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(Left to right) The Lebec County Water District Board, Julie McWhorter, Steve Cozzetto, Darren Hager and Jack Rider, met publicly with Jagmit “Jay” Mann (co-owner of the new Holiday Inn Express hotel in Lebec) at the April 5 board meeting. Phil Aaland (a retired broadcast engineer, appointed at the end of the meeting to the LCWD board) and Jeff French (the Holiday Inn’s civil engineer and co-owner/developer of property around the hotel) also attended.
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Jagmit “Jay” Mann (co-owner of the new Holiday Inn Express hotel in Lebec)
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Phil Aaland (a retired broadcast engineer, appointed at the end of the meeting to the LCWD board) and Jeff French (the Holiday Inn’s civil engineer and co-owner/developer of property around the hotel).
By Patric Hedlund
If you’ve been following the plot, the best shows in town these days are the biweekly meetings of the Lebec County Water District. The Holiday Inn Express and the LCWD board are locked in a dispute over the best way to assure 1,400 gallons per minute of emergency water pressure for the hotel in the event of a fire, without leaving homeowners in Chimney Canyon dry.
Bakersfield lawyers—legal gladiators toting briefcases from the Klein DeNatale Goldner firm for LCWD and those representing the Holiday Inn Express—are meeting with cowboys wrangling stacks of file folders filled with engineering reports. All are polite in public, but doggedly partisan in private meetings as costly solutions are examined.
The two sides are confronting a tangle of water system distribution problems for the small district, which serves only 300 clients. But the sideshow has been rancorous, as residential water customers have been incited by former board member Bob Karr and his wife Millie Karr to seek the recall of board members.
The LCWD Board turned the tables in March by calling for a Kern County Grand Jury investigation on itself, to force the snipers to take an oath and put some beef behind their “kvetching.” Bob Karr resigned from the board after being criticized for helping the hotel’s engineer Jeff French and developer Emilie Wainright to build a 12-inch water pipe across blue-line Cuddy Creek without having a public board meeting first. Karr’s goal was to help the hotel to meet water pressure requirements so it could meet inspections and open its doors in December.
Corrosion in the district’s existing line to the hotel impeded the ability of the system to provide simultaneously the 1,000 gallons per minute required at the fire hydrant outside the hotel plus the 400 gallons per minute required for the sprinkler system inside the hote. The 1,400 gallons must be supplied to the hotel in case of a fire emergency.
In December, opening the 12-inch line was followed by residential customers being without water for 10 days at Christmas. There is still dispute between the sides as to what caused the outage. The LCWD board and water operator appear convinced that it was opening the 12-inch line. Now the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is saying they need to take a look at the line as possibly having been installed without a permit from DFG for digging into Cuddy Creek.
Meanwhile, customers who have come to the LCWD board meetings after being invited to the Karrs’ recall rally are discovering there are serious problems to solve with the system that are larger than the personality conflicts the Karrs often point to regarding the board chair Darren Hager.
Horace Smith, who was asked to take a recorder to the board meetings for the recall effort, said that “After holding this thing up to the light,” he thinks, “maybe I was being recruited by the wrong side.”
This is part of the April 09, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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