Tonight, the Board of LVMWD took up the vote to approve construction contracts for the water tank project in Three Springs. The meeting started with a 3.5+ hour section devoted to the tank which had a number of facets including: Louis Masry’s announcement of a recall campaign against three board members, the launch of a voter ballot measure to restrict construction with blasting in Westlake Village, and legal action by one Board member against the Board president.
Ultimately, the Board vote was 3 to 2 with Directors Caspary, Renger, and Peterson voting to approve up to $12.7 million for the tank ($649 per customer). Directors Polan and Steinhardt voted against the project.
With so many “curve balls” at this meeting, it’s hard to know what the future holds despite the majority and what would normally be considered a “final” vote. There now appears to be a major legal violation of board member rights/procedure that may cloud the issue by putting the basis for the Board’s vote in jeopardy. No one is sure what that means at this time, but it could include action by the State Attorney General (see below). There’s the issue of the announced recall of three elected board members, which if any one is recalled could significantly change the Board make up — and no one knows that impact. And finally, if the proposed Westlake Village City ordinance makes it to the ballot and the voters pass it, the City of Westlake Village’s council may be put in the position of deciding whether to grant approval to any developer, including LVMWD, to use blasting within City limits.
Violation of Director’s Rights
The meeting started with a discussion to delay the vote. Director Steinhardt asserted that President Caspary has violated his rights as a director because he has refused to allow Steinhardt to add items to meeting agendas (purportedly a violation of the LVMWD Code). Director Steinhardt gave legal notice to President Caspary this morning that Steinhardt’s rights (on multiple occasions), and the public’s right to hear items, have been violated because the Board did not allow those items to be placed on the agenda. Director Steinhardt, seconded by Director Polan, requested that the tank vote be postponed until those items relevant to the tank vote can be put on the agenda and discussed in public, essentially reverse the violation of those rights. There was no further discussion of the allegation, nor determination by the District’s legal counsel. Early on, Director Caspary asked that the discussion of this legal matter happen in closed session at a future time.
Recall Announced; New WLV Ordinance?
As the first public speaker, Louis Masry informed the Board that in the next several days, he was intending to serve three Board members — Caspary, Renger, and Peterson — with formal notice of recall efforts. In addition, he informed the Board that he was planning on launching an effort for a new City ordinance in the City of Westlake Village that would require the City Council to vote and approve for any blasting project within 1000 feet of any home in the City (the tank is within approximately 450 feet of homes). This type of effort has never been undertaken in the City, and proponents expect this City ordinance to apply to any developer, including LVMWD building the water tank.
Cost Increases and Estimates
LVMWD staff made a long presentation documenting the assorted public meetings, and the long history of the tank’s conception and design. The staff presentations were followed by the consultants brought in to manage and review the construction bidding process. They added in their comments that they didn’t foresee the contractor’s interpretations of the project, and resulting cost increases (22% higher). They further discussed that they arrived at their estimates by asking a tank builder their thoughts on the most likely cost for a tank, but did not specifically review the cost of the proposed design as part of their $500k consulting contract to manage the bidding process.
There’s a great deal more that happened in the 3.5 hours, but for those interested, the video should be posted later this week by LVMWD on their web site.