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Truckee Utility district approves public panels

Christine StanleySierra Sun

Since Truckees heated debate over coal power late last year, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District has been inundated with demands and suggestions related to conservation, energy use and managerial responsibility. Agendas are getting longer, and its not uncommon for the twice-monthly meetings to stretch well past 11 at night. Heres what happened this week:

The board is considering a pay raise for district General Manager Peter Holzmeister. Holzmeister said he currently makes $137,492 plus about $60,000 in benefits, a pay package that he says puts him at the bottom of the barrel.Koff & Associates, a San Ramon-based human resource consulting firm, conducted a survey for the district to identify how Holzmeisters salary compared to managers of other special districts in Truckee as well as managers of utility districts in Roseville, Incline Village and Ukiah.The survey found that Holzmeisters wage is below the average of the others surveyed. The board was expected to approve a pay increase at Wednesday nights regularly scheduled meeting, but board member Bill Thomason asked that the item be pulled until he can pose additional questions of the manager.The board will revisit the issue in closed session after its regularly scheduled meeting on March 21, and then will likely take action on April 4.

During the recent debates over power contracts, a number of local ratepayers expressed interest in the formation of public advisory committees. The district has conducted three workshops this year to air options for the establishment of a Citizen Advisory Water and Power Conservation Committee, as well as a Citizen Advisory Power Supply Committee. On Wednesday night, the board adopted a resolution to establish both advisory groups. Each panel will consist of about 20 members of the general public, who will elect the committee chair.The advisory committees will be required to submit monthly and annual reports, while the board will provide financial assistance and supply experts and consultants as needed. No deadline for applications was adopted, but they wont likely be due until June. Ratepayers will receive applications in the mail and advertisements will appear in local media and on the district Web site.

Senate Bill 1078, which became law on Jan. 1, 2003, calls for the governing bodies of publicly owned utilities to set renewable-resource targets for their power portfolios. As approved by the board Wednesday, the Truckee Donner districts resource mix will include a minimum of 21 percent renewable resources by 2010. In order to meet the objective, the district can use public-benefit funds to implement and support production projects. The district also will strive to acquire energy from a small hydroelectric power plant from the Western Area Power Administration within the Sierra Pacific control area, and in the future the district might contract for geothermal generation in Northern Nevada and wind generation backed by natural gas. An ongoing five-year review will address changes in the districts power portfolio, including market power purchases and changes in renewable energy technologies.

The mission of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District is currently to provide adequate, reliable and high-quality water and electrical power services, and to manage the districts resources in an open, responsible, environmentally sound manner at the lowest practical cost. The board agreed to adopt an additional line: In pursuing this mission, the district will aggressively pursue renewable energy sources as set for the in the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

In late January, district Planning Director Scott Terrell was the subject of a disciplinary hearing regarding his conduct during the power contract debate in the closing months of 2006.The district brought three charges against Terrell:1. Alleged participation in talks of legal action by residents against the district;2. Allegedly undermining the effectiveness of power supply engineer Stephen Hollabaugh; and3. Allegedly making an insubordinate remark to General Manager Peter Holzmeister.A panel of three board members selected by Terrell directors Pat Sutton, Joe Aguera and Bill Thomason voted to dismiss all charges. Since then and apparently unbeknownst to the board, Terrell was transferred from a department head position to the newly created position of Conservation Administrator under the supervision of Administrative Services Manager Mary Chapman. Terrell said he believes he was demoted and has received a pay cut. I consider that whats happening right now is retaliation to my position during the coal project, Terrell said. I feel like I am being punished for having opposed the coal project.


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