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LONG AND SHORT RANGE PLANNING

BACKGROUND

The Grand Jury review of the Public Works Agency (PWA) included an evaluation of the extent and effectiveness of the agency's planning efforts. Any public agency having responsibility for infrastructure and utilities should have a duty to maintain an acceptable level of service and to plan for future conditions. Planning usually takes the form of both short-range tactical planning and long-range strategic planning. Short-range planning focuses on maintaining facilities to ensure the continuance of a proper level of service. The objective of long-range planning is to look ahead to ensure that resources will be available when needed to meet the demands of growth and economic change.

METHODOLOGY

Persons interviewed:

  1. PWA Director
  2. Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee
  3. Deputy County Engineer
  4. Public Works Maintenance Supervisor
  5. CSA #1 and #2 manager
  6. CSA #3 manager
  7. CSA #4 and #8 manager
  8. Amador Water Agency General Manager and Director
  9. Director, Amador Economic Development Corporation

Documents examined:

  1. 1999-2000 Final County Budget
  2. 1998-1999 Amador County Grand Jury Report
  3. Eight consulting engineer's reports on Amador County water and wastewater planning conducted between 1974 and 1984.
  4. Numerous internal documents, reports and letters and newspaper articles.

FACTS

  1. The Board of Supervisors has a stated goal of repaving 40 miles of County roads each year. That goal is based on the desirability of repaving all roads an average of once every ten years.
  2. For the past few years, less than 10 miles per year of roads have been repaved. Preliminary budget figures for fiscal year 2000-2001, provide for only 7.2 miles of repaving.
  3. Management interviews revealed that many road repairs, for such things as potholes and overlays, are done in a substandard fashion due to the lack of financial and personnel resources.
  4. Several water and wastewater engineering planning studies were conducted from 1974 to 1984. There have not been any additional planning studies undertaken in the past 16 years.
  5. Many of the water and wastewater facilities in the County Service Areas (CSA) are substandard and some of them are approaching the end of their useful lives. These deficiencies are detailed in the section of the Public Works Agency review entitled "County Service Areas".
  6. The supply of water for future growth of CSA #3 is uncertain and the various alternatives being considered will all be costly.
  7. The 1998-1999 Amador County Grand Jury cited lack of adequate planning as a contributing factor to the controversy over the CSA #3 water treatment plant/intertie project.
  8. Water for Amador County is supplied by more than twenty separate water purveyors, the largest of which is the Amador Water Agency (AWA).
  9. The AWA and Amador County have formed a "Joint Water Committee" as a forum to discuss water issues of common interest.
  10. The PWA has recently contacted the AWA to explore the feasibility of AWA taking over the CSAs.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. There is little evidence that either the Board of Supervisors or the PWA engage in long-range planning for roads, water supply or wastewater. Engineering studies performed between 1974 and 1984 were generally related to specific projects rather than long-range planning.
  2. The lack of planning has been a major contributing factor to the unacceptable state of the CSA water and wastewater facilities. Had proper planning and prioritizing efforts been in place in previous years, reserves could have been accumulated to upgrade substandard CSA facilities and replace obsolete plant and equipment.
  3. The water supply situation in Amador County is fragmented. Consolidation of water systems could lead to lower costs to the customer through economies of scale.
  4. Planning for road repairs and repaving seems to be accomplished at a mid-management level with a very short planning horizon. This has resulted in much work being done on an emergency repair basis.
  5. The County is falling further and further behind in road maintenence. The lack of planning and adequate funding will eventually result in an even more unacceptable level of deterioration of the County's roads. The County is not entirely to blame for this dilemma. Because the cost of road maintenance overtaxes the resources of most California counties, the State Legislature is currently studying ways to assist counties in maintaining and upgrading their road systems.
  6. The PWA requested a 1999-2000 budget of $ 4,532,240, of which only $ 3,696,721 was approved by the Board of Supervisors. About $ 400,000 was cut from the category of "Minor Projects" and about $ 200,000 from a request for new equipment. Lack of adequate funding has undoubtably discouraged PWA planning efforts. Managers see little point in planning for needed improvements when the funds are not made available by the Board of Supervisors.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The Board of Supervisors should direct the PWA Director to prepare a short-range plan for correction of the most serious problems with roads and CSAs. The short-range plan should identify and prioritize the most urgently needed improvements, present estimates of associated costs and develop a schedule for implementing the improvements over the next five years.
  2. The Board of Supervisors should establish policies with respect to long-range improvements to roads and the water and wastewater systems. Those policies should serve as the basis for developing a comprehensive strategic plan. The plan should include a realistically attainable schedule, a financing plan and a process for monitoring progress.
  3. The Board of Supervisors should enter into meaningful discussions with the AWA aimed at eventual consolidation of the CSAs into the AWA system.
  4. The Board of Supervisors, together with the AWA, should take a lead in developing a comprehensive long-range master plan for Amador County's water supply.
  5. The PWA Director should develop realistic estimates of the cost of the most urgently needed improvements for fiscal year 2001-2002. The need for those budget requests, and the consequences of failure to provide them, should be forcefully articulated to the Board of Supervisors.
  6. Within the bounds of fiscal responsibility, the Board of Supervisors should budget sufficient funds to accomplish the needs identified by the PWA Director for fiscal year 2001-2002 and beyond.
  7. The Board of Supervisors should adopt a policy of requiring each department and agency to prepare an estimate of their budget needs for the next five years. The five year budget should be updated every year and approved by the Board of Supervisors at the same time they approve an operating budget for the current year. In this manner, the County will be better equipped to assess their future financing needs and to develop a realistic financing plan. This process would have the added benefit of requiring department and agency heads to conduct short-range planning studies.

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