By Joel Hastings
After a two-hour closed session with legal counsel on existing and potential litigation and the Board secretary employee evaluation, the Madera Irrigation District Board of Directors convened publicly at 12 noon on December 15, 2022. President Jim Erickson called the session to order at the District offices on Rd 28 ¼ in Madera where only Board members and staff were present. The public was invited on Zoom.
With no public comment, the Board convened a GSA meeting with a report from Assistant General Manager Dina Nolan. She said a “round two” grant had been applied for to fund the preparation of the whole subbasin’s annual and five-year reports as required. She said the NRCS pilot program for on-farm recharge projects had been successful with eight applicants approved. MID adds to the financial incentives along with NRCS funding.
Moving back to the regular MID Board meeting, the group reelected officers for the coming year… Jim Erickson, president; Carl Janzen, vice-president; Jennifer Furstenberg, the company controller as treasurer; and Andrea Sandoval, executive assistant, as secretary. Members of standing committees were reconfirmed as follows: Ground Water Management – Dave Loquaci and Brian Davis; Personnel – Loquaci and Janzen; Finance – Erickson and Tim DaSilva; and Ad Hoc Strategic Planning – Erickson and Loquaci.
Directors were reconfirmed to a total 14 outside organizations that require representation from MID. Notably, Erickson is the new chair of the Friant Water Authority Executive Committee. Janzen is chair of the Friant Power Authority and Madera Regional Water Management Group. Davis represents Region 6 of ACWA attending conferences in the spring and fall each year. DaSilva is a voting director of the San Joaquin River Resource Management Coalition.
The consent agenda was approved which included approval of minutes for two meetings in October, payment of bills totaling $2,713,662.14, acceptance of financial reports for September and October, and reconfirmation of the use of Zoom for its meeting.
Charles Contreras gave his usual detailed operations and maintenance report. He is difficult to hear on Zoom but his written reports in the Board packet always include copious detail and many photos of the extensive work his crew does each month. Furstenberg reported on the activities of the Finance Department. In addition to the routine bill paying and payroll, her group had prepared the 2023 budget which was to be presented at this session while updating all employee tax withholdings and health insurance documentation for 2023.
In his report, General Manager Thomas Greci discussed the letter that had been received from the Bureau of Reclamation requesting support for its use of special funding to work on infrastructure projects. He explained that he had submitted the requested letter to the Bureau to support their access to special funds thereby not delaying some $87 million of necessary work being done. Greci explained that MID would still have to reimburse the Bureau for its share of this work as usual, but that it could proceed more promptly if the Bureau used Aging Infrastructure Account funding.
Greci called the Board’s attention to the upcoming Mid-Pacific Water Users Conference set for January 25 – 27, 2023. Next, he presented a copy of a certificate of recognition for Charles Contreras who had received the H R LaBounty Safety Award from ACWA’s insurance division. The award is given for activities that increase the safety of employees of ACWA member organizations. In this case, the video cameras covering the MID equipment yard at night as set up by Contreras had captured images of two felons who were later apprehended by local police. Greci concluded his report saying that a new superintendent had begun work for the Madera – Chowchilla Water & Power Authority. He recognized President Erickson as the new Friant Water Authority chair and Janzen as the new Power Authority Chair.
The board next considered items updating and revising administration of the MID employee retirement plans. Bryan Griffith of Cornerstone Advisory Group of Fresno outlined in detail of the program being put in place from the John Hancock insurance company to offer investment options for employees while administering the 401k, 401a and 457 programs. It was a detailed presentation with much discussion and questions from the Board. The latest programs were approved including an updated set of investment guidelines.
One item of what might be called housekeeping was approved… withdrawal from and termination of the long defunct Upper San Joaquin River Water & Power Authority. Back in the ‘80s it had been created with the Southern California Edison power company but had been inactive for decades. Previously the Board had authorized this wind down to avoid administration and audit costs and legal liability. The passing of this Board resolution brings this to conclusion.
The District owns some 10,900 acres of rangeland west of Madera which it has leased in recent years to livestock producers. A recent state law requires that a public agency owning such open land not needed for routine business and meeting certain criteria, such as in a coastal zone or adjacent to a state park, must issue a public notice before it may lease or sell the property. However, because this property meets none of those criteria it can be declared exempt from such notice, the Board adopted the required resolution establishing this exempt status so that it could consider all options in the future.
Before beginning its consideration of the 2023 budget, the board approved three modifications of its financial policies regarding check signing and electronic bill payment, budget codes and categories and investment guidelines.
Department head Contreras and GM Greci presented requests for capital expenditures and projects that were included in the budget. Itemized were three vehicles, a new domestic well for the office, a steel building and piping and related construction materials. The amount is $2.4 million following the guideline of ten percent of the total budget.
Controller Furstenberg then presented a spreadsheet of the proposed 2023 expense budget, reviewing the various categories and pointing out differences from the 2022 budget. Also shown were 2022 expenses to date through October 30 and final expenses in the same categories for 2021.
The budget totals $25,289,000 and includes water costs of $8,500,000 or 34 percent of the total budget. Salaries and benefits amount to 23 percent including a seven percent COL wage increase based on the consumer price index, overtime of $25,000 and merit increases of $152,000.
The assumptions for water cost are:
-100% Class 1 water supply or 85,000 acre/feet
-No Class 2 water supply
-24,000 acre/feet for Hidden Dam, projecting 40,000 acre/feet will be available for delivery
-7,400 acre/feet of Pre-1914 water from Soquel
-1,023 acre/feet of 2022 Class 1 water rescheduled to 2023
The 2023 Bureau water rate for Class 1 has increased by 14 percent, Class 2 water rate increased by 21 percent and Hidden Dam water rate has increased by 18 percent from 2022 rates. The 2023 Bureau water rate for Pre-1914 water has not yet been published; this 2023 budget assumes the same rate from 2022.
Also included in the budget is $2,553,000 for debt service on the 2015 bond and $1,676,000 for the debt service for the 2016 bond.
The 2022 adjusted District budget included expenditures, less water costs, of approximately $17,646,000 compared with the proposed 2023 budget of approximately $16,789,000. This decrease is due to not having the additional debt service payment on the 2015 bond of $2,550,000 which was paid in 2022 and a net increase of all other costs.
The meeting concluded with reports from each director. DaSilva said that he had had a most interesting first year on the Board. Davis reported in some detail on his participation in the fall ACWA conference, talking about the value of meeting a variety of the leaders in the water industry. Janzen reported on his attendance at meetings of the various organizations he participates in on behalf of MID. Loquaci brought up the new grant funding available for land repurposing around disadvantaged communities (LandFlex & MultiBenefit Land Repurposing Programs). He also lamented the lack of power supply for new projects in Madera County, residential, industrial and agricultural because of limitations from PG&E. Finally, Erickson spoke about the value of the Friant Board retreat. All exchanged holiday best wishes before going back into closed session about 4:15 p.m. The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m.
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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637 559/673-3514
Staff: General Manager -Thomas Greci, Assistant GM – Dina Nolan
Board: Jim Erickson, President; Tim DaSilva, Brian Davis, Carl Janzen and Dave Loquaci
HISTORY: From www.madera-id.org The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres. MID operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canal systems as well as 150 miles of large diameter pipelines.
The District has a Central Valley Project (CVP) repayment contract with United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) providing up to 85,000 acre feet (AF) of Class 1 and 186,000 AF of Class 2 water per year from the Friant Division (Millerton Lake). The CVP water is released from Millerton Lake through the Friant Dam, and then conveyed through the Madera Canal for delivery into the District’s service area. The District also entered into a CVP repayment contract with the USBR for the yield from the Hidden Unit (Hensley Lake). Under the Hidden Unit contract, the average annual supply available to the District is approximately 24,000 AF per year.
DWR SGMA # 5-022.06