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OID Farmers Hope For Rebate

POSTED November 3, 2010 2:35 a.m.

Farmers were on hand to offer their two cents on the Oakdale Irrigation District’s setting of water delivery fees at the Nov. 3 regular meeting of the board of directors.

In business, the board unanimously approved to keep water delivery fees for 2011 the same as the prior year. This item generated comments from several farmers and board members.

Dairyman Guy Stueve thanked the board for giving a full rebate to Oakdale farmers last year and asked that they still try to help local farmers this next year. He cited difficulties in the dairy business and said farmers inject a lot of money into the local economy.

It was reported during this discussion that the district lost the Donnells Dam generator in September last year and it was down until April. That resulted in a loss of more than $13 million in power generation revenues. The insurance company is paying for the mechanical failure but the district and its insurer are disputing the payout on the lost generation. General Manager Steve Knell said they may see $8 million come back in undisputed generation losses but the district will carry a $6 million loss for a while, at least until the dispute is resolved. Also, power prices this year were the lowest they’ve been in the last 10 years.

Farmers Bryan Kamper, John Brichetto, Jack Hoekstra, and Henry Burtschi all commented that they would like to see the district help the farmers with a rebate again because it would be helpful at this time due to industry challenges they’re facing. A couple of them also commented that the district is helping the community with various funding needs, but the OID needs to support the farmers.

“We need the water, but the district needs the farmer, too,” Kamper said, referring to how the farmers’ practices recharge ground water and that’s beneficial to OID.

Board members said they were exercising caution at this time but would consider some rebate to the farmers in the future should the financial condition improve. Director Al Bairos said the district is facing increased insurance rates and have some “unknown” potential expenses at this time. He cited an $18-plus million generator project with Tri Dam.

In other business, the board also approved the increases, of minimal financial impact, to various fees and charges associated with doing business in the district for the year 2011. Some of the fee increases are related to title transfers, processing invalid checks, county tax roll adjustments for delinquencies, and so on.

In other business, the board voted 3-2, denying a funding request of $2,800 to the Oakdale Garden Club for a project to plant native, drought tolerant plants at the post office. Director Frank Clark said that the finance committee felt the project didn’t make a difference and the money could be better used on an area that needed actual beautification. He added that the “public projects well is dry” and that it would either be an unbudgeted item or charged to next year’s budget. Director Jack Alpers made the motion to approve the funding, director Al Bairos seconded the motion, but the motion failed. Bairos expressed his disappointment in the failure and said the project represents water conservation and would show the public how to use water-conserving plantings, which the OID supports.

Also in other business, the board approved renewal of their dental plan coverage without employer-extended coverage to adult children to age 26. CFO Kathy Cook said the new health care reform increased the adult child’s age and that proof of dependency (i.e. IRS forms) no longer needs to be shown. Further, she said that under the new law, that “dependent” may even be married with their own children. Regardless, the provision is currently optional to employers but premiums to the district have still gone up 4.6 percent, or approximately $3,600 annually, for dental coverage.

Also in business, the board unanimously approved negative declarations of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) for both the Joslin annexation and Rodden annexation projects.

The board also approved the setting of Ag water system improvement district operation and maintenance charges for 2011, and also approved the setting of domestic water improvement district operation and maintenance charges for 2011.

In Knell’s report to the board, there was discussion amongst him and the board about federal and state threats to water rights in the district.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.

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