Power committee split on computer costs

March 20, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The debate over how much the Imperial Irrigation District's water and power departments should pay for the district's computer systems is continuing to prove divisive.

During a recent meeting of IID's power consumers advisory committee, the group split on whether to ask the IID Board of Directors to examine the issue further.

The 7-7 vote means the group will not recommend the IID board revisit its recent action to have the power department pay 90 percent of the cost for the district's computer systems.

Shorty Hickingbottom, chairman of the power committee, said the split vote means the issue dies as far as any action the committee might take.


At issue is whether the power department should pay 90 percent or 76 percent of the $9 million cost for all computer hardware and software systems in the district.

IID Director Bruce Kuhn has argued the power side should pay 90 percent and he made a such a motion recently.

The motion passed by a 3-2 vote, with directors Lloyd Allen and Rudy Maldonado also voting to have power pay 90 percent. Board President Andy Horne and Director Stella Mendoza voted against that motion.

The issue dates back to the mid-1990s when the board was considering a new software system called SAP — a program Kuhn said was to benefit the power department.

At the time the SAP software was purchased, the board voted to have the power department pay 90 percent for the computer system and water 10 percent.

In this year's budget, the board altered that split so the power side would pay 76 percent and the water side 24 percent.

That action was based on information from staff that a 76/24 cost split represented the department's use of the computer systems.

Kuhn again brought the issue to the board earlier this year, stating the 76/24 split went against the original intent of the board when it added the SAP system. He called on the board to change this year's budget and return the split to 90/10.

Hickingbottom said this morning he agrees the split should be 90/10.

He said that was the intent of the past board, and, he added, the current board "has to live up to that."

Hickingbottom added he thinks if the water department were forced to pay 24 percent, it would place a burden on farmers they cannot afford.

"I don't think the farmers can afford another 50-cent to 75-cent raise," he said. "If the farmers were making money, I might vote differently."

Norma Sierra, another member of the power consumers' group, voted to have the issue go back to the board, saying the computer costs should be split 76/24.

"My main concern is the power rates," she said, adding Imperial County residents cannot afford higher power rates.

Mendoza and a group of her supporters are circulating petitions throughout the Imperial Valley calling for the board to bring back the 76/24 split.

Mendoza said she plans to bring the petitions to the board during its meeting Monday and she is asking that customers fill the meeting to voice their concerns.

Mendoza has said it is unfair to have power pay for a portion of the computer systems used by the water department.

She said the board has left her little recourse but to take the issue to customers and let them tell the board how they would like the district to split the costs.

Kuhn has said he thinks Mendoza's efforts could create a rift between power and water consumers and that could prove harmful to the district.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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