Action stuns UPA officials

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By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

A new splinter in the struggle between Utica Power Authority and one of its members, Calaveras County Water District, has UPA officials shaking their heads.

"It's a slap in the face," UPA Chairwoman Debbie Ponte said Monday night after learning that CCWD's board approved filing suit in Calaveras County Superior Court for declaratory relief.

Declaratory relief means a judge determines rights under a contract on which the parties cannot agree.

In this case the disagreement is over a $55,000 assessment levied on each of the three UPA members last April to help with cash-flow problems caused by the Darby Fire.

CCWD refused to pay, saying the vote was invalid because significant financial decisions need a super-majority vote, by five of the six UPA members.

The other two UPA member entities the city of Angels Camp and Union Public Utility District paid the assessment.

UPA's attorney Chris Williams said the vote was correct because Gov. Gray Davis declared Calaveras County to be in a state of emergency because of the Darby Fire and its destruction of UPA's water delivery system.

An amendment to UPA's Joint Powers Agreement allows a 4-2 vote of the board in cases of emergency.

The Joint Powers Agreement under which UPA operates states that if a member refuses to pay an assessment, that member is no longer part of UPA.

At the time of the assessment and for months following, CCWD officials said they were seeking a graceful exit from UPA.

The other two UPA members have been negotiating with CCWD through attorneys since April and have twice extended the assessment payment deadline as all involved sought a solution to the disagreement.

But at last week's UPA board meeting, CCWD attorney Alan Turner announced the district had placed $55,000 with the court and was asking a judge to decide which interpretation of the assessment vote is correct.

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