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OID Concerned About Riverbank

POSTED November 3, 2009 3:55 p.m.

The Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors expressed concern for the district and farmers in the Ag Improvement District 48 during a lengthy discussion about issues regarding the “Reinvestment Project Area” (RPA) in Riverbank at the Nov. 3 regular meeting.

The Riverbank RPA consists of lands around the Army Ammunition Plant. The lands are set for redevelopment; however, a sizeable portion of OID lands fall within the RPA, including lands that are in the Williamson Act. Another large portion of OID lands are being “cut off” west of the RPA.

OID General Manager Steve Knell gave a brief overview of how the RPA works: a tax shift pays for the improvements in the RPA, and the taxes are frozen at values from 2008 or 2009. Over time, as property values go up and assessments go up, the tax money goes to the RPA, there are no other recipients of those tax revenues, including OID, schools, or other entities. After 10 years have passed, then those various entities would receive a portion of that tax revenue. The OID Ag improvement district (I.D.) 48 is partially in and partially out of the RPA, but the Ag I.D. would be responsible for covering the costs for the OID to make changes to accommodate the RPA. OID provides operation and maintenance to I.D.s as a service, at no profit to the district, it is cost neutral.

Knell stated that the City of Riverbank doesn’t do contiguous city development, it has a tendency to “leapfrog” and that there are numerous “islands” of OID land in Riverbank. This leapfrogging makes for added costs for repairs of OID facilities.

Knell also said that OID filed comments/concerns as part of the process prior to the RPA’s approval by the county, but there was no response to the comments/concerns, it was just approved.

“It’s a mystery process to us,” Knell said, adding that there didn’t seem to have been a vote with landowners.

The board directed OID staff to arrange a special meeting with the OID, the City of Riverbank, and the landowners who fall in the RPA to have Riverbank officials explain and also to make sure all concerned know OID’s stance and make sure it’s clear what OID is and is not responsible for, as well as what the RPA means to landowners and their fiscal responsibilities. The directors want the meeting set for the second week in December; details will be available later.

In other business the board agreed to no irrigation water rate increase for 2010. In addition, there will be a full rebate to OID farmers for 2010. OID CFO Kathy Cook explained that there will not be checks in the mail, but invoices will go out and a notice will be included that instructs “Do Not Pay The Enclosed Bill.”

Also in other business, the board approved the resolution to raise domestic water improvement district (I.D.) rates for operation and maintenance. The board had a lengthy discussion about domestic water I.D.s. Some I.D.s have created reserve accounts to pay for future problems or failures, while others, according to some directors, have individuals comprising them who are “hoping they die before anything happens” in order to escape having to pay money towards fixing future problems with the water systems.

The domestic water I.D.s are serviced by OID, like the Ag I.D.s, at no cost benefit to the district, as a service provided to the community. However, the water systems are the fiscal responsibility of the I.D.s in the housing developments. OID is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with former I.D. 52. Board members said that in I.D. 52’s case, what should be “cost neutral” is costing the district money in legal fees. The I.D. 52 issue would have resulted in a cost of approximately $23,000 per home when that I.D.’s water system collapsed, according to Knell.

Also in other business, the board approved the resolution to raise rates for a few Ag water I.D.s., while the rates will be kept the same for others.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 in the boardroom at 1205 East F.

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