallace Martin made a motion for Hayman to serve as lead representative with Breeden as alternate.

“I have served two terms on the IWV Water District,” said Breeden. “I have attended every water district meeting that wasn’t a committee meeting since 1982. I have been all over this state listening to what people say about water, recognizing where we are and what we have to do.”

Breeden said sustainability is more complicated than just “water in, water out” with our basin’s ample water storage (some 2-2.5 million acre-feet). However, Department of Water Resources representatives have stated that sustainability issues addressed only a declining water table and did not take storage into account.

But recognizing the value of our water in storage is something Breeden said she wants state officials to take into account.

“I beg you to work together,” she said to Hayman. “I told you I wasn’t going to beg you, but this is what’s best for the community. I will make sure you are always up to speed, I will make sure there isn’t anything you don’t know. We’ll be a good team working together.”

Councilmember Lindsey Stephens said that from the “dozens of emails” she’s received and contacts she’s made with the public, she also believes Hayman would serve best as lead representative. She seconded Martin’s motion.

The vote passed 3-2 with Breeden and Mower voting no.

The council also made appointments for a new vice mayor and mayor pro tem. Martin was approved 4-1 for vice mayor, Mower voting against; while Stephens was unanimously approved to take over for Mower as mayor pro tem.

Members of council made some new appointments for various committees, but not all positions have been confirmed, and some remain vacant. City Clerk Ricca Charlon asked that the committee-appointment item be placed on the next agenda.

The Ridgecrest City Council regularly meets the first and third Wednesday of the month. The next meeting is Dec. 19, 6 p.m. at City Hall. The Jan. 2 meeting has been tentatively canceled. See ridgecrest-ca.gov/ridgecrest-city-council for more info.

Story First Published: 2018-12-07