MINER’S CAMP OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY:
The Community of Foresthill is aware that Miner’s Camp, our local business on Main Street was required to file a lawsuit against FPUD. In 2016 Miner’s Camp simply went before the board to make an official request to change our classification from residential to commercial. The board voted it down 3-2. When we contacted the State to find out who oversees this Utility, we were informed that they are an elected board and govern themselves. We learned there is a proposition in the California Constitution that clearly defines how utilities are to formulate rates; Proposition 218. Then it was discovered the FPUD was actually charging for meters that do not exist, but they published a rate study as if the meters were real. We gave these invisible assets a name, “Phantom Meters”. The FPUD rate study was supposed to be Prop 218 compliant, but It appeared we uncovered a can of worms. Heck, we were just a new business needing to change our classification. A formality.
After further review, it was discovered that over 350 accounts were affected by this billing practice. Once made public, the Board and General Manager had a decision to make. Fix or fight. Then 2 years of continuous attempts by our local leaders, even the County Supervisor, requesting, then demanding the PUD correct the issue and avoid a costly litigation they would certainly lose, using ratepayer dollars. However, the sitting Board of Directors and General Manager refused to listen or admit wrongdoing. They chose to fight vs fix.
The Board governs themselves, but Foresthill ratepayers are ultimately responsible for oversight and enforcement. If the State or County had the power to step in, this would have been corrected three years ago without the need for private enforcement. The lawsuit was filed.
Our little utility uses an expensive law firm that represents hundreds of utilities in California. If Foresthill admits fault, it could have a negative effect on the big boy utilities. So they are instructed to fight vs fix. In September 2018, the FPUD had their day in court.
After all of this, the FPUD presented no arguments in court to support why their practices are legal. Nothing? On September 25th, 2018, the Placer County Superior Court ruled the Foresthill water rate structure illegal, and permanently enjoined them from billing and collecting water charges or fees that are in violation. If not clear enough, The PUD was issued a mandate that commanded them to abandon their entire current rate structure, and to create a new rate structure which conforms with California law. By this time the FPUD Board and General Manager are dealing with 350 ratepayers demanding a fix. This is now much bigger than Miner’s Camp. The current Board and General Manager voted to ignore the court order and appeal at their last chance in early 2019. FPUD will spend more to Fight vs Fix. Basically, double down with ratepayer dollars knowing they can’t win. Hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars wasted to avoid responsibility.
In April, 2019 the Superior Court once again ruled against the FPUD and ordered them to pay the legal fees incurred by Miner’s Camp to privately enforce the district to comply. On June 5th, the California Supreme Court will rule against them again.
If left alone, the PUD intends to spend, fight, and delay the inevitable for another year. Everyone in a community of 6,000 residents and 1,700 utility accounts is impacted by their refusal to comply. Every ratepayer in Foresthill contributes $10.00 per month to fight vs fix.
After 3 years, and numerous public instances of our PUD Board and General Manager caught hiding, lying, and kicking the can to avoid the inevitable there is no doubt our current Water District Board of Directors must be replaced to stop this bleeding.
The current (5) member board will be held accountable by the Foresthill community through a public vote that is final. Foresthill ratepayers will begin the process of a recall election to remove the existing FPUD board from their positions. A recall may seem extreme, but if the community knew three years ago what they know now, we could have shown this board the door and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. The intention is not to be mean spirited, but persistent until it is fixed. It is not a personal attack toward any individual on the Board, but holding the entire group accountable for their bad decisions and toxic culture while putting an immediate stop to the financial bleeding.
What does “fixed” look like? A Board that is engaged, listens, and supports the community while practicing transparency, common sense, and a positive Culture. In addition, the new Board will work with a contracted 3rd party to complete the required 2019 rate study in an open format that involves community focus groups to shape a rate structure for the next (5) years.
Foresthill needs to be aware and ensure this never happens again.
Miner’s Camp intends to fully support this community in the recall effort.
Miner’s Camp, LLC / Foresthill