The proposed merger between the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District has encountered the obstacle of the governance structure for the successor district.
FPUD, which elects its directors by seat with the entire district voting for each seat, has proposed a hybrid of at-large and by-division board members. Rainbow, which elects its directors by division with only voters in that division participating in the choice, is not willing to yield from its desire to have the successor district’s board elected by divisions.
“It’s basically at an impasse right now,” said Brian Brady, who is the general manager of both districts and the executive officer of the North County Joint Powers Authority which is comprised of the two districts. “It’s the sticking point between the two boards.”
The boards have agreed that the consolidated district would be called the North County Public Utility District and that the district would be a public utility district, as is the case for FPUD, rather than a municipal water district, which is Rainbow’s status. Each district currently has a five-member board. The North County JPA board consists of seven members: three from each district and an at-large member (currently Charley Wolk) chosen by the rest of the board.
The North County JPA was created as a transitional structure in February 2013 to test the possibility of consolidating the Fallbrook and Rainbow districts. The functional consolidation has allowed for the experience of combining tasks
among the two districts without a jurisdictional consolidation while also creating the possibility that the districts could experience cost savings due to such sharing without governance consolidation.
The Feb. 5 JPA board meeting which failed to resolve the governance difference indicated that the functional consolidation has saved more than $1 million in its 11 months of existence; approximately 80 percent of those savings have accrued to the Rainbow district while FPUD was the beneficiary of the other 20 percent of the cost savings.
The FPUD board initially proposed that the board members of the consolidated agency all be elected at large. On Feb. 5, FPUD’s representatives on the JPA 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. “The Fallbrook board thought they were meeting the Rainbow board halfway,” Brady said. Rainbow’s board members rejected that FPUD proposal. “The Rainbow board is holding firm on the concept of division,” Brady said.