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Another View: Foresthill Public Utility District has a mission of responsibility

Another View
By: Renee Kavon Foresthill resident, FPUD rate payer, member of the FPUD Community Action Committee
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There is a great deal of mistrust with regard to the past performance of the Foresthill Public Utility District (FPUD), and rightly so. The district appears to have been mismanaged for a number of years by running at a deficit, not performing necessary maintenance and at the same time spending down its $700,000 in reserve funds. When it proposed a rate increase in 2010, the community responded with grave concern about sending good money after bad. When a rate increase did occur, the district further fueled mistrust by immediately adding personnel and giving themselves increases in pay and benefits before addressing any of the previously mentioned problems. Who could blame us for our fury? It smacked all too strongly of government mishandling of public funds for personal gain, which seems to be center stage in today’s current events. It will take considerable goodwill and flawless management on the part of the FPUD to overcome this. While it will take time to heal wounds of the past, I believe that the district has, under its new management, undertaken several promising gestures to put a Band-Aid on the financial bleeding and give the district the time it needs to assess its sustainability. The district has: • Reduced its staffing and decreased the general manager’s compensation package to ease the financial burden. • Replaced all but one position on its volunteer board of directors and invited the community to participate in making sure its interests are heard and represented. • Vowed to be transparent with permissible operational information, though the district openly admits there are big gaps at present due to the absence of critical operating information, which appears to be missing from the district’s records. • Initiated an ongoing Community Action Committee (CAC) to study, question, debate and make recommendations. The CAC is comprised of approximately 30 members that harbor a full range of outlooks, from skeptical and downright miffed on one side, to open-minded and at times altruistic on the other. As one of its members, I’m somewhere in the middle. I believe the new management needs to demonstrate to the community that it will act responsibly for the community good and provide us with better detailed operational information. Likewise, I believe that we, the community, need to consider taking a reasonable new leap of faith to help protect an asset that in the words of one CAC member is becoming “more valuable than gold.” I will support the rate increases that have been proposed for 2012 and 2013, which I believe are fair and reasonable and necessary. In return I will expect the district in the next two years to turn around the current crisis, create a realistic and meaningful proposal for sustainability, conduct its business for the community good with honesty and integrity and explore public and private fund development opportunities to supplement its revenues. I believe this amount of time is needed to allow the new management to prove itself and to allow us to make sound determinations about the future of the district. During that time, if we find we cannot live with the district’s projections for the future, we will at least hopefully be in a healthier position to more carefully consider and plan for better alternatives. A wise man once said, “One must look in the direction toward which he would go.”