LIVERMORE -- Saying the savings to taxpayers are too low to risk a change, an Alameda County grand jury has dealt another blow to an East Bay water agency's desire to split from the county's oversight.
The civil grand jury ruled that Zone 7 Water Agency's desire to separate would create considerable risk -- creating a new independent structure where there is minimal expertise and where savings would amount to only $350,000 per year. Zone 7 buys, treats and delivers water from the state to retailers in Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton.
The grand jury also took issue with Zone 7's desire to separate from the county without the blessing of the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission, which reviews proposals for the formation of new government agencies.
Despite the June 25 opinion, Zone 7 management says its plans remain undeterred.
The report "won't impact us because our board has been really positive in pursuing separation," said Jill Duerig, Zone 7's general manager. "Separation does in fact help the community that the board serves."
Duerig disagreed with the grand jury's 150-page report -- which also included opinions on how the county evaluates and oversees service contracts and the state of Oakland's crime lab -- and said jurors didn't have all the information about the agency.
She pointed to the jurors' opinion about the public not having direct input and countered that Zone 7 has an elected board of directors that
Duerig also noted that the grand jury missed one of the biggest issues Zone 7 had for separation -- that it has 15,000 customers living in the Dougherty Valley, which is in Contra Costa County, which can't currently serve or vote for board members.
"Our board realizes that if we separate that they would have to seek their seats again," Duerig said. "They realize that the civic process and people of Dougherty Valley are worth the risk."
The Zone serves about 200,000 customers. That number is expected to increase with the Dougherty Valley population, which is projected to grow to between 30,000 and 40,000 people, Duerig said.
She also noted that Zone 7 has expertise and operates autonomously from the county on everything from its employees to budgets.
The opinion about Zone 7's separation plan came just under two months after state Sen. Mark DeSalunier, D-Concord, tabled Senate Bill 1337, that would have facilitated the Zone's split, citing both Contra Costa and Alameda counties concerns over flood control issues.
Duerig also said that going through the LAFCO process is not practical because the district serves customers in two different counties and that the proposed legislation was the best fit.
The Zone and both Alameda and Contra Costa counties are still working on a separation plan, Duerig said.
Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/robjordan127.