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FPUD hires Pudgil for reorganization outreach

 

Last updated 3/13/2020 at 3:53am



The outreach effort for the proposed reorganization in which the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District would detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and become part of the Eastern Municipal Water District will include both Chris Brown’s Alchemy Consulting Group and Darren Pudgil’s Pudgil and Company.

FPUD’s board voted 4-0, Dec. 9, with Don McDougal absent, to approve a $7,500 monthly retainer fee with Alchemy Consulting to provide support to FPUD in educating key stakeholders about the reorganization proposal. A 5-0 board vote, Feb. 24, approved a $5,000 monthly retainer fee with Pudgil and Company to provide public information support services.

“That’s just to help us with sort of educating our ratepayers but also sort of our region, FPUD general manager Jack Bebee said.

The Dec. 9 FPUD board actions also included approving an application to San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission to detach from the SDCWA and join Eastern.

The proposed reorganization would require approval by a majority of the LAFCO board, and when San Diego County’s LAFCO unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Riverside County’s LAFCO to have the process delegated entirely to San Diego LAFCO, the San Diego LAFCO board also included direction to LAFCO staff to review the economic impacts not only for FPUD and Rainbow but also to the SDCWA and to the 22 other CWA member agencies.

The CWA’s Nov. 21 board meeting included a request that if LAFCO approves the proposal, a vote of the entire CWA service area be held to confirm the reorganization.

Noelle Denke is FPUD’s only staff member dedicated to outreach, and her focus is outreach within the FPUD boundaries to customers and other stakeholders. FPUD does not have the internal resources to educate key parties outside the district about the potential impacts to FPUD’s long-term fiscal sustainability if a countywide vote is required. The term “countywide” applies only to residents within the CWA boundaries, which does not include the entirety of San Diego County.

“We have to communicate to a wider audience,” Bebee said. “We have to educate citizens in order to get the approvals we need.”

Alchemy Consulting’s defined duties include attending all appropriate meetings at which the reorganization is expected to be discussed including ad hoc committee meetings as well as board meetings.

When necessary oral and written reports will be provided and will include recommendations, input, and consulting with regard to LAFCO board and staff members, county board of supervisors’ members, board of supervisors’ staff, Eastern Municipal Water District board and staff members and board and staff members of other water districts or cities.

Alchemy Consulting will devise and implement policy strategy with respect to potential actions by LAFCO, the board of supervisors and other public agencies.

Assistance to initiate and organize meetings with allied groups will be provided as will potential litigation support for FPUD’s application. Alchemy Consulting will arrange necessary meetings with public agency board or staff members and will prepare draft statements, talking points, and briefings to ensure that FPUD is properly advised. Alchemy Consulting will advocate FPUD’s position during LAFCO hearings and will also assist in overall advocacy management.

“I look forward to working with FPUD,” Brown said. “We’re going to actively pursue our roll off for the benefit of our ratepayers.”

Alchemy Consulting handles land use and other public policy matters. When FPUD favored a merger between the district and the Rainbow Municipal Water District, Rainbow opposed the merger and hired Brown to handle public relations work. Brown worked with the LAFCO board on that merger proposal which was rejected on a 5-3 vote in 2015.

This time Brown will be working on a project supported by both FPUD and Rainbow.

“It’s great that both districts are working together to save their ratepayers money,” he said.

Brown had previously been the senior policy adviser to county supervisor Bill Horn; his duties with Horn’s office included LAFCO as well as land use issues. Two county supervisors are on the LAFCO board and that included Horn during his 24 years in office.

Pudgil’s services will not replace Brown’s work.

“It’s in addition,” Bebee said. “Chris is focused more on helping to educate in legislative or government positions. Darren’s helping more with media outreach.”

Pudgil founded Pudgil and Company in 2013 and, in that capacity, he is a communications consultant for local, state and national corporations, public agencies and nonprofit organizations. He had previously been the vice president for the San Diego Tourism Authority, where he was responsible for government affairs and communications.

“I look forward to helping the district communicate the facts to the people so they know what detachment is all about,” Pudgil said. “I’m going to be communicating the facts about detachment to the public so that they know exactly what it is.”

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.

 

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