Helix Water

HELIX WATER SETS SPECIAL MEETING JAN. 18 TO FILLL BOARD VACANCY AND VOTE ON MOVING MEETINGS TO EVENINGS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Directors Mark Gracyk and DeAna Verbecke offered opposing views on how board vacancy should be filled

January 5, 2016 (La Mesa) – At a packed meeting yesterday,  Helix Water Board members aired differing views on how to fill a vacancy left by the resignation last week of newly elected member Lu Tejeda. Tejeda cited conflicts of interest raised by his job with a contractor. 

The new board majority pushed to appoint Dan McMillan, whom Tejeda narrowly edged out by just 185 votes in the four-man race. Both ran on a platform of reigning in rising water rates. 

Director DeAna Verbecke dissented, calling for the district to accept applications and conduct interviews with all interested parties in an open meeting before making an appointment. 

INCUMBENTS OUSTED ON HELIX WATER BOARD

By Miriam Raftery

November 8,  2016 (La Mesa)—It’s rare for incumbents to be unseated.  But Chuck Muse and John Linden,  two incumbents who voted for repeated rate increases including an unprecedented five-year rate hike, appear to have lost their reelection bids.   

The apparent wins for Mark Gracyk and Dan McMillan are also victories for the  local Democratic party, which endorsed both over the Republican incumbents,  though the race is officially nonpartisan. It's also a win for ratepayers ired over repeated hefty rate hikes by incuments who promised fiscal conservatism. 

HEAR OUR INTERVIEWS: HELIX WATER DISTRICT’S MIKE UHRHAMMER AND MARK UMPHRES

 

East County News Service

October 26, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Recently we interviewed  Mark Umphres director of water quality and systems operations, and Mike Uhrhammer, senior public affairs representative from the Helix Water District.  We talked about water rates, water quality issues including a recent state report on mercury levels in fish,   and some exciting new additions at Lake Jennings—including tipis!

You can listen now to our interview, which originally aired on our East County Magazine Radio Show on  KNSJ 89.1 FM, by clicking the audio link. (Note: audio file may take a few moments to load.)

Audio: 

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: JOHN LINDEN, HELIX WATER BOARD DIRECTOR

 

You can listen now  to a podcast of our interview by clicking the orange button above, or click "read more" and scroll down for highlights.

By Miriam Raftery

Mark your calendars for our candidate forum with Helix Water Board candidates and Lemon Grove Mayoral candidates on Wednesday, September 21 at the Lemon Grove Library.Meet candidates at 5 p.m. with the forum starting at 5:30.

September 16, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – John Linden has served on the Helix Water District Board since 2000.  He’s proud of his service and of the Helix district’s long history since its establishment back in the 1880s.  He’s running for reelection in district 1, against three challengers. We sat down for an interview with Linden that originally aired on KNSJ radio.

Audio: 

WATER AGENCIES RESPOND TO MERCURY CONCERNS IN RESERVOIRS: TESTS FOCUSED ON FISH

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 19,2016 (San Diego’s East County) – State and local water agency representatives have offered more information for the public following a recent report revealing that 150 reservoirs statewide are “mercury impaired,” including10 in San Diego County, as ECM reported

A key clarification is that the term “mercury impaired reservoirs” referred to testing of fish in those waters,  not testing of water for drinking.  Drinking water can test with no detectable mercury levels, yet still have high, unsafe concentrations of mercury in fish, particularly larger fish that have consumed smaller fish.  This problem raises a new issue: the need for new testing methods to detect low levels of mercury that while not unsafe in drinking water,  can result in unsafe levels in fish living in those waters.

HELIX WATER BOARD VOTES 3-2 FOR 10.3% RATE HIKE WITHOUT PUBLIC HEARING: CANDIDATES BLAST INCUMBENTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 3, 2016 (La Mesa) – With scarcely any public notice, Helix Water Board passed a 10.3% rate hike by a slim one-vote majority. The stated reason was because water use has dropped due to customers conserving water--just as the district asked them to do.

Directors Kathleen Coates-Hedberg and Joel Scalziti voted against jacking up rates, while directors John Linden, Chuck Muse and Deana Verbeke voted for the rate hike over public objections.

PHOTOS OF THE MONTH: NATURE SHOWS ITS BEAUTY AT LAKE JENNINGS

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 3, 2016 (Lakeside) -- I caught this image of an egret at Lake Jennings, its vertical plumes striking a counterpoint against horizontal lines formed by rippling waters on the lake's glassy surface.

For more LakeJennings photographs, click "read more" and scroll down.

WATER CONSERVATION GARDEN HOSTS FREE CUSTOMER APPRECIATON DAY JULY 31 FOR HELIX WATER AND SWEETWATER AUTHORITY RATEPAYERS

East County News Service

July 27, 2016 (Rancho San Diego) – The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College will host a free Customer Appreciation Day for Helix Water and Sweetwater Authority customers on Sunday, July 31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Discover different varieties of drought-tolerant plants, learn how to "Toss the Turf" and get inspiration on how to incorporate water-wise gardening into your own garden. Plus you can enjoy free activities including docent-led garden tours, tips on butterfly gardening, veggie growing,soils and native habitat, meet Ms. Smarty-Plants, watch a butterfly release, savor free shaved ice, and get discounts on gift shop items.  See full schedule of events below.

HELIX WATER TO HOLD HEARING ON HEFTY RATE HIKES OCT. 7

Residents' group plans meeting Sept. 30 to mobilize opposition

By Miriam Raftery

September 2, 2015 (La Mesa)—Helix Water District’s board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, October 7 at 5 p.m. at its board room (7811 University Ave., La Mesa) to consider adopting rate hikes over the next five years.  View notice of the public hearing on proposed rate hikes.

The plan is drawing strong opposition including the Grossmont-Mount Helix Improvement Association, which is organizing a public forum on September 30 at 7 p.m. at Murdock Elementary School (4354 Conrad Drive, La Mesa).  The GMIA is also urging residents to write to Helix to register formal opposition.  The GMIA has posted a sample letter here.

Calling the five-year plan a “shock”, a letter sent to GMIA members states, “The proposed plan will permit, but not require, the District to increase rates 70% over the next five years—regardless of conditions..The character and quality of our region, as well as home values, is at stake.”

WATER AGENCIES TAKE DIFFERING APPROACHES TO STATE-MANDATED CUTBACKS

 

Helix, Padre and Otay Districts share info, tips at Chaldean Chamber meeting

By Miriam Raftery

July 5, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Representatives from Helix,  Padre Dam, and Otay Water districts spoke at a California Drought program hosted by the San Diego East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce on June 24th in La Mesa.

All three districts are working to make sure their customers comply with Governor Jerry Brown’s order for 25% cuts in water use statewide. But their approaches vary, ranging from educating consumers to offering rebates to one district readying to impose fines on heavy water users.

Here’s what you need to know:

HELIX WATER BOARD VOTES TO ADOPT DROUGHT ACTION PLAN

 

 

By Janis Russell and Miriam Raftery

May 21, 2015 (La Mesa)- At the board meeting yesterday, the Helix Water District board voted 4-1 for the drought action plan for increased public education and outreach, increased restrictions with two days/week for outdoor water use in tier 3, and a 10% penalty for using 31 units or more of water, effective starting with July 29th water bills.  The plan also limits watering to two days a week and cuts warning for water waste fines to just one courtesy letter. View the resolution here.

Tier-3 users will be charged 10% on water over 30 units each two-month billing period, but will not be charged 10% on the first 30 units, Mike Uhrhammer, senior public affairs representative at Helix, told ECM.  A person who exceeds the limit by 1 unit would pay 55 cents; while 50 units would be $11.02, for instance. See chart above left for details.  Average water use is 26 units over two months for the district.

“There is a variance procedure,” Uhrhammer said, citing a need to irrigate for defensible space or erosion control and undue hardships as examples. The penalties will not apply to tier 1, which is considered essential indoor water use level, or tier 2. Tier 3 is targeted because these residents use water mostly outdoors and the state is pushing districts to encourage homeowners to limit ornamental landscaping.

HELIX WATER BOARD WEIGHS FINES FOR EXCESS WATER USE, ADDITIONAL DROUGHT ACTIONS

 

By Janis Russell

May 14, 2015 (La Mesa)- At yesterday’s board meeting, staff at Helix Water District presented a drought action plan and resolution to the board.  No action was taken, with the measure slated to be brought back to the board for action  on May 20th. If approved, the plan calls for tough enforcement and hefty fines of up to $500 against heavy residential water users who fail to cutback water use.

HELIX WATER TO HOLD WORKSHOP ON WATER RATE STRUCTURE FEB. 18

East County News Service

February 17, 2015 (La Mesa) – The Helix Water District Board meets Wednseday, February 18 at 2 p.m. (7811 University Ave., La Mesa).

The agenda includes a workshop on water rate structure cost of service. Oddly, as of Tuesday afternoon, the agenda packet did not include any details on a proposed water rate structure for the public to review prior to the meeting, raising questions over adequacy of public notice under the Ralph M. Brown Act.

HOT HEARINGS IN EAST COUNTY THIS WEEK: LAKESIDE, BOULEVARD, COUNTY SUPERVISORS AND HELIX WATER BOARDS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 4, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) –Many hot agenda items are coming up before boards, commissions and councils across East County during this first week of the new year.

HELIX WATER RESPONDS TO CORRUPTION CLAIMS

 

East County News Service

November 18, 2014 (La Mesa) – Following a 10 News investigation that cited anonymous whistleblowers claiming corruption by a Helix Water District inspector and a construction company, the Helix Water District has responded to East County Magazine’s request for comments.  Read highlights of the 10 News story with links to the full report here.

Ted Salois, senior public affairs representative for the district, offered this response. 

“We strive to be excellent stewards of our customers’ funds and work diligently every day to continue earning the public’s trust.  When some concerns about our contracting practices were raised, we immediately initiated our own internal audit and commissioned a thorough review by an outside firm," he said.

2 CANDIDATES AIM TO HALT RATE HIKES IN HELIX WATER DISTRICT

 

 

East County News Service

Four candidates are running for two seats on the Helix Water District Board.  We invited all four to be interviewed on our radio show and two of them responded. In our radio interviews, we asked candidates their views on the drought, creating new regional water supplies, the tiered rate structure, budget priorities, the future of Lake Jennings, and transparency, among other issues.

You can listen to their interviews here:

Kathleen Hedberg interview: http://kiwi6.com/file/cg9yf06gmm

Steven Rotsart interview: http://kiwi6.com/file/o49k8zokbs

Hedberg is an incumbent and civil engineer who is running as a ratepayers’ advocate. She voted against rate hikes passed by the board majority.  Her opponent is Maria Mariscal, who has worked for the County Water Authority. 

Rotsart says he’s running because rates are too high, having nearly tripled in the past nine years. He He believes his experience in nonprofits will help him bring financial accountability to the board. He is running against incumbent Deana Verbeke, whose website says she is a voice of ratepayers but who voted consistently to raise rates despite objections from the vast majority of ratepayers who submitted public comments.

LAKE JENNINGS LOSSES DOWN 56%: HELIX TO HOLD SPECIAL MEETING WED. ON LAKE’S FUTURE

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 2, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – Just a few months ago, the future of Lake Jennings, in Lakeside appeared dire, with someHelix Water District board members ready to close it permanently or eliminate campgrounds.  But a special committee was established to come up with solutions to save this resource for the public enjoyment--and the results are promising, based on a dramatic drop in losses and increasing use by the public.

The future of the lake is on the agenda this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at a special meeting of  Helix Water District’s Board at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.  (View full agenda: http://www.hwd.com/board/package090314.pdf

HELIX WATER DECLARES DROUGHT LEVEL 2 ALERT: MANDATORY CONSERVATION MEASURES IMPOSED

 

Source: Helix Water District

August 7, 2014 (La Mesa)--Helix Water District’s board of directors voted yesterday to put Drought Level 2 into effect in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s passage of mandatory water conservation measures to deal with the current drought.

Since February, the district had been in Drought Level 1, which called for numerous voluntary actions to eliminate water waste. Drought Level 2 makes them mandatory.  Residents and businesses are required to take the following conservation steps:

HELIX WATER BOARD CANDIDATE LORI-KERN GREENBERG SHARES HER VIEWS

September 26, 2012 (La Mesa) -- Lori Kern-Greenberg is running for  the Helix Water Board against long-time incumbent Chuck Muse.  In a questionnaire sent by La Mesa Citizens Oversight Group, she answers detailed questions on water rates and accuses board members of "lining their own pockets" while ignoring the needs of ratepayers in the district.

"Water is not a commodity. It is not bought and sold on the stock market. Water is a necesssity and the board has a responsibility to the ratepayers to keep all rates as low as possible," she states, adding that she wants to change the tiered-rate structure so that everyone will pay the same rate. 

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: TOP LOCAL AND STATE NEWS

 
July 12, 2012 --  (San Diego’s East County)--East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego’s inland regions, published in other media. This week’s top “Roundup” headlines include: 
 
 

 

 
LOCAL
  • Catching up with San Diego’s legislators (San Diego CityBeat)
  • Report: Padres to be sold to group including local golf star (10 News)
  • Survey: Islam is San Diego County’s fastest growing religion (UT San Diego)
  • Could economics doom ailing California nuclear plant? (Sacramento Bee)
  • Santee among cities getting park grants (UT San Diego)
  • Padre dam board settles on five-year  plan (UT San Diego)  
  • ‘Appalled’ at Costs, Residents Slam Helix Water District Rate Hike Plan
STATE
  • California growers join greens to query frack safety (Reuters)
  • Legislature approves high speed rail spending (SF Gate)
  • Historic bridges of Yosemite Valley under siege (Sacramento Bee)
  • Study: What makes Californians smile? (News Service .org)
  • College tuition is political fodder, from the state Legislature to the presidential campaign trail (Sacramento Bee)
  • Rising costs push California cities to fiscal brink
 
Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

HELIX WATER DISTRICT MAY CLOSE THE TAP ON THE EL MONTE VALLEY PROJECT


by George J. Janczyn

Reprinted with permission from GrokSurf's San Diego

Update: Helix directors have voted to suspend the El Monte Valley Recharge project. 

September 4, 2011 (Lakeside)--This Wednesday, September 7, the Helix Water District Board of Directors will consider a staff recommendation to suspend the El Monte Valley Project.

 

The project is a groundwater recharge and recovery operation that would generate 5,000 acre feet of water per year using an advanced recycled water purification process known to water professionals as Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR).

READER’S EDITORIAL: TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION IS ALIVE AND WELL

 

By David Smyle

 

April 23, 2011 (La Mesa)--On Wednesday April 20th, the Helix Water Board on a 4-1 vote approved the two year MOU negotiated by the employees for the employees with no rate payer representation. That’s right! Mark Weston and Lisa Irvine, employees of Helix Water were appointed by the Board to represent the ratepayers’ interest in the negotiations with the employees.

HELIX WATER BOARD APPROVES MOU FOR EMPLOYEES, WEIGHS RATE HIKE OPTIONS

April 21, 2011 (La Mesa) – By a 4-1 vote, Helix Water District’s Board of Directors approved a new two-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) for its employees. General Manager Mark Weston said the “new reality” reflects recognition that employees need to share in pension contributions and that Helix pay rates and benefits are competitive with other districts.

But some ratepayers argued that the changes do not go far enough.

HELIX OPTS AGAINST SMART METERS

 

Decision based on cost, but a local resident who started a national movement to ban smart meters claims they can harm health in some individuals

 

April 7, 2011 (La Mesa)—Helix Water District customers won’t be getting smart water meters anytime soon. The Board of Directors opted against the change.

“We don’t want to spend a million and a half dollars,” board vice president John Linden stated. The board also noted that among 322 pilot project customers who do have the smart meters, only 9 percent accessed the smart meter website to check their energy usage.

HELIX WATER UNVEILS NEW CLEAN ENERGY SOURCE IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

 

District Partners with Borrego Solar and CCSE to deploy 290 Kw solar system at  Nat L. Eggert Operations Center

 

April 4, 2011 (El Cajon)--Helix Water District has activated a 290 kilowatt (KW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Nat L. Eggert Operations Center (OC) in El Cajon. The zero-emission system was deployed through a partnership with Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. and the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE).

 

To celebrate, the District hosted a ribbon-cutting event for the new system on March 30th.

SCOPING MEETING MARCH 29 ON EL MONTE VALLEY MINING, RECLAMATION & GROUNDWATER RECHARGE PROJECT

 

March 17, 2011 (Lakeside)--Helix Water District is beginning the environmental review process for the El Monte Valley Mining, Reclamation, and Groundwater Recharge Project (El Monte Valley Project). A second public scoping meeting for the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment seeks input on what will be studied.
 

The second scoping meeting will be held in Lakeside, Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Lakeside Christian Church, 13739 El Monte Road, Lakeside, CA 92040.

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