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Farm Bureau unhappy with IID board over computer system

April 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

For the second time in less than a week, the local farming community has voiced a lack of confidence in the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors.

On Monday the Imperial County Farm Bureau voted to express "a lack of confidence" in the IID board over issues related to the district's computer systems. Last week the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association cast a no-confidence vote in the IID board.

The votes came as the IID board prepares for a meeting tonight that could be a showdown between IID directors deeply divided over how the district water and power departments should share the cost of computer systems.

Twenty-four members of the Imperial County Farm Bureau governing board were present for Monday's vote. Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Farm Bureau, said 23 members voted to express a lack of confidence. There are 30 members on the governing board.


"We want some attention to the issue," Grizzle said. "We do not want a war. We just want the board to get some professional assistance by way of an efficiency study to help them make the difficult decisions they need to make."

The difficult decisions, according to Grizzle, would be tied to the district's SAP system, a software program purchased by the district in the late 1990s.

The farm community has argued SAP, purchased to help the district transition into a deregulated power market, has been plagued by problems and has failed to meet the needs of the agricultural community.

Grizzle said the problems have not just affected farmers.

"The problems are affecting both the power and water users," she said. "It is not water versus power. Our members are consumers of both water and power."

The actions by the Farm Bureau and IVAG come after the IID board voted two weeks ago to have the water department pay 24 percent of all computer system costs. The power department will pay 76 percent.

That decision angered many in the ag community, who asked that the board allow the split to be 90/10, with the power side paying 90 percent.

According to Director Bruce Kuhn, it was the intent of the IID board in the late 1990s, when the SAP system was purchased, that power pay 90 percent and water 10 percent and that the arrangement remain that way.

Kuhn and Director Lloyd Allen cast votes against the 76/24 split. Board President Andy Horne and directors Stella Mendoza and Rudy Maldonado voted for that split.

Maldonado said his vote was merely to open a new round of discussion on the computer issue.

Both he and Kuhn tonight will call on the board to look at freeing the water department from any costs associated with SAP. They will ask the board to look at bringing in a separate computer system for the water department.

Mendoza has said a 76/24 split is equitable because it means the power and water sides are paying for the use they get from the system.

She has said any other split is unjust. She added the board's action two weeks ago did leave the SAP portion of the district's computer systems split at 90/10.

Grizzle said this morning she does not think the IID board will be ready tonight to take further action on the computer issue.

She said the board needs to conduct an efficiency study to determine whether SAP should be scrapped. An efficiency study would cost $600,000 to $1 million, according to IID staffers.

Local farmer John Pierre Menvielle, a Farm Bureau member, expressed anger at the board's handling of the computer issue.

He said of Monday's lack of confidence vote: "The goal of the action was to show that the ag community is united and we feel we are being treated unfairly."

Menvielle said, "You get the farm community united and they will find we are not as dumb as they think we are."

Menvielle said he thinks there are IID board members who "have no business" serving as directors, although he declined to name names.

He said there are directors who have led the community to believe power customers are subsidizing water users when that is not the case.

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

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