DWP’s GM Joel Dickson Plans for Financial Solvency and Long-Term Water Supply

Since joining the Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power in October, General Manager Joel Dickson has been dealing with the agency’s budget deficits while planning for long-term water supply. In a presentation before the City Council of Big Bear Lake on February 23, Dickson outlined his recommendations for the DWP’s Board of Commissioners. Prior to the Power Point, the agency’s Chairman Steve Foulkes said that they will have three new wells on line this year and, of personnel issues, noted, “We dealt with those, and we’ve moved on. As for this area, we’re on the right track and, a year from now, it shouldn’t be an issue any more.” Foulkes also told Council, “Clearly this is not the time for us to increase water rates. We’re holding the line—or cutting the line—wherever we can.” Dickson told Council that in the four months on the job he has since “gotten his feet wet,” so to speak, and pointed out three reasons that DWP’s water rates are high, among those is the debt (attached with refinancing covenants in 1996) that was incurred when the utility was purchased. One of Dickson’s suggestions for achieving financial solvency is to delay capital improvements for one year—otherwise, he said, “We’re really faced with two difficult choices: raise rates or incur debt.” Water connections have also been down; though there are 160 new connections available per year, the DWP only had 34 in 2008. Dickson’s well-received presentation to Council was then reviewed at the DWP’s general meeting on Tuesday morning. Though no action was taken on the 24th, Dickson tells KBHR that there will be another as-yet-unscheduled DWP workshop [now set for Friday at 4pm] to review staff recommendations before determining a plan of action. “The major item,” he says, “was the redesignation of rehabilitation fees to bridge the deficit. What we’ve proposed is a solution that gets us through the worst part of the recession.”

The DWP's GM Joel Dickson with his Power Point presentation before City Council

The DWP's GM Joel Dickson with his Power Point presentation before City Council

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