RMWD board reviews project agreements

County praises district

for education program

By Karen Brainard

The San Vicente Road project, solar projects, and ambulance services were items on the agenda of the Ramona Municipal Water District’s (RMWD) April 10 board meeting.

In addition, the district was praised at the meeting by Tina Chin, senior director of outdoor education student services and programs for the San Diego County Office of Education, for its participation in the Splash Science Mobile Lab, an education program that teaches water conservation. The mobile program is a collaboration of the county education office and San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies, which include the Ramona district.

RMWD General Manager David Barnum said the district contributed $1,100 as one-time funding for the lab at Ramona Elementary School and Olive Peirce Middle School.

Without discussion, the directors approved an agreement with the County of San Diego for construction of the San Vicente Road water pipeline relocation. The pipeline must be relocated as the county will be realigning and widening a section of San Vicente Road between Warnock Drive and Wildcat Canyon Road and the pipeline is in the right of way.

Under the agreement, the county will include the installation, relocation, and realignment of the pipeline and related appurtenances as part of its contract for the construction of the road project on the condition that RMWD pay the actual costs of construction of its facilities, plus a 10 percent contingency. The county is also requiring a flat fixed rate of 13 percent of the total final construction cost of RMWD facilities for construction management, surveying, material testing, and other related services to be provided by the county.

The relocation is estimated to cost just over $3.8 million. By partnering with the county, Barnum said, the district will save possibly 40 percent of costs.

The agreement requires the county and its contractor to implement protections to limit interruption of water service to RMWD customers. Approval of the plan requires RMWD to borrow funds in advance. Financing options and impact to future water rates will be brought to the board at a later date, according to district staff.

In other action, the board approved a second amendment to its power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kismet Solar LLC. The solar projects, to be constructed at the Santa Maria and San Vicente sewer treatment plants, have run into delays, most recently due to the determination of lien contracts securing $808,030 in drainage and road improvements, filed for the benefit of the county and recorded against the San Vicente site. RMWD Legal Counsel Sophie Akins of Best, Best and Krieger (BBK) said she is working with County Counsel on the issue.

Amendments to the PPA include the time period to construct the solar projects to reflect the Oct. 1 solar rebate extension granted by the California Solar Initiative. The amendments also give RMWD the option to purchase the solar photovoltaic systems at year 15 of the 20-year agreement. The price would be based on the purchase option price in the agreement and not the termination value which would be a higher price, according to the district.

Seth Merewitz, an attorney with BBK, gave an update on ongoing dialogue with the San Diego County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Authority on RMWD’s contracts for ambulance services. Since 1993, RMWD has had a cooperative agreement with Cal Fire to subcontract for fire, paramedic, and ambulance transport services. Recent letters, however, from the county’s EMS notified the district that state code requires RMWD to go out for competitive bid for ambulance transport services, at least every 10 years.

“Our goal is to maintain status quo,” Merewitz told the board, adding that counsel is trying to resolve the issue amicably with the county.

Board Chair Bryan Wadlington said if the district had to get competitive bids, requests for proposals would have to be developed.

“We would be looking at considerable staff time,” Wadlington said. “Our position is if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

The water board unanimously adopted a resolution to continue participation in the county’s fire mitigation fee program.

In the program the county collects a fee from applicants when building permits are issued and then distributes the funds to the fire agencies quarterly. In Ramona, the fire mitigation fee for new construction is 46 cents per square foot. Last year RWMD received just over $40,000 in fees, which can be used for the construction or expansion of capital facilities and acquisition of equipment.

   
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