Action stuns UPA officials

December 24, 2002 12:00 am

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.