Changing of the guard and fighting a piece of state legislation were the main topics at the Price River Water Improvement District board meeting Jan. 22.
Director Phil Palmer, who has been at the helm of the district since 1976, handed in his letter of retirement at the Jan. 8 meeting.
Newly elected boardmember Steve Rigby jokingly told Palmer that the board had ripped the letter up and wouldn't accept it.
"No, I have made my decision," said Palmer, smiling.
Palmer's impending May 1 departure sparked a discussion about refining the director's job description, how to find a replacement and who might fill the position.
"I don't know anybody more qualified to move into this position immediately than Jeff," said board clerk Guido Rachiele referring to Jeff Richens, the district's assistant director.
Richens, who has been with PRWID for about six years, told the boardmembers that he would support any decision they made around Palmer's replacement.
"If the board wants to advertise outside for applicants or wants me to take the position, I am alright with whatever you decide," said Richens.
Boardmember Keith Cox asked PRWID attorney Nick Sampinos whether it would be legal for the panel to bypass the advertising process.
"We don't have to go outside to get resumes do we?" asked Cox. "Can we just offer it to Jeff?"
Sampinos told the boardmembers that they could promote from within without soliciting outside resumes.
With that established, Rigby made another suggestion.
"I am going to think outside the box here," said. Rigby "Why do we need both these positions (director and assistant director)?"
From what he could see in the organizational chart of the district's administration , Rigby said Richens' current position seemed superfluous and eliminating it would be a cost-saving measure.
"Everybody's tightening their belts, especially in the administrative arena," said Rigby.
Palmer added that there was no district policy to prevent eliminating the assistant director position.
But Palmer offered a caveat about underestimating the importance of the position by just looking at the chart.
"It might appear that way on paper," said Palmer, adding that there is more work than the chart reveals.
With a job description to tweak and a hiring decision to make, the board voted to schedule a special work session without Richens and Palmer being present to iron out the details.
The panel tentatively set the session on Feb. 4 , pending clearing the date with Boardmember Mike Dalpiaz, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting.
While Palmer may be a short timer he is still fully engaged in the world of water districts and potential stumbling blocks to providing services. He presented the board with the text of SB 127, sponsored by State Senator Jon. J Greiner which if passed would require water districts to mark all sewer lines as an aid to other undergrounding operators, such as those that lay fiber optics.
Palmer explained that the bill would shift all responsibility for ensuring that sewer pipes are not damaged by these other operators on to the district and take all liability away from those companies doing the undergrounding.
"What's been happening is that the companies are drilling right through our lines," said Palmer. "Then a few months later the sewer may back up into some one's home and they have to go after the company."
If passed SB 127, which is presently being held in a senate committee, would require PRWID to go and mark all sewer laterals in any area where the undergrounding is proposed.
"It's an ugly, ugly bill," Palmer said.
Board members asked if it meant that marking the sewer laterals would mean painting lines across resident's grass.
"Yes that's what it means," Richens said.
The board explored the logistical glitches in trying to comply with that type of requirement, including lateral lines don't necessarily run in a straight line and that the district would have to mark the laterals that connect many of the cities to the district.
"We would have to mark those long private lines that tie into our system," he said.
Richens illustrated some of the situations already encountered by the district saying that in Carbonville district workers went out to clear a pipe and pulled out a big wad of phone fiber lines and in another they just cut out a piece of pipe and ran the wires right through it.
"They (fiber optics operators) dig a hole, drop their machine in it and away it goes," Richens said.
After hearing the stories and the potential impact on the district, Boardmember Richard Tatton recommended that staff draw up a letter to be sent to Senator Mike Dmitrich for the district board members to sign. He then offered his opinion on SB 127.
"This is just goofy," he said. "It should be their (the underground operator's) responsibility.
In other business the board tabled action on proposed fee connection schedule, the re-organization of the board's officers and discussion of possible rate increases until the Feb. 5 meeting. The PRWID board meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., at 265 South Fairgrounds Road. For more information call Jeffrey Richens at 637-6350.