Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Few Citizens Provide Input For Water District Plan

I’m wondering what Brent Ives of BHI Management Consulting is thinking about the San Lorenzo Valley as he reviews the public input he received from two meetings held Tuesday on the development of the SLV Water District’s 5 year strategic plan.

At the first meeting, held in the afternoon at the Felton Community Hall, about a dozen local citizens attended and offered a variety of opinions relative to the District’s current mission statement and priorities for consideration in the coming years. Ideas were offered which revolved around education and outreach, conservation, energy use, aquafir recharge and investment strategies. Most of those who spoke agreed that water management was a critical issue that affects the entire community and needs to be addressed in a thoughtful and collaborative manner. There seemed to be a general consensus that the District was doing an effective job although communication with their constituents might be improved.

Later that evening at the Senior Center at Highlands Park in Ben Lomond half that many people showed up and the tone was considerably different. Claims were made that the District lacked “accountability”, spent too much on education and outreach, was making poor decisions in protecting the watershed and conserving water, were not transparent enough in their deliberations, had lax procurement procedures, owned too much equipment, made unwise investments, and in general is too responsive to “special interests”, like, as one particularly outspoken gentlemen said, the “eco-nazis” like the Valley Women's Club. He also believed the board should be more respectful of citizen input.

With regards to what the District should be focused on in the coming years one person wanted more dams on the river and a reservoir. More use of private contractors, term limits for the Board and spinning off Felton from the District were also raised as potential actions the District should consider.

One positive note sounded at the evening meeting was that the District had made the right decision in hiring an outside consultant to facilitate the planning process.

Mr. Ives; who is currently the Mayor of the City of Tracy, has been on the City Council there since 1991 and also serves as Chairman of the San Joaquin Council of Governments, is probably no stranger to differing public opinions, still I’m sure he must be scratching his head just a little at the very different “visions” offered at the two meetings.

He will conduct a day long workshop for the District Board and will meet with with District staff as part of the plan process. A draft document is expected by September for public review.

Here is a link to the Sentinel article by Kimberly White who was at the earlier meeting.

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