Community services districts closer to consolidation
The American Valley Community Services Authority, an entity made up of the East Quincy Service District and Quincy Community Service Districts boards of directors, took another step in the consolidation process by hiring a legal firm that specializes in working with public entities at a Tuesday, March 23, meeting.
The AVCSA unanimously agreed to hire Best, Best and Krieger, the firm recommended to the board by both the PMC consulting group and new Plumas Local Agency Formation Commission Executive Officer John Benoit.
QCSD board member Jim Bequette, who is also chairman of the consolidation committee, voiced optimism about the process and AVCSA’s ability to move efficiently towards consolidation.
EQSD board president Howard Hughes said the committee was shooting for a July 1, 2011, date for the process to be completed with the two districts fully combined into one.
The law firm was hired on a “time and materials” basis, meaning there would be no retainer.
Andrew Morris, the attorney who will work directly with AVCSA, told the board he lived in Truckee, and that would significantly reduce his travel time as compared to the rest of the firm, which is based in Sacramento.
He also indicated most of his work could be done over the phone or though e-mail.
The contract includes a 30-day termination notice requirement and pays the IRS rate for travel mileage.
Compensation for time will be based on the level of expertise required for each hour worked on the project, broken down as follows: $305 per hour for partners; $295 for “of counsel” attorneys; $270 for associates; and $165 for clerks or paralegals.
Morris said he would push as much work down to associates as possible.
“We’re big enough that we’re not trying to balance our budget on the back of anybody in Plumas County.”
“I’m trying to get more clients up here in Plumas County, and I think that the best way to do that is to do good work and have you feel like you got a good deal.”
Morris explained his firm was the biggest in the state that worked primarily with public entities. He also said he represented a LAFCo and had worked with Benoit in the past.
Morris told the board they would need to turn in a basic application to LAFCo July 1, to get the process moving. The more complex resolutions for combining the two districts would not needed until the fall.
Morris will write the necessary resolutions and help the two boards frame the choices they will be faced with.
QCSD board member Kim Kraul asked for a general estimate on the overall cost of the law firm’s work. Morris said $30,000 would be a very rough estimate.
After the board approved the contract, Hughes told fellow board members they should start to think about issues such as one district manages solid waste while the other doesn’t.
“What do we want to see this district manage and how do we want to see it?” he asked.
Morris said the specific issue of waste management could be handled by trying to give away QCSD’s solid waste powers; trying to expand EQSD’s powers by requesting to take the responsibility from the county in the district’s borders; or by simply letting QCSD’s solid waste contract run out at the end of its term, which would return that responsibility to the county.
AVCSA President Denny Churchill said Benoit recommended the last option, saying it was simpler to let the contract run out as opposed to crafting a complicated plan in a consolidation resolution.
Hughes said another topic to consider was that the new district would have more than 1,000 customers and would fall under California’s 20/20 rule, requiring a 20 percent reduction in water consumption by 2020.
Districts that fail to comply with the new regulation will be ineligible for state funded grants and loans.
Morris said many districts were addressing the issue with tiered rates that cause the cost of water per gallon to go up as customers consumed more.
The EQSD board directed its district manager and engineer to look into a possible tiered rate at its last meeting.