The North County Joint Powers Authority consisting of the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District will be dissolved effective April 5.
A 4-1 Rainbow vote March 5, with Dennis Sanford in opposition, approved the termination of the joint powers agreement with FPUD. “We voted to give them the 30-day notice to end the joint powers,” said Rainbow board president George McManigle.
McManigle delivered the notice of termination to FPUD on March 6. The joint powers agreement allowed for a termination provision after one year; the first North County JPA meeting was held on March 6, 2013.
“It’s unfortunate,” McManigle said. “It was kind of disappointing that it didn’t work out.”
The North County JPA was created in February 2013 as a transitional structure to test the possibility of consolidating the Fallbrook and Rainbow districts. The functional consolidation allowed for the experience of combining tasks among the two districts while also creating the possibility that the districts could experience cost savings due to such sharing without governance consolidation. The joint powers agreement also included an employee leasing agreement which allowed FPUD and Rainbow to share employees, and the functional consolidation saved more than $1 million during the agreement’s first 11 months of existence.
In November the FPUD and Rainbow boards voted to begin the process of applying to the Local Agency Formation Commission for an actual jurisdictional consolidation, but the boards of the two districts could not agree on the governance structure for the successor district. Each district currently has a five-member board, but FPUD elects its directors by seat with the entire district voting for each seat while Rainbow elects its directors by division with only voters in that division participating in that election.
The FPUD board initially proposed that the board members of the consolidated agency all be elected at large. At the February 5 North County JPA meeting FPUD’s representatives on the JPA board (which consists of three FPUD board members, three Rainbow board members, and an at-large member chosen by the rest of the board) put forth a compromise proposal in which four directors would be elected by division and three directors would be elected at large. Such a format would provide board representation for residents of each of the four divisions while also ensuring that a majority of the board would be accountable to all of the district’s residents. Rainbow’s board members rejected that proposal.
“I don’t think anyone on our board is willing to give up the five district by division board that Rainbow operates under,” McManigle said.
During Rainbow’s February 25 regular meeting director Helene Brazier provided a position which noted that functional consolidation was not necessary to achieve the benefits of sharing resources with neighboring water districts as is the case with the recent activity between Rainbow and the Valley Center Municipal Water District to coordinate pipelines. Brazier’s comments defined the proposed merger as absorption into FPUD and permanent minority status instead of a full partnership.
Rainbow’s February 25 board meeting also discussed the process of hiring a new general manager. Rainbow general manager Dave Seymour retired shortly after the creation of the JPA, and FPUD general manager Brian Brady also became Rainbow’s general manager. Brady is also the executive officer for the JPA.
“We will continue with the JPA for the next 30 days, so Brian Brady is our general manager for another month,” McManigle said.
The Rainbow board is likely to approve the selection of an interim general manager at its March 25 meeting.
The dissolution of the JPA ends the employee leasing agreement for the time being. “There’s no reason there can’t be a new agreement to benefit from or extend the employee leasing agreement,” McManigle said. “I think the Rainbow board would be happy to consider a new employee leasing agreement in the future.”