Directors examine district’s surplus properties
By Karen Brainard
Looking for ways to improve revenue, Ramona Municipal Water District directors are inquiring about district surplus property and that includes examining a 68-year-old title deed and revisiting the Bargar water treatment plant.
Many Ramonans are probably not aware that the property at 960 Main St. where the Ramona Chamber of Commerce sits was owned by Ramona Irrigation District, which later became Ramona Municipal Water District.
In 1954, the district deeded the real property at 960 Main St. to the American Red Cross. According to the water district, the deed includes the following covenant: “that said real property is to be used for the purposes incidental to the operations and activities of the American National Red Cross. In the event such use is changed, terminated or abandoned for a period in excess of two years, title to said real property shall revert to said Irrigation District.”
According to the Red Cross, it built the building on the property in 1957 and rents it to the chamber of commerce.
In March the water board directed RMWD General Manager David Barnum to contact the Red Cross in an effort to reclaim the property.
Director Joe Zenovic had said it appeared the Red Cross has not been using the property, as required in the deed, for several years.
“I think we have an opportunity to retrieve that property because of inaction of Red Cross,” he said.
Board members agreed that, if the district reclaimed the property, it could continue to lease the building to the chamber.
In a response letter from the Red Cross, presented at the May 22 RMWD meeting, the organization disagreed with the district’s findings.
Senior Counsel Garrett Burke noted that the building is rented to the chamber, but he said the Red Cross continues to use the building for various functions, including educating the public about preparedness in close cooperation with the chamber.
“The time has long since passed for the water district to be asserting this right, if it exists at all,” stated Burke.
The board asked Attorney Brooke Miller to review the title documents.
Board President Bryan Wadlington said the district would be fiscally responsible to ratepayers “to not give this property away.”
Zenovic mentioned the Bargar water treatment plant for future discussion, suggesting it be declared surplus property for the district to sell. The plant has not been in operation since 2007 when it could not meet new requirements. Although the water district spent approximately $380,000, working with third-party firms to try to bring the plant up to standards, the board terminated the project in September 2011 when estimates showed the water would cost three times the amount charged by the San Diego County Water Authority.
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