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Our Opinion: Who's the boss?

April 14, 2001

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has voted 3-2 to do an efficiency study on districtwide processes. It will bring in a firm and pay it $600,000 for the study, which is supposed to determine if IID can cut costs, and, more specifically, determine if the district's SAP computer system is doing what it should.

The board has clearly caved in to the screams of farmers that an efficiency study is the only way the district can determine why it is spending more on information technology and why farmers are paying more for water.

We understand farmers are going through a rough time as a result of depressed ag markets and other difficulties on the farm. It is painful to see the farming community suffering when so much of our economy depends on agriculture. That does not mean a costly efficiency study is going to solve the problems of farmers, no matter how much they see such a study as a holy grail.


IID Director Bruce Kuhn, who made the motion calling for the study, said his action was in no way tied to a vote of no confidence taken against the IID board by the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and a lack of confidence vote in the board by the Imperial County Farm Bureau. He said he called for the issue to be placed on the agenda before the farm groups took their actions.

That may be the case, but that the board voted 3-2 with directors Rudy Maldonado and Lloyd Allen joining Kuhn in calling for the study indicates the board relented to farmers. It wasn't long ago that the board said it was going to delay such a study.

It is hard to imagine so much controversy has erupted over a computer system. Yes, information technology has grown in the district and has come with a higher cost. We would not argue against that. However, whether the district used the SAP system or some other computer system, the district would face higher technology costs.

This issue has the potential to pull apart the district, just as it has created division on the IID board when the board, power users and farmers need to be united. Let's not forget, we are facing serious power issues and extremely critical water issues.

One last point. Farmers may not like the SAP system. It may be flawed. It may take time to work out those flaws. But any system the district would bring in as a way to separate water from the SAP system would come with a cost and with problems.

The district might be better served doing all it can to fix and modify SAP rather than doing an efficiency study and putting the water and power department on separate computer systems, a move that could spark other rifts between the departments.

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