The joint powers agreement between the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District created the North County Joint Powers Authority. Brian Brady serves as the executive officer of the North County JPA, the general manager of FPUD, and the general manager of the Rainbow district. He is also FPUD’s representative on the San Diego County Water Authority board, and on Sept. 25 Brady addressed the SDCWA board on the arrangement.
“We’re seeing Fallbrook and Rainbow work together,” Brady said. “They’re willing to think outside the box.”
FPUD was founded in 1922 and covered 500 acres at the time. The district expanded to 5,000 acres when the Fallbrook Irrigation District was dissolved in 1937. FPUD currently covers 44 square miles and serves a population of approximately 35,000. FPUD currently has approximately 9,100 potable water customers, 5,000 sewer customers, and 25 recycled water customers. The district’s total assets are approximately $100 million. The average annual water use per customer is 1.16 acre-feet.
The roots of the Rainbow Municipal Water District date to 1945, when the San Luis Rey Heights Municipal Water Company was formed to provide a pipeline 12 inches in diameter from the Rainbow Gap nine miles away to the San Luis Rey Heights groves. The Rainbow Municipal Water District was formed in 1953 with the merger of several mutual water companies. It currently serves approximately 18,000 people in an area covering 78 square miles. The district has assets of approximately $111 million and has approximately 7,200 water connections and 1,900 sewer connections. The average annual water use per customer is 2.5 acre-feet.
Brady noted that issues facing the two districts include aging infrastructure and the cost of water. “The issues aren’t any different, really, than all the rest of us,” he said.
The two districts have significant agricultural customer bases. “The avocado industry is huge,” Brady said.
In 2007, the Rainbow district hired Dave Seymour as its general manager. Seymour announced his plans to retire in early 2012, and discussions between Rainbow and Fallbrook management included a merger, a joint powers authority, and other options in which the two districts had a common general manager. In early 2013, the districts approved the formation of the JPA.
“The JPA was formed so that we’d have a legal context,” Brady said.
“Initially it was formed so that basically one person would manage both organizations,” Brady said. “This has really been a bottoms-up process.”
A JPA also allows sharing of staffs. “Most of the cost savings are in staff time,” Brady said.
Brady noted that the JPA allows each district to “lease” staff members from the other district. Each district bills the other district on a monthly basis.
The projected savings were approximately $17,000 per month, or $200,000 annually, for the first year with savings rising to $850,000 annually, or $71,000 monthly, by the third year. “We’re way ahead of what we thought we could be,” Brady said.
Staffing for the two districts combined has dropped from 123 in 2011 to 114 when Brady gave his presentation. Under full consolidation the combined district would have an expected staff of 103 or 104.
The functional consolidation gave the two districts an experience of being together prior to any application to San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission for jurisdictional consolidation. “I don’t want to stay in this no-man’s land for a long period of time,” Brady said. “Things are going really well, and we’re really looking forward to making this thing come together over the next 12 months.”
Brady indicated general community support for the arrangement between the two districts, although he did acknowledge concern from Rainbow residents whose customer service functions were slated for relocation to the FPUD office. “It all gets to how it impacts you personally,” Brady said. “For the most part it’s all very positive until it comes down to them personally.”