City planners have invited the water district’s board to split the cost of hiring Mountain View-based Matrix Consulting Group to determine what, if any, savings or benefits could be gained from consolidation.
Consolidating the two entities would essentially mean that the city would assume the district’s responsibility for maintaining infrastructure, overseeing water usage and reclamation regulations, as well as customer service and billing within Scotts Valley.
The district’s staff, facilities and equipment would all become the city’s responsibility as well.
“(The City Council is) just seeing if there’s some benefits,” said Deputy City Manager Corrie Kates. “We’re reaching out to see if they want to put it on the agenda.”
City Councilman Dene Bustichi proposed the move during the council’s Sept. 5 meeting, and city staff members spent two months searching for a consulting firm with the necessary experience.
“I think it’s worth the effort to study it,” Bustichi said. “I think with the economic times the way they are, it behooves us to study this to see if it’s worthwhile to save money and possibly improve service.”
Citing “a disconnect between the management and the (district’s) elected officials,” Bustichi said developers considering doing business in Scotts Valley often said progress was slowed by such hurdles as frequent changes in water regulations, which end up requiring repeated applications and permits.
“The water district, in my opinion, takes multiple attempts to add more conditions and costs to a development,” he said.
According to Kates, the council sent its offer to the district following the Nov. 7 meeting, and as of press time had not received an official response.
Should the district decline the city’s proposal to split the cost of a consultant, Kates said, the council will take another look to determine whether it will hire the consultant unilaterally — at an estimated $25,000 cost.
“It may not be the right thing to do,” Bustichi said. “But until you analyze it, you’ll never know.”
While the agenda for the next meeting of the Scotts Valley Water District — scheduled for Dec. 13 — has not yet been made, district General Manager Charlie McNiesh said the board would likely consider the possibility.
“The position of the district is that we are certainly willing to talk about anything,” he said.
Bustichi said he hoped to see progress before the end of the year.
“I think if there’s a compelling argument that’s backed up by analysis and fact, that shows we can provide good service and save money to our community, I think we’d be foolish not to move in that direction,” he said.
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