WD agrees to fix hauling station

WD agrees to fix hauling stationBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

After installing a new water hauling station earlier this year, the Indian Wells Valley Water District must return to the project to correct issues with ADA compliance and other complaints from haulers.

Water hauler Ryan Smith addressed the IWVWD board during a September meeting, during which he complained about the “utter lack of accessibility.” Smith, who uses a wheelchair, said the site didn’t have the space he needed to get out of his truck and properly access his trailer or reach the pump.

“Even people that aren’t disabled are having trouble using it,” said Smith. Other haulers also described the difficulty, or impossibility, of using the display terminal because of how high it is from the ground.

Two options were provided by district staff: the district could pay $115,000 to upgrade the current site to ADA compliance or move the station to the Water District yard for $140,000. Staff recommended moving the site for better security, customer service and network connectivity — but the recommendation was met with universal dissent from the haulers who were present.

According to staff, the district was dealing with minor vandalism issues, and spotty cell service impedes pulling the necessary data from the hauling station terminal. District boardmembers also said they assumed having personnel more readily accessible would be helpful to haulers if any other problems arose.

The haulers expressed no dissatisfaction about vandalism or customer service, but said that the distance involved in driving to the district yard would prevent them from getting the water they need.

“I haven’t talked to anybody who is a water hauler who has been interviewed to say, ‘Hey, what is it you guys need?’” said Bill Farris during public comment. “I understand you guys know what you need, but I think there’s not an understanding here.

“The difference in proximity for the water hauler here is pretty dramatic. I know you folk haven’t hauled water so you wouldn’t understand this. You’re going to make people haul water more than three miles rather than a quarter of a mile because you can’t get connectivity? Does that sound reasonable?”

According to Farris, it takes about 10 minutes just to make the quarter-mile trip in his water trailer. The station is currently in an area in the hills where most haulers don’t have to navigate much of an incline to get their water. Several said their trucks and trailers wouldn’t be able to sustain repeated trips into town and hauling thousands of pounds uphill if the station were moved.

Board Vice President David Saint-Amand asked staff if there was enough space to accommodate for traffic by the bulk haulers. Chief Engineer Renee Morquecho said there was, but the haulers responded from the audience by shaking their heads in disbelief.

In addition to concerns about wear and tear, several haulers said that their rigs weren’t street legal and that driving in traffic would create additional safety hazards.

“There isn’t room for some of us with the apparatuses we have,” said hauler Sophia Merk. “And a child doesn’t know that a truck can’t just stop suddenly and there’s poor visibility. I would hate like hell hitting a child coming into town trying to get a load of water.”

“We’re not talking about an inconvenience here, we’re talking about a real hardship,” said Farris. “It would seem to me that a better understanding of what’s involved ought to happen before a decision is made.

“It is not your job as a board to be ADA experts, but I don’t know how they could have proposed a facility in this day and age before deferring to professionals on ADA compliance. This is a huge thing in the world today. How did that get skipped?”

Farris said moving the station so far away from the homes would “shut a lot of people down” and “almost render their property useless.”

“It seems there’s almost an underlying tone that says ‘we’ll show you for demanding ADA compliance.’ That’s how it feels to be on this end of the deal – you need to know that. It feels like you’re saying ‘if you guys don’t have water, that’s not our problem.’ It seems to me we need a little better two-way communication.”

After hearing from the public, members of the board had a chance to respond.

“None of this board would try to go against ADA … it just wasn’t thought out properly,” said President Chuck Cordell. “We just tried to clean it up and make it easy to use.”

Boardmember Ron Kicinski said he thought there would be more benefit if personal assistance was more readily available with the station located in the district yard. “But now that you’ve spoken, I can understand what you’re saying,” he said.

“My feeling is the additional $25 thousand to move it here doesn’t give the water haulers any perceived benefit,” said Boardmember Stan Rajtora. “As a matter of fact, just the opposite. A move of the facility is going to create more problems than it’s going to solve for the water haulers.”

The board elected to make ADA-compliant upgrades to the station at its current location. The vote was met with applause and gratitude from the water haulers in the audience.

Pictured: Water haulers pack Monday’s water board meeting. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-01-17