Table of Contents


County Service Area 3

Reason for Review

A citizen filed a complaint with the Grand Jury against the Board and Public Works Agency.  The complaint alleged and/or questioned the following: Dereliction of duty and a violation of the people’s trust regarding maintenance of County Service Area 3 (CSA 3).

The Grand Jury has jurisdiction to investigate and report on the operations, accounts, and records of special legislative districts or other districts in the County pursuant to section 925 of the Penal Code.

Background

Government Code Section 25210.1 et sec, commonly known as the “County Service Area Law,” was established to provide an alternative method for the furnishing of governmental services within unincorporated areas of the State of California.  This law allows a County to establish a CSA for a specific area, or covering the entire unincorporated area of the county, and lists a wide variety of services which may be provided.  Amador County has elected to establish several County Service Areas to provide one or more of the authorized services to various areas of the County. 

CSA 3 was formed in 1970 pursuant to Amador County Board Resolution #1932.  The Amador County Board acts as the governing Board of CSA 3.  At the present time CSA 3 provides water and sewer service to property owners within Lake Camanche Village Subdivision.  The County of Amador has been responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of the water and sewer facilities since their completion.  This responsibility has been assigned to the Public Works Agency.  Fees paid by the land owners within CSA 3 are used to pay for the services provided. 

The water facilities in CSA 3 initially consisted of five wells along with various pumps, tanks and water distribution lines.  In the mid-1990s a treatment plant was added to remove minerals from the water at one well with an inter-tie pipeline between the two geographically separate areas of CSA 3.  Subsequently the well associated with the treatment plant failed and a new well was drilled adjacent to it, which at this time does not require treatment.  Two other wells are currently out of service, one due to excess minerals and the other due to bacterial contamination.  

The sewer facilities initially consisted of a primary sludge pond, a secondary holding pond, and a spray field together with sewer mains and four pump stations to lift the effluent to the primary holding pond. 

Methodology

Members of the Grand Jury conducted interviews, toured the CSA 3 facilities, attended various public meetings, and reviewed pertinent documents.  

Persons interviewed:

Sites visited:

Documents examined:

Other sources:

Facts

1.       The 2000-2001 Amador County final budget shows funds designated for CSA 3 carried over from the 1999-2000 fiscal year were $875,536.75 for water and $741,684.25 for sewer.

2.       The 2000-2001 Amador County final budget projects an increase in the fund balance of $91,550 for water and a decrease of $40,000 for sewer.

3.       At the time of the Grand Jury’s inspection, the well head at well 12 was improperly sealed.

4.       Significant water leakage was observed on several storage tanks.

5.       Primary sewage pond contains high sludge levels.

6.       Effluent spray field capacity was originally designed for 25 percent build-out.

7.       The CSA 3 sewer system is currently at 60 percent build-out with an estimated 3.5% annual increase in new hook-ups.

8.       Due to the high volume of effluent to be disposed of, the spray field area becomes super-saturated.

9.       The original developer of Lake Camanche Village designated an 80-acre parcel as a “future disposal area.”

10.   Amador County has entered into agreements with the Amador Water Agency, wherein the Water Agency was to provide limited services to the County for the benefit of the various CSAs.

11.   Amador County is currently in negotiations with the Water Agency for the Agency to assume full responsibility for the operation, maintenance and repair of the various CSAs.

12.   On-site inspection disclosed no backup power supply at the sewer lift stations.

13.   Several effluent spills have been reported to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board during the term of the 2000-2001 Grand Jury.

14.   By grant deeds recorded in Book 414 (page 486) and Book 475 (page 257) of Amador County Official Records, water and sewer facilities within CSA 3 have been transferred by Great Lakes Development Company, the original subdivider, to the County of Amador.

15.   Each year there is an independent audit of the County’s finances, which includes CSA 3.

16.   The most recent audit available, for the year ending June 30, 1999, states, “There were no internal control or compliance findings required to be reported and no questioned costs for the year ended June 30, 1999.”  The yearly budget for Amador County, including CSA 3, is a public document and is available for review at the Amador County Auditor’s office.

17.   California Regional Water Quality Control Board Order No.  5-01-034 provides a timeframe for implementation of repairs and safeguards to prevent environmental incidents with regard to the CSA 3 sewer system.  It also provides for fines and penalties in the event of failure to comply with the order.

18.   Periodic reports are provided by the Public Works Department to the property owners within CSA 3. 

Findings

1.       The allegations of dereliction of duty and a violation of the people’s trust are too subjective and broad to be substantiated. 

2.       On-site inspection and review of documentation indicates maintenance has not been performed at a level to keep the facilities in proper repair and ensure reliable operation.

3.       The present build-out within CSA 3 beyond the design capacity of the existing sewer facilities indicates a lack of long-range planning by the County.

4.       Until the agreement with the Amador Water Agency is completed no finding can be made regarding the transfer of assets and funds.

5.       The numerous requirements contained in California Regional Water Quality Control Board Order No.  5-01-034 indicate a lack of ongoing maintenance and improvement planning.

6.       The allegations in the complaint indicate the communication between the County and the residents within CSA 3 may be insufficient.

Recommendations

1.       Remove sludge from primary sewage pond to prevent pond from going completely septic.

2.       Implement water conservation measures to reduce effluent volume to the spray field.

3.       Establish a long-range capital improvement plan.

4.       Make expansion of the spray field a priority.

5.       Establish a written preventative-maintenance schedule that includes the time intervals between servicing and the actual dates of completion.

6.       A representative of the County or the Water Agency should attend the Lake Camanche Village Owners Association meetings and report on status of scheduled maintenance, improvement projects, and finances.

7.       Establish an operational procedures checklists and make it available on site. 

8.       Properly seal all abandoned wells to prevent contamination of ground water.

9.       Survey sewer and water rates and set rates to allow for implementation of the capital improvement plan.

10.   Implement the required repairs and safeguards described in California Regional Water Quality Control Board Order No.  5-01-034 as soon as possible to reduce the potential for violations, fines, and penalties.

11.   Establish a backup power system for all sewer pump stations to reduce the risk of effluent spills.

12.   Establish a long-range master plan for the CSA 3 water system.

Response Required

As required in Section 933.05 of the Penal Code The Board of the Amador Water Agency and the Amador County Board of Supervisors must respond to each finding and recommendation in the manner indicated on page one of this report.