Rancho Water picks firm to find new GM, committee approves energy resolution

The Rancho California Water District board of directors chose Alliance Resource Consulting LLC to help them find a general manager for the district during a Zoom meeting Thursday, Sept. 17. Valley News/Courtesy photo

During the joint meeting of the Rancho California Water District’s planning and administration committee and a special meeting of the board of directors Thursday, Sept. 17, the board settled on a firm that will search for a replacement for general manager Jeff Armstrong, who is retiring.

In a 4-1 vote, with director Angel Garcia the lone “no” vote, the board selected Alliance Resource Consulting LLC to find Armstrong’s replacement after interviewing each of the four firms that were named finalists.

After the first round of votes, K&A and Alliance were tied with three votes each.

“I chose K&A just to keep the conversation alive and to show that I was wrong and that we’d have a tie for the second time ever,” President Bill Wilson said. “I actually value our staff’s recommendation or comfort, not that they would have the input, but they’re the ones that are getting poached by these people. They are getting approached daily.”

Wilson and one other director switched their vote after some discussion.

Alliance, based in La Palma, will be paid $27,500 by the district in four installments, with add-on fees, during the four-phase process.

That action concluded the special board meeting, and after a short break, the committee passed a resolution supporting balance energy solutions for the district going forward.

“The state has had goals to try to reduce the carbon footprint,” Meggan Valencia, governmental affairs manager, said. “Senate Bill 100 under Governor Brown had passed and that mandated zero-emission energy sources for electricity by the year 2045. This is an unfunded mandate that could definitely be a cost burden on us and also impact our reliability. While we do what we can to try to help with the impacts of climate change, we also want to make sure that we as a district have flexibility in what we’re doing for energy solutions.

“This is a resolution that both the city of Temecula and Murrieta have very similar versions of resolutions that they’ve passed in the last few months. And so it’s just a resolution kind of a movement that a lot of different agencies and cities are doing to just say that we’re supporting a balanced energy solution so that we have more flexibility,” Valencia said.

Director William Plummer said he had read the resolution and didn’t understand it, specifically some of the verbiage which he read as negative.

“I don’t understand what we’re trying to do as an agency,” he said. “Maybe it’s just me.”

Eva Plajzer, assistant general manager, explained further.

“The state has developed guidelines in terms of where they want to be with carbon emissions,” she said. “And instead of allowing us to determine how we would like to meet those guidelines, they’re coming out with what we would consider sometimes very business destructive mandates. For example, there’s a mandate that we’re currently evaluating that could potentially completely redo how we manage fleet. We’re going to be pulling carts up the hill because we won’t be able to do diesel. We want to have the ability to say, ‘OK, you want us to reduce our overall emissions to so much CO2; let us do it. We can do it differently. We can put more solar. We can do this or that.’

“But when you come down and you mandate that, I think 2035 where we are going to have to have a certain percentage of our fleet electric, there aren’t even electric backhoes out there. How are we going to do that? They’re mandating very, very specific technologies that we must use. And that’s what this is trying to address to say, ‘Please give us the flexibility in mandating these specific technologies.

“To give you an example, they’re saying, ‘OK, you should use alternative fuel vehicles.’ Well, nobody makes alternate fuel backhoes. We don’t have alternate fuel fueling facility nearby yet. That’s a requirement. So, instead of doing these mandates, set up goals and give the agencies the ability to have control how we achieve those goals,” Plajzer said.

Richard Aragon, assistant general manager, added that the resolution is meant to emphasize local control.

“What’s the point of it?” Plummer said. “If the legislature says you shall have all electric vehicles by year … and we can we say as a board, a future board, ‘Hey, we passed that resolution of back in 2020 that we just want local control, so we’re not going to do whatever.’”

“If state laws are passed we’re going to have to follow,” Valencia said. “As regulations continue to change, and they’re continuing to come out with these different mandates. We can go and show, back in 2020, our board supported a balance, and this is why we want these changes to what it would mandate. It’s not going to stop what’s happening, but it’s going to help our case when we’re trying to push against.”

The resolution ultimately passed unanimously.

The committee also heard a coronavirus update and a report regarding customer payments and behavior, considered a board room audio and video upgrade, heard updates on grants and water use efficiency efforts, outreach and education efforts, state and legislative educational activities and a presentation on human resources activities.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.