Madera County is proposing to privatize all Special Districts for
Water and Waste Treatment.

This web site is to be a resource for information.
If you have a submission, please send to: ms "at" basslakeca.com (change "at" to @)
Pros and Cons are welcome.

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The Utilities Privatization Committee hearings will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tues Apr 23 as Item #9

See Staff report letter S4-23 StfReport Privtz Board_Letter.pdf
 or can be viewed at: http://madera.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=246920&view=&showpdf=1

Kheng Vang will forward the Privatization Committee's recommendations to the Brd of Supervisor:  "Staff to [1] share the results of the [consumer/resident] survey, [2] present a delinquency and water service shut off policy for future adoption by the Board of Supervisors, [3] recommend to the  Board to discontinue the Utilities Privatization process, [4] to not send out the Letter of interest, and [5] to develop an Internal  Improvement Program and limited outsourcing for invoicing at a consistent interval for all the Districts." 
The meeting starts at 9:00 am in the County Building on 4th Street in Madera. Agenda is also attached as BrdSupvAgenda 4-23-13pdf.

The County's consumer/resident survey can be seen by clicking http://madera.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=246922&view=&showpdf=1>
Also: Consent Calendar Items I & J deal with Oakhurst MD22A - 
  1. pproving plans and specifications for Waste Water Treatment Plant Sprayfield expansion and site improvements in Maintenance District No. 22A, Oakhurst and authorize solicitation of bids and setting of bid opening by County Engineer.

 

 

 


The County's Utilities Privatization Committee meets again this Friday (March 8) in the County building next to Walmart in Madera, at 2:00 pm. 

If you have not already reviewed the staff's information, go to the Special District's website http://www.madera-county.com/index.php/special-districts-survey and SCROLL DOWN  to where these links are posted.:

March 8, 2013

 

Initially the County was entertaining selling the Districts to Private operators. While that possibility still exists, focus has turned to see how the County can improve services through outsourcing all or portions of operations.

Community Utilities Council - This group was formed to assist the County and the Community to do outreach, to help the citizens become educated on the issues. They hope to bring outside experts in, to provide insight on how the Special Districts operate.

Madera County Special District listings  Water & Sewer Matrix (rate billing etc)    Special District County Wide Budget
District listing by Supervisor  Map of Special Districts

Memo sent by Steve Sagouspe and Stell Manfredi (Paid Consultants for American Water) to the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors Meeting on Sep 24, 2012  Video

Commitee meeting December 13, 2012 Agenda   Video
By Marc Sobel.. The commitee approved a survey to be sent out with the next bill in January. revisions will be made to the presented version.
The committee restated the sale of all the districts is off the table. Focus was related to outsourcing and outreach.
Next meeting will be schedules after the survey results are back.
No action on the $40,000 resquest for consultants. The LOI was tabled again as not ready for anything.
About 25 people attended. The meeting was recorded so you may see it online.

First Committee Meeting on Nov 7, 2012     Agenda     Budget    Presentation   Exhibit    Letter of Interest
By Marc Sobel,  Results - A special advisory committee (Utilities Privatization Committee) formed by the Supervisors held its first meeting on November 7th where about 80 people attended. After a staff presentation which posed a wide range of options and questions, the public got to speak, including myself. It did not take long to see the community was very against selling our systems to a private company. A whole host of issues were presented and for the most part many questions remain unanswered. The Staff said it has no expertise in these areas. After some discussion the Committee decided to recommend to the Board of Directors (Supervisors) that the County hire an expert to assist staff to formulate a plan to seek proposals to provide help in the following areas: Management services, operations and maintenance, fleet service, meter reading, water sampling, billing & collection. The Special Districts would share in the cost estimated at $40,000. They tabled sending a 'Letter of Interest' to contractors. I think the County is now on the right tract to work towards a system wide review that puts a new priority on providing better, more efficient service to the community. Thanks to community comments the outright sale to a private company, seems to have been placed on the back burner for the time being.

$40,000 Confusion
At Supervisor Wheeler's Town Hall Meeting on Nov 15th there were questions and concern about taking $40,000 from Special District budgets for consultants. This money was originally in the annual Special District budget. It was removed with the thinking that a private contractor could come up with the money to help the special districts privatize, a credit towards a possible contract award. The appointed committee changed directions to do a internal review. The fact is the staff needs to have some assistance to do such a review. Consultants can provide valuable information as to how better the operations. There are legal issues that need addressing and the Staff does not have the expertise in these areas. At the committee meeting there was consensus from the public attending that the money was needed. I know the County already receives money to pay administrative duties but this is an additional burden on already budgeted funds. Please remember we get what we pay for. No public tax payer money can be used to support the Special Districts. If you want the County to do a better job then you must fund this effort.

 

Districts Rejecting Privatization - Letters to the Board of Supervisors
MD60 - Dillon Estates
MD8A - North Fork
CSA16 - Sumner Hill
CSA 2A/2B Bass Lake Sewer District
MD58 - Sierra Highlands
MD46 - Ahwahnee Country Club

City of Stockton - Information on what happened and how privatization failed
   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_WpEc5Zb4k 
   http://www.democracynow.org/2007/8/1/stockton_california_city_council_reverses_water
   http://www.citizen.org/documents/UpdatedBackgrounder_20021104.pdf

Article by Marc Sobel

A Citizen’s Guide to Special Districts in California   Special districts - planning

Felton California fights to get back their water system after rates go up by 74%.

A index of State codes   Water District code 

Madera County Code - Water & Sewer

Public Citizen - 10 reason to oppose Privatization   Rural Community Assistance Corporation

Food & Water Watch - Failed City list   Water Resource List/Organizations (public & private)

Q&A By Marc Sobel

  1. What is a Special District?
    A separate Government entity empowered to own assets and raise money from users to fund operations
  2. How and when is it created?
    a.  During development of a housing tract (for example), by the County in
         the permitting process. These are usually called Maintenance Districts.
    b.  When a need arises after development is completed, example; a
          community switches from septic tanks to a waste treatment system.
          All proposed users vote to authorize the District.
  3. What is the difference between a (MD) Maintenance District and a (CSA) Community Service Area?
    Looking for a a good answer on this one.
  4. How is it governed?
    By a Board of Directors, usually by City Councils or County Supervisors. The elected officials wear several hats.
  5. Who owns a MD or CSA?
    You would think the citizens in the District, but tile to assets is held by the County for the Special Districts.
  6. How are rates set?
    The Board of Directors set the rates from time to time to cover the cost of operations. Proposition 218 regulates how this is done. Certain expenditures require a vote of the public.
  7. Can the County profit from operations?
    No, but it can pay for shared administrative cost. By the same token, general fund money is not allowed to fund Special Districts.
  8. How do large cost items paid for?
    a.  Usually by loans or Bonds issued by the District.
    b.  Rate payers make the payments on these obligations.
  9. What control do I have over operations?
    None, But Citizens Committees are common ways to provide oversight and influence decisions.
  10. Can I see the books or audit the District?
    Probably as these are county records that can be obtained under the freedom of information act. The Budgets are on online.
  11. Can the County fix problems today?
    Yes, it just takes the community to push an issue and accept the cost associated with the fix.
  12. What can you do if you do not like the service?
    County officials are elected so they have incentive to provide good service.

Privatization By Marc Sobel

  1. Why Privatize
    a.  To Build new infrastructure with private money where government is
         unable to do so, example; poor countries.
    b.  Some people believe a private company creates competition and lower
          cost.
    c.  Relieves the county of the responsibility and political fall out.
  2. How can a private company save money?
     a.  Lower Labor Cost through use of non union employees, less pay and  
          less benefits.
     b. Economies of scale. Small operations usually incur higher overhead.
     c.  Experience
  3. How does a Private company create a profit?
    a.  An approximately 12% profit is built in to the rate structure above all
         cost.
    b.  Even larger profits are generated by fixing or upgrading systems.
    c.  Creative overcharging for services nets bigger profits
  4. How is a private company regulated and rates set?
    a.  Rates are set by the State Public Utilities Commission.
    b.  Companies lobby for changes in rates based upon the system cost and
          needs.
  5. How long are the contracts and how can they be reversed for poor service?
    a.  Contracts are usually let for 10 or more years.
    b.  Citizens would have to band together, hire attorneys to challenge
          contracts, a costly process.
  6. Do you get to audit a private company’s records or see their books?
    The only records you may be able to see are those filed with the PUC.
  7. How do large cost items paid for with private companies?
    You pay for everything. Nothing is for free.
  8. What control do I have over operations?
    None
  9. What can you do if you do not like their service?
    You may complain but there are no real consequences for bad service.
    You always have the right to hire an attorney and sue.
  10. What steps are required to privatize the Districts?
    That is a good question.
  11. Will I get to vote on Privatization?
    Do not know, but probably not.

Political considerations, By Marc Sobel
Your County Supervisor is elected. That is good and bad. You get to kick them out if they do a bad job. But at the same time citizens usually do not want to pay more for services even when facts support the need to pay more. For example: Water is plentiful but does not meet clean water requirements. A filtration facility is expensive and will raise rates. Elected officials get pressure from voters to keep rates low so the facility is not built. A private company has a responsibility to its investors and to follow the law to provide clean water and will build the facility regardless of community outcry. Voters may also see the elected official as a bad guy every month as they pay their bill or face disconnection. Elected officials can wash their hand to say this is out of my control when private companies operate the Districts.

Money Money Money, By Marc Sobel
Corruption is often sited as motivation for privatization when elected officials go against the will of the people. Transparency is not always clear. Since the process is still largely unknown, I will speculate. If the Districts are sold there may be a possibility that the County would receive the profits of the asset sale to fund County operations. Remember who paid to build and support the system, it was not the County. This would be another form of taxation of certain individuals (rate payers) in favor of others. Private Companies sometime offer signing bonuses or pay franchise fees to the County. This money ultimately comes from rate payers as Private companies factor all costs into operations which set rates. Another back door way to tax citizens. Nothing is for free!.

Trump card, By Marc Sobel
Citizens do have the initiative process to create law. This was used in Stockton Ca when the elected officials tried to implement a contract when the citizens disagreed with their position.