By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
After 10 months of wrangling over an assessment payment, Calaveras County Water District paid $55,000 to Utica Power Authority yesterday.
Following the board's 5 p.m. closed session, UPA Board Chairwoman Debbie Ponte said "CCWD has paid the $55,000 assessment under protest and the details will be worked out legally."
CCWD is one of three agencies that make up the Utica Power Authority under a joint powers agreement. Each member including the City of Angels Camp and the Murphys-based Union Public Utility District has two representatives on the UPA board.
To help pay the bills from the Darby Fire in September 2001 which destroyed part of UPA's water delivery system UPA assessed each of the three agencies $55,000.
UPUD and Angels Camp paid up, but CCWD representatives balked, saying the 4-2 vote was not enough, they needed a 5-1 majority vote for such an assessment except when paying for emergencies.
Four board members who approved the assessment said the situation was an emergency because the Darby Fire cut off water to several south Calaveras County communities.
Gov. Gray Davis had declared Calaveras County in a state of emergency, paving the way for state Office of Emergency Services reimbursement for some expenses. However, the money was a long time coming, as were insurance payments.
While board members and attorneys for both UPA and CCWD tried to solve the impasse, the CCWD board voted just before the holidays to ask a judge to decide whether the assessment vote was legal under the terms of the joint powers authority. No decision has been made.
After last night's board meeting, Charles Hebrard who represents CCWD on the UPA board, said the district made the payment "to avoid withdrawal from the JPA."
The JPA states if a member does not pay a required assessment, it is deemed to have withdrawn from the partnership.