Water District reacts to GA vote denying its chair position

Water District reacts to GA vote denying its chair positionMost of Monday’s Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVDW) meeting was taken up with a discussion regarding the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s (GA) vote. They voted to deny the water district’s representative for their term as chairperson for the GA board for the upcoming year.

Tensions between the government agencies are increasing much to the dissatisfaction of the members of the Water District and the public.

Prior to that discussion the board did elect a new president and vice president for the year, 2022.

Director Stan Rajtora nominated the current president Chuck Griffin to remain in that office. But Griffin stated that he would rather see Director David St. Amanda have a chance of being president. So he nominated St. Amand. Rajtora withdrew his nomination and St. Amand was elected unanimously with him abstaining. Mallory was unanimously elected as vice president with Mallory abstaining.

Director Stan Rajtora, who is representative for the GA board, gave his report regarding the November 10 and December 8 meetings of the GA.

The decision of the GA to remove the district from the chair next year was the first item reported.

Rajtora noted that the GA passed the 2022 budget with the GA members having only one business day to review the entire budget. He stated that the budget is a good news, bad news story. The good news is that the new format provides much better information specifying the allocation of expenses to individual funds. The bad news, he said, is that less than half of the money to the imported water fund, ($4 million) will be spent on imported water with 1.1 million to be loaned to the extraction fund, with no way of paying that back. The bottom line, he said is the GA is spending more money than it has.

He also mentioned that apparently the GA has turned down the Department of Water Resources offer to help facilitate and encourage more involvement with the stakeholders for providing goals for the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

Following Rajtora’s report, President Griffin expressed his dissatisfaction or disappointment with the IWVGA board vote against allowing the district to serve their term as the GA chairperson. “I’m probably going to say more than I should,” Griffin said. “I feel that it was a slap in the face to the district.” Griffin stated that the Water District and therefore district customers pay for much of the IWVGA Replacement Fee and that he feels the GA board did a disservice to the Water District representative by denying him his annual rotation as the GA leadership position as their chairperson.

Following Rajtora’s report, director Chuck Cordell said, “Listening to your report, basically it tells me that they don’t want to do anything we’re asking. There’s no respect there. And that’s really my only comment. No action is taken on anything you suggest.”

Regarding the cursing heard over the open mic, Griffin said he is disappointed by the lack of repercussion or even disapproval from the GA board at the meeting. Griffin said that if it was his employee using language like that at a public meeting, that employee would be terminated. If it had been a Water District board member, that member would be removed.

Griffin did thank Tim Itnyre, the San Bernardino County representative on the GA board, for standing up for the Water District and being the only other negative vote on the resolution to deny the Water Districts the chair position.

“The action they took will cause more issues than they will heal.” Griffin said. “I want to thank the San Bernardino County for stepping up.” He realized that it would cause an issue.”

During public comment, Ron Kicinski, former district board president said “It’s become self-evident from the three things that happened recently; One is the memorandum from the city about the Water District and one is the removal of the Water District as IWVGA chair, and third obviously the comment made on open mic, no matter what it was. It tells you the Water District is going to have to pull every arrow out of its quiver. You’re not going to get any vote to go your way, no matter what it is, as you probably know, Stan.”

Kicinski said he was surprised that the city doesn’t support the Water District more often on the IWVGA board, considering that the district customers make up the majority of Ridgecrest citizens and pay the majority of the IWVGA rates.

Josh Nugent, who represents Mojave Pistachio, publicly stated that the cursing was only indicative of a larger problem that is more common at IWVGA board meetings.

“If you’re going to the meetings in person, you see a lot of eye rolls and ‘Oh, here he goes again’ when Stan is asking financial questions. But it’s those series of financial questions that he’s asked for over two years that has got us to where we are with the new financial system,” stated Nugent.

“There is a board consensus that the district does want to work with Department of Water Resources in their offer to assist the community in facilitating goals for the Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

Also during the board discussion the desire was expressed to work with the city on the wastewater plan. Griffin stated that he wants to work with the GA on the wastewater project because it’s going to help the city.

Pictured: IWV Water District Vice President David Saint-Amand

Story First Published: 2021-12-17