The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 4, 2010
Rio Linda water district nearing moment of truth

With the future of the Rio Linda water district hanging in the balance, a new majority on the board of directors will soon be in charge.

On Tuesday, district voters ousted three incumbents -- Mary Harris, Belinda Paine and Stephanie Suela - and elected challengers Frank Caron, Courtney Caron (his daughter) and Martin Smith.

The Bee editorial board has said that it doesn't really matter who won because the district is so dysfunctional -- and that the district needs to merged with a neighboring water provider.

The Rio Linda/Elverta Community Water District serves nearly 15,000 residents in northwest Sacramento County, but not very well. It is under a state public health order because it can't guarantee safe drinking water and adequate fire protection. Its finances are also in disarray. An independent audit this year found that the district has eaten up its cash reserves and concluded that there is real doubt whether it's a "going concern."

Wednesday evening, the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission discussed the district - and whether to start a reorganization process that could lead to the district's dissolution or consolidation. The LAFCO staff recommended that the district be given until Feb. 1 to come up with a plan to solve its problems.

UPDATE: The LAFCO board went beyond the staff recommendation, unanimously directing the staff to go ahead and start the reorganization study.

LAFCO Chairman Steve Cohn said today that if the district can show it is working, "we can always back off the throttle" on the study.

Cohn, who is a Sacramento City Council member, said LAFCO wants to support the newly elected Rio Linda board members, but also send them a stern warning that they need to get the district back in order.

The current Rio Linda board has scheduled a special meeting for tonight to debate whether to start the process for rate increases that would be needed to repay and secure a $7.5 million state loan to build three new wells.

The LAFCO board also "strongly" suggested that the district start that process to increase rates, not enter into any new contracts or agreements and create a "transition" committee that includes newly elected board members to help get them up to speed.

And LAFCO urged that the district immediately hire an interim general manager and give "strong consideration" to bringing back Mychael Cardenas, who was just dismissed.


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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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