Legal fees for solar project ‘stun’ director

By Karen Brainard

Ramona Municipal Water District Director Joe Zenovic said he has been adding up the legal fees that the district has spent for its solar projects and they total  $45,000.

“I was stunned to see the amount,” he said during director’s comments portion of the board’s Aug. 28 meeting.

Zenovic suggested the board establish a legal ad hoc committee to review the monthly legal fees and consider replacing Best Best & Krieger (BBK), the  firm that contracts with RMWD to provide legal services.

The Division 4 director has been critical of BBK’s legal services, especially since a county lien at the district’s San Vicente Wastewater Reclamation Plant came to light that put a stop to the solar project planned for that site.

The board was faced with losing the district’s $10,000 refundable payment for a California Solar Initiative rebate, or spending more money—$3,000 initially—to work with the county to possibly move the project forward. The county, which would not remove the lien, had suggested RMWD could purchase a bond as alternative security to the lien, so the solar project could proceed.

“We would have been wasting more money on this solar fiasco,” said Zenovic.

The board chose to halt the San Vicente solar project and Zenovic has asked BBK to reimburse the district the $10,000 rebate reservation fee that was to be refunded upon completion of the project. He now wants to seek a $45,000 refund from BBK because he said legal counsel should have earlier disclosed the lien.

Citing what he considers other mistakes made by legal counsel, Zenovic said, “I’m not about to take ratepayer money and spend it foolishly.”

A solar project at the Santa Maria Wastewater Reclamation Plant is under way and, if completed by Oct. 1, the district is scheduled to receive a $15,000 rebate of the money it paid to reserve the project.

   
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