Big projects dominated the Garberville Sanitary District (GSD) board meeting on August 23rd. As the district faces the implementation of drought contingency plans as flows in the South Fork of the Eel River drop, the board agreed to a will-serve letter for a short-term housing hostelry proposed by the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District (SHCHD) and is moving forward with the board and state approved plan for providing potable water to the Southern Humboldt Community Park (SHCP) against opposition. Additionally, the board approved a transfer of reserve funds to move forward with the tank replacement project.
SHCHD is in the planning stages for a short-term hostelry on Sprowl Creek Road across from the new hospital site. The 3,168 square foot hostelry will include 12 rooms with 5 1/2 shared bathrooms and a small, shared kitchen. There will also be a 484 square foot 1-bedroom apartment for the on-call doctor. The existing 840 square foot structure already at the site will be used for offices spaces but will not require any additional remodeling.
Kent Scown, SHCHD Chief Operations Officer, said that the hostelry will be utilized by traveling staff with no more than a 48 hour stay. He predicted the kitchen would be primarily used for reheating items versus full meal prep by the travelling staff.
Scown also noted that the hostelry would free up local housing the SHCHD is renting to house its temporary staff.
For the project to move forward at the county level, the GSD would need to sign-off a will-serve agreement. The plans are subject to change as the project progresses through the design phase, at which point the GSD could alter their will-serve agreement.
The area of the proposed hostelry is served by a sewage pumping station located on Sunnybank Lane that has created problems for the district in the past, accruing thousands of dollars in over-time fees due to the pump needing to be manually operated by the GSD staff. Part of the will-serve agreement the GSD approved last month for the new hospital is for the SHCHD to pay for the infrastructure upgrades to the sewage system along Sprowl Creek Road to handle the sewage volume the new hospital is expected to create.
GSD Consultant, Jennie Short addressed the limitations of the Sunnybank Lane pump stating that “We think we can do an additional 1600 units at [Sunnybank Lane] without a problem.” The 1600 units Short referred to is the volume of water consumed and sewage created by the hostelry. One unit equates to 748 gallons.
The board did not voice any objections or concerns and the will-serve agreement passed unanimously.
Another project in development for the GSD is the agreement to provide potable water to the Southern Humboldt Community Park. The park is outside the district’s place of use boundaries but had previously had connection to the district. The choice was made to stop water service due to leaking pipes on the park’s property.
The GSD has agreed to provide potable water intended for water fountains for park patrons and water service to the residences on site. The project has been approved by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and is moving forward. However, Short summarized a letter sent to the district by former resident Ed Voice that he is filing a reconsideration regarding the matter with the SWRCB.
Short stated that she felt confident moving forward even with Voice filing a reconsideration, unless the board decided to halt the project to await the results of the reconsideration filing.
No action was taken, the project to provide potable water to SHCP will proceed.
The new service projects come just as the district prepares for the implementation of the district’s Drought Contingency Plan which will come into effect when the South Fork of the Eel River reaches 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) for three consecutive days. GSD General Manager, Ralph Emerson reported that the most recent reading showed the levels at 18.5 cfs, though noted the river levels were dropping fast.
The GSD had significant news to report in a dramatic fashion about the district’s tank replacement project. The project is to replace aging and leaking water storage tanks with new, larger tanks that will provide more water storage for the district while reducing water losses. The district was granted funds for the initial studies and design for the project with more grant funding once the project passed the design phase. Short stated that grant project should fund the project but was seeking other grant funding as well.
Jennie Short reported the tank replacement project progress to the board and asked for the district to approve the release of $100K in reserve funds to supplement the project while awaiting reimbursement of funds through the grant process that can take six to nine months. The other option would be to put the tank replacement project on hold until the grant funds were reimbursed.
Though hesitant to dip into the reserve funds, the board voted unanimously in favor of the release of funds.
Late in the meeting Short asked to jump back to the topic of the tank replacement project announcing that during the board meeting she had received email notification from the Department of Water Resources that the district had been approved for $4.5 million in funding through the Small Community Drought Relief Program for the tank replacement project.
The funds will cover the remaining cost for the project without needing to apply for the additional grant funds that paid for the initial design phase of the project. Short estimated the funds from the SCDRP would be available promptly, though still advised the board to release the $100K in reserve funds to keep the project moving ahead until the district received the $4.5 million from the SCDRP.
Short said the funding would cover the project in its entirety including any real-estate costs associated with the project.
The board expressed their gratitude and elation over the confirmed funding, authorizing Short to move forward with the formality of accepting the grant funds.
Also of note:
-After months of consideration and discussion around a Joint-Use Agreement for other agencies to rent GSD equipment, Emerson recommended the board scrap the agreement altogether stating that neighboring districts had always helped one another, often without charge, in times of emergency.
Board member, Julie Lyons stated, “I thought we were clear on this at the last meeting,” referring to the agreement the board and staff had decided upon, but had not drawn up, previously.
The board aligned with Emerson’s recommendation and scrapped the Joint-Use Agreement.
-The board readdressed the district’s policy on charging customers a base rate when the district has discontinued water service to the customers meter. In particular, this would mainly apply to GSD customers with an agriculture meter. During drought, ag meters will be shut off as ag watering is not approved in the Drought Contingency Plan.
At the last meeting, the board discussed the importance of base rates to cover operational costs regardless of water usage, however, they had decided if the shutoff was due to the GSD, customers would not pay their base rates. The district has less than ten ag meters. The board had agreed that the base rate loss for those customers would be minimal.
Upon readdressing the topic, board member, Dan Thomas brought up a reduced base rate if the shut-off was longer than a month to protect the district’s base rate income. “We’re all invested in this system,” he said.
Board member, Rio Anderson said he was good with a reduced base rate if customers were shut off by the district.
The issue will be brought up at the next board meeting.
-Emerson reported to the board that the registration process for running for the board had closed with three applicants for the three seats that will be available at the end of the term. Due to no opposition, the three applicants will assume their board seats at the beginning of the new term.
Board Chair, Doug Bryan and Julie Lyon will see their current term come to a close at the end of the year, but both have applied and will resume their board duties unopposed. A third applicant will assume the vacant board seat bringing the board to a full five-person board.
The next GSD board meeting is scheduled for September 27th at 5 p.m. at 919 Redwood Dr., Garberville. (The south end of Ray’s Market parking lot.)
This article is written by Lisa Music, a local freelance journalist. To reach Lisa about tips, questions or comments, email her at [email protected]