Chuck’s Notes On March 2021 Board Meeting

Note: This is my (Chuck’s) written commentary on the board meeting. If you just want to watch a replay without reading my commentary, go to the video page.

Thanks to all who attended March’s board meeting. After many months with no public participation, it was nice to see a crowd, and it’ll be interesting to see if people continue to attend. The board noticed and appreciated the public interest (though I suspect the Facebook posts encouraging attendance, rather than the 6pm Thursday time, were the reason).

Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the board. They are:

  • Robin Weber: Moderator. Appears in the video as “Fire Tablet”.
  • Chris Brown: Secretary. Appears in the video as “Chris”. Term expires this year.
  • Ann-Marie Lockwood: Treasurer. Appears in the video as “PI Water District”. Term expires this year.
  • Phil Brooks: Board member. Appears in the video as “Phil”. Term expires this year, not eligible for reelection.
  • Helio Melo: Board member. Appears in the video as “melo114”.

Agenda Item 1: Public meetings start with a call to order, and this was no exception. It is up to the moderator to decide if any public comments or discussion are allowed at the meeting, and as is typically the case for PIWD meetings, they were not allowed. (It does occur to me that we could host our own Zoom meeting after the official meeting if we want to.) The moderator also said that the PIWD “did not have the technology” to record the meeting. But the public is allowed to record the meeting in a non-disruptive way, and we did.

Agenda Item 2: Minutes of the prior (February) meeting were accepted. They’ll end up on the state’s web site in a week or so. (This has the unfortunate consequence that you couldn’t have read the February minutes, not even a draft, prior to the March meeting.)

Agenda Item 3&4: Treasurer’s report, and accounts payable. We don’t have a treasurer’s report this month. Accounts payable are $8,438.95. If you want to know how much PIWD actually spends on backhoes, electricity, and so on, this is the place to look right now. To put that number into context, $8k/month is about $100k/year, out of a district budget of about $260k year.

Agenda Item 5: Audit. We don’t have a 2019 audit yet, and it’s almost time for the 2020 audit. This does make it a bit difficult to do an analysis of the finances and the budget of the district.

Agenda Item 6-7: Apparently skipped

Agenda Item 8: 2021 is an election year. There was a good discussion of the mechanics of the election, but exact details on how to run and how to vote will be a bit longer in coming. I’m personally a bit more interested in who’d be willing to run for the board seats, especially Phil’s, since he is not running for reelection. At the February meeting, I did say I’d be willing to run (though if someone with water experience or other useful knowledge wants to run, I would defer). (If you see me at the ferry dock trying to collect 8 signatures, that’s why.)

This web site is keen to host posts by anyone, especially anyone who wants to inform the public of their intent to run, and their positions on important issues… just fill in the contact form.

Agenda Item 9: Lab RFP. Not much occurred here.

Agenda Item 10: Staffing. The backstory here is that Bob Marshall resigned his role as “operations manager” last year. He was part time and relatively expensive, but did some of the operations, management, planning, grant-writing, etc. The ongoing discussion is about what skills the district needs to replace, and what the district can actually afford. For context, the district budget is $266k/year, only $93k/year is for salaries, and this money has to cover the front office (Judy, who answers communications, billing, collections, etc.), and the water system and operations (Will and Alton). The challenges are:

  1. It doesn’t appear that there is money for a full-time engineer with a vision
  2. It might be hard to get someone qualified who is interested in part-time work on Prudence
  3. It has also been difficult to pin down a job description.

Thus the issue has been stalled on Helio’s task list for the last few months. If you know of anyone who might be able and interested, please forward to the PIWD board.

Agenda Item 11: Emergency response plan. No interesting updates.

Agenda Item 12: System status. Some curb stops were installed. There were no positive coliform test results this month. There’s some discussion of the processes (chlorination) to follow when doing leak repairs to make sure that the system is not contaminated during work, and whether training is needed. The final topic was the condition of a homeowner’s property; apparently PIWD placed a rock upside-down during the course of work.

Agenda Item 13: Capital projects. This discussion was mostly rolled into item 14. Of primary interest is a new water well. There is a lot of background material here as to why the district needs a new water well, and what attempts have been made to secure one, but that story deserves its own article.

Agenda Item 14: Corrective Action Plan, RIDOH consent order, etc. This is the main discussion of interest to the public, as it concerns the status of the cross-connection control plan, the directives from DOH, and the corrective actions to be taken to move forward. While the outcome is relatively easy to summarize (they’re going get the help of Bob Ferrari at NWSI to develop the facilities improvement plan, and to try to schedule another meeting with RIDOH and whoever else they can get), the discussion itself is much more difficult to summarize succinctly. I believe they did make and pass a motion to engage with NWSI, as there was a motion and 4 yes votes, but it devolved into discussion before we heard a yes/no vote from Helio.

Here are some time points in the video:

  • 00:00 Recap discussions with Senator Reed, Senator Seveney, and RCAP
  • 02:11 Recap discussions with Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank
  • 03:10 Discussion of the price tag, circa 2006; clearly we need an updated plan
  • 04:51 RIIB could possibly fund twice, once for engineering plans, and again for construction, but they’d want some assurance that the plan would get built
  • 06:30 Recap discussion with Senator Whitehouse’s office about other funding sources
  • 08:50 Helio says we should sit down with Seveney, Donovan, and RIDOH to figure out what we need to do.
  • 10:52 Recap of discussions with DEM and Ballard property easement, which prevents water extraction.
  • 14:18 Recap of discussions with Bob Ferrari, of Northeast Water Solutions Inc. Bob is somewhat familiar with the Prudence Island system, as he has done a number of the Level 2 Assessments to diagnose problems with the system. RIDOH also has a contract with him to provide engineering services to small systems such as PIWD.
  • 15:20, 16:35, 17:18 Bob Ferrari has suggested making a new facilities improvement plan, which would include new water sources and fixing aging infrastructure, not just treatment options.
  • 18:18 What does the board think of engaging with Bob, and who would do it?
  • 22:18 If the contract with RIDOH would cover the facilities improvement plan at no charge to the district, are we on board?
    • 22:22 Ann-Marie – Absolutely
    • 23:20 Chris – Encouraged
    • 25:50 Robin – I don’t see a down side
  • 27:40 Robin makes a motion that, pending confirmation from DOH that facilities improvement is covered in the contract, that we’d welcome that process.
    • 28:08 Ann-Marie seconds the motion
    • 28:13 Chris Brown says “yeah”
    • 28:20 Phil says we might as well
    • 28:33 Helio is asked what he thinks.
      • 29:18 Helio still wants a meeting with RIDOH
    • 30:28 Phil says what he thinks will be needed (this is worth listening to)
    • 32:00 Discussion of getting the state to agree to a long timeline for the facilities improvement plan
    • 35:20 More comments from Helio about asking DOH what they’ll want
    • 38:40 Robin reminds everyone that in order for DOH to say what they want, they’ll need to see the evaluation of the system and the improvement plan.
  • 38:45 Discussion of setting up a meeting with the senators, RIDOH, Bob Ferrari, and whoever else
    • 40:45 It is pointed out that at most two PIWD board members may attend, or the meeting must be public
    • It is decided that Robin and Helio will attend any meeting

Agenda Item 15: Executive session. This added to the agenda to discuss Will’s performance, but was tabled as there are no updates.

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