The joint powers agency whose initial members are the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) and the Rainbow Municipal Water District was approved by both the FPUD and Rainbow boards.
FPUD’s vote Feb. 25 was 4-1 with director Archie McPhee opposed. Rainbow’s board voted 3-2 Feb. 26, with Jack Griffiths and Helene Brazier in opposition, to create the JPA. The individual boards also voted to appoint three members apiece to the North County Joint Powers Authority board along with an alternate from each member agency, and the member districts agreed that the JPA board meetings will be held on the first Wednesday of each month at 2:30 p.m. in the FPUD board room.
“I’m really happy that the board approved it, and I think this will give both districts a chance to move forward and save some money for the ratepayers,” said Rainbow general manager Dave Seymour.
“Dave Seymour and I have been discussing the possibilities and the potential benefits for just over a year now, so from my perspective it’s gratifying to see that the two boards have voted in favor and I’m optimistic about the real potential for cost savings,” said FPUD general manager Brian Brady.
The joint powers authority allows for functional consolidation between the two districts while maintaining separate governing structures. Seymour has announced his retirement effective 30 days from the JPA’s first meeting, which equates to April 5, so Brady will likely be the executive officer of the North County Joint Powers Authority. “Presumably he will be appointed to be the executive officer of the joint powers authority,” Seymour said. “One person’s taking the place of two.”
Milt Davies, Al Gebhart, and Don McDougal will be FPUD’s representatives on the North County Joint Powers Authority board with Bert Hayden being selected as FPUD’s alternate. Rainbow’s three selections to the JPA board were Brazier, Bob Lucy, and Dennis Sanford with Griffiths designated as the alternate. Those six members will appoint an at-large director to give the North County Joint Powers Authority an odd number of directors; the at-large director might but is not required to be someone who lives in one district but owns a business or property in the other district.
Under the Brown Act, a noticed public meeting is necessary for a majority of a public agency’s board members to be present together where agency business is discussed. Because the North County Joint Powers Authority meetings will be noticed public meetings, a majority of members from a participating board may be present. That will also allow the joint powers agency to address some business items currently handled individually by each member agency, although the individual water agencies will continue to approve their individual budgets.
The Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 actions approved three documents: the creation of the North County Joint Powers Authority, the by-laws of the JPA, and an employee leasing agreement. The language of those documents was recommended during a Feb. 12 joint workshop with both member agency boards present. Seymour, Brady, and the legal counsel for the two districts had been developing the draft agreements before bringing them to the Rainbow and FPUD boards for comment.
A joint powers agency allows for functional consolidation, which could either be an interim step towards jurisdictional consolidation or an alternative which would allow each district to keep its own governing board. “It allows the two boards of directors to remain intact, for the two districts to be distinct entities,” Brady said.
“It will achieve the same level of cost savings,” Seymour said of functional consolidation.
The joint powers agreement will enable the districts and their voters to determine whether jurisdictional consolidation would be a suitable permanent option. “It will see how well we work together,” Seymour said.
Another advantage to a joint powers agency is the ability to add member agencies which cannot be consolidated. In addition to the San Diego County Water Authority and the multi-county Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, there is already one JPA for water in San Diego County. The Sweetwater Authority consists of the South Bay Irrigation District and the National City water department, which as a city department cannot be consolidated with another water agency.
Although no formal discussions have involved the eventual addition of the City of Oceanside’s water department to the Rainbow/FPUD joint powers agency, such an addition would allow for coordination of San Luis Rey River and sewer outfall issues, and Oceanside’s Weese Water Treatment Plant is located in Bonsall within the Rainbow district’s boundaries.
“Our two boards could work with another entity,” Brady said.
“One of the things that’s written into the agreement is that other entities can join the JPA,” Seymour said. “We’re not an exclusive club.”
The document creating the North County Joint Powers Authority allows for other agencies to join the joint powers agency in the future and also allows for withdrawal of a member agency as well as termination of the JPA by mutual agreement.
FPUD has previously been involved in two jurisdictional consolidations: the district joined with the DeLuz Heights Municipal Water District in 1990 and with the Fallbrook Sanitary District in 1994. The merger between FPUD and the Fallbrook Sanitary District merged one district whose employees had Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday and one district which did not give that day off to non-emergency staff, and the retention of both previous employee agreements gave some but not all consolidated agency staff members that holiday. Seymour noted that the JPA retains employee memorandums of understanding for each member agency while adding that employee associations of each district could voluntarily agree to similar provisions. “There’s nothing that would keep us from trying to renegotiate,” he said. “It would require reopening the contracts.”
While employee consolidation would not be at the expense of service, other functions such as information technology could also be shared. “That’s a perfect example. Neither one of us has a need for a full-time IT person,” Seymour said. “This would allow us to consolidate in that area, probably get better service and lower our cost at the same time.”
Rainbow and FPUD already have a mutual aid agreement, but a JPA can also allow for sharing of other specialty employees.
The formation agreement authorizes general powers to accomplish the purposes of the agreement. Specific powers include entering into contracts, employing agents, maintaining or operating building or infrastructure facilities as well as constructing or acquiring such facilities or leasing them, acquiring and disposing of property, incurring debts or other liabilities which do not constitute a debt or obligation to a member agency, accepting grants or other contributions and applying for grants, setting compensation amounts including consultant or legal fees and any per diem pay for board members, prescribing the duties and adopting day-to-day conduct rules for employees and other agents, filing lawsuits, investing funds, and enforcing the agreement provisions.