The work of the Amador County Grand Jury of 2011-2012 has finally come to fruition and one of the issues addressed has been the conduct of business of one of the linchpins of the Community, the Amador Water Agency (AWA). Typically a Grand Jury investigation is the “Voice of the Community”, or the “People’s Panel” and still plays a significant role in public matters. It is no small event that the Agency has attracted the attention of the Grand Jury and that they have determined that the Agency has not effectively managed their finances nor demonstrated a commitment to public transparency. The investigation was initiated on the basis of complaints from ratepayers and citizens concerned with ballooning debt and an apparent lack of concern of from the AWA Board of Directors. Internal financial dealings and irregularities were at the top of the list…..the latest audit has yet to be reconciled from some four months ago, and AWA management seems to be OK with that as well as their overseers, the Board of Directors, whose indifference is of great concern. Management continues to be more crises centered rather than forward looking except when the all-encompassing issue of the GSL (Gravity Supply Line) comes to the fore.
The GSL has been on the AWA agenda for more than 20 years and is just now of the highest priority in the eyes of current management and the Board. Financial strains that will be created as a result of the commitments thus made ($1.4 million to date and much of that is debt) and the uncertain future of financial commitments associated with this project has brought concern as to the financial health of the organization. While a USDA grant and loan combination of $13.4 million loom as the prize, the reality is that financial viability of this combination is questionable at best as the most recent update of the proposal is curiously unchanged since 2010. The proposed cost of construction is just under the combination of the loan and grant. As we all remember, the Amador Transmission Line (ATL) was originally only going to be $9 million and is significantly over $30 million currently. This has caused the AWA to pursue a new structure, a CFD (Consolidated Facilities District)...something reserved under the Mello-Roos Act for agencies with nowhere else to go for money except the property tax base of the community. It is unfortunate that the AWA has failed in its Mission Statement…"to provide safe, affordable, water, wastewater conservation and reclamation services” as a “professional team dedicated to public transparency, community partnerships and excellent customer service.” The working part of AWA, those serving the public at the customer level, did deservedly receive kudos for the work they do in spite of not having adequate budgeting for repairs and maintenance of infrastructure. The additional vision statement of “ensuring long term management of water resources and systems to meet Amador County needs and maintain financial solvency through responsible planning and management, I am just not so sure of. Check out the Grand Jury report on http://amadorwatchdog.org/
Dale Telegan, Jackson