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Will Madera County Privatize Water Districts?

By Guest Columnist Marc Sobel

Privatization – Change of Direction

The Board of Supervisors were poised to privatize the Special Water Districts. At least that was the impression that was left after the Sept. 24 meeting.

A special committee held its first meeting on Nov. 7, where about 80 people attended. After a staff presentation which posed a wide range of options and questions, the public got to speak, including myself.

It did not take long to see the community was very much against selling our water systems to a private company. A whole host of issues were presented and for the most part, many questions remain unanswered. The Staff said it has no expertise in these areas.

After some discussion the Committee decided to recommend to the Board of Directors (Supervisors) that the County hire an expert to assist staff to formulate a plan to seek proposals to provide help in the following areas: Management services, operations and maintenance, fleet service, meter reading, water sampling, billing & collection. The Special Districts would share in the cost estimated at $40,000. They tabled sending a ‘Letter of Interest’ to contractors.

I think the County is now on the right tract to work towards a system wide review that puts a new priority on providing better, more efficient service to the community. Thanks to community comments the outright sale to a private company, seems to have been placed on the back burner for the time being. Here is website with links regarding the issue http://privatizingmaderacounty.com/

$40,000 Confusion
At Supervisor Wheeler’s Town Hall Meeting on Nov. 15, there were questions and concern about taking $40,000 from Special District budgets for consultants.

This money was originally in the annual Special District budget. It was removed with the thinking that a private contractor could come up with the money to help the special districts privatize, a credit towards a possible contract award.

The appointed committee changed directions to do a internal review. The fact is the staff needs to have some assistance to do such a review. Consultants can provide valuable information as to how better the operations. There are legal issues that need addressing and the Staff does not have the expertise in these areas.

At the committee meeting there was consensus from the public attending that the money was needed. I know the County already receives money to pay administrative duties but this is an additional burden on already budgeted funds.

Please remember we get what we pay for. No public tax payer money can be used to support the special districts. If you want the County to do a better job then you must fund this effort.

To read Marc Sobel’s arguments against privatization, click here.

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