Modesto Irrigation District leaders on Tuesday delayed adopting a $444 million budget for 2013 and scheduled a special board meeting to further explore cost-cutting ideas from the board's newest directors.
They also welcomed an advisory committee. Its ideas eventually could shake up the district's approach to delivering water.
Board member Larry Byrd led the belt-tightening charge, with some help from Nick Blom, both of whom were elected slightly more than a year ago. If implemented, their ideas could save millions of dollars while endangering some jobs.
Byrd and Blom said they visited Mountain House, a San Joaquin County community powered by MID electricity, and don't see a reason to spend a half-million dollars on a second transmission line in case the first goes down. A car plowing down concrete-and-steel poles is a remote possibility and would put only 3,500 customers in the dark for a few hours, they said.
"Half a million dollars is a lot of money," Blom said.
Also on Byrd's list:
Putting off replacing oil circuit breakers with more modern equipment, at a cost of $184,000
Deferring a purchase of three acres in Modesto's Beard industrial tract needed for a future power substation. The district would expect to pay about $1 million.
Making do with an older car shared by board members, instead of buying a new one. "It's older and runs better than any vehicle I have," Byrd said.
Postponing the replacement of second-floor carpet rarely seen by the public and furniture for General Manager Allen Short's secretary
Retaining the job of a worker who helps track down power thefts, estimated at five each week
Consolidating three middle managers into one position
Staff members said they have a new way to go after electricity thieves and that the displaced worker could be offered another position within the district, which is saving money by not filling 60 vacancies.
The Mountain House and circuit breaker projects aren't slated to begin until 2014. Not building the Beard substation could lead to layoffs, staff members said.
The board did not expect to meet next week, but decided to schedule a Tuesday session at the unusual time of 8 a.m. so that some directors can catch a plane to a water conference. They will further discuss Byrd's ideas as well as whether to contribute $20,000 to the Stanislaus Workforce Alliance, and could adopt a budget for the coming year.
"I want to make sure we're not stepping over dollars to pick up quarters," board member Paul Warda said.
The proposed budget is up from last year's $435 million wish list, which had dropped from $451 million the year before.
After an introduction, members of the new advisory committee met separately and chose Jim Morten-sen, a retired Del Monte engineering manager, as chairman. "I have no preconceived notions of where this will go," he told the board, but he suggested a systematic approach for reviewing policies, regulations and district data.
The group was formed to recommend enhancements to the district's aging canal and distribution system and how to pay for them after the board dropped the contentious idea of selling water to San Francisco. It next will meet at 8 a.m. Dec. 7 at the district's downtown Modesto office, 1231 11th St.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.
By unanimous vote Tuesday, Modesto Irrigation District leaders:
Held a hearing on an Agricultural Water Management Plan to comply with state and federal regulations focused on efficiency. The board extended by one week a deadline for public comment, until Dec. 7.
Noted that they haven't been approached by San Francisco or the Oakdale Irrigation District regarding a potential transfer role if the district should decide to sell water to the city
Heard a discouraging salmon report showing 1,903 in this year's run compared with 2,401 last year. "I don't know what the heck is going on with our salmon," said the district's Walter Ward. "Early expectations for a robust fish run seem to be fizzling."
Approved fee increases at Don Pedro Reservoir: $10 per vehicle for day use, up from $9; $90 for an annual permit, up from $80; $50 for a senior's annual permit, up from $45