County and the Agency Fast Operators

by Lou Binninger

               Proclamations like “We’re Number One” or “We’re the Best” should be noted with skepticism. Other mottos in the same genre could be “You can trust us” or “We’re transparent.” The reason these slogans sound out of tune is that conclusions or praise should be reserved for the general public to make about an enterprise, not the business about itself.

            Proverbs 27:2 (GNT) advises, “Let other people praise you - even strangers; never do it yourself.”

            The Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) likes to “toot its horn” about how wonderful they are and transparent. Indeed the Yuba County Supervisors who survived the 1955 flood launched a water project miracle that now over 50 years later is blessing Yuba County. And the county is fortunate that Pacific Gas and Electric paid the bonds off before going belly-up.

For those alive when the New Bullards Bar Dam was voted on by residents, financed with bonds and constructed, efforts today to alter that history are met with skepticism. To say that the people and the county had no responsibility should PG and E fail is a stretch.

YCWA took issue with last week’s March 11 article “Big Payouts at CalPERS” by touting “inaccuracies and misleading information” about YCWA. However, there was no mention of what those miscues were or a specific rebuttal. What is provided by YCWA is a list of monies given to benefit county government, nonprofits, schools etc. and then a list of policies.

YCWA says, “Where we find a connection to our mission areas – reducing the community’s flood risk, ensuring water supply reliability, hydropower generation, improving fish and wildlife habitat, and providing recreation at New Bullards Bar Reservoir – we invest heavily for the benefit of the people of Yuba County.”

The problem is who is determining the connection or nexus. There is a glaring conflict of interest having the Yuba County Supervisors serving as YCWA directors and making decisions over YCWA monies. Was it a coincidence that supervisors running for office were included in news releases and photos giving away YCWA money and assets during the election?

YCWA found a nexus to pave a county roadway into their power house. They gave money to hill fire departments and law enforcement to provide services around the dam. That makes sense.

YCWA then pays nearly $5 million to pave North Beale Rd and Olivehurst Avenue because “people will use those roads in an evacuation.” Really, a nexus? Then, why not repair Marysville city routes, the death trap of the county when it comes to an escape from flooding? YCWA directors could at least find a nexus to water or flooding to pay for 12,000 life vests which are less costly than asphalt.

Funding the paving of escape routes is interesting, but what about law enforcement and fire agencies that actually manage the very emergencies that YCWA finds a nexus in? YCWA directors see no connection in funding fulltime hill deputies that manage emergencies, eradicate water polluting marijuana grows and hopefully have some plan against a terrorist assault on the dam itself?

YCWA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars cleaning-up the river bottoms’ garbage and toxic waste, but now does not consider the continued polluting by vagrants of the river ecosystem worthy of vigilance. What about a deputy or two to stop the destruction along our waterways?

Not having separate boards over YCWA and the County will always create suspicion in spending hundreds of millions of dollars. The poor treatment of YCWA director (non-supervisor) Charlie Mathews because he raises questions about the low interest rates earned on reserve funds, certain grants, about who cashes in on water sales, and questions giving raises to the YCWA directors brings into question the integrity of YCWA board.

Recently, Director Brent Hastey offered a motion and Mike Leahy a second with a unanimous vote in Mathews’ absence  to increase YCWA directors monthly base salary from $1283 to $2000/month effective after full Board approval; Increase the monthly salary by 5% annually in January for 10 years; Increase additional compensation to the Chair of the Board from $250 to $375/month; Add a monthly stipend for the Vice Chair of the Board of $250/month; Increase special assignments compensation from $100 to $150/month; establish a $200/month auto/travel allowance for travel within Yuba County.

Directors already receive a per diem allowance as Supervisors.

The YCWA board modified the raises after Mathews complained. Threats to censure Mathews or remove him from committees by Brent Hastey will further undermine the credibility of the agency.

The lack of honesty of the County Supervisors about Measure K has also brought into question the workings of the YCWA since the same individuals serve both and are moving monies back and forth at will between the county and the agency.

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