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Should the Community Services District help the Country Club address its financial problems? That question surfaced at Wednesday’s CSD board meeting, when Director John Merchant disclosed a letter from the CSD to the club and the CSD’s answer: No, it can’t help.

The two-page letter, written Aug. 30 by General Manager Mark Martin, challenges requests by Mike Martel, president of the Country Club board and a past CSD director. The letter was distributed to the directors and made available to the public at the meeting.

Responding later Wednesday, Martel said he was looking for any possible help for the struggling club – “legally, not asking for favors.” Given the longtime cooperative relationship between CSD and the club, he said the club wondered if it could qualify to use some of CSD’s wastewater funds. 

Since the community's beginnings, Rancho Murieta’s wastewater has been treated by the CSD and sprayed on the golf courses, a solution long viewed as a win-win – free water for the club and disposal for the community.

Martin’s letter said he and Martel met one-on-one in July, and Martel asked the CSD to pay $32,000 to $40,000 for six new pumps the club needed to handle the reclaimed CSD water. 

Said Martin’s letter, “You commented during our discussion that if RMCSD were not willing to fund the pumps that RMCC can just walk away and leave the property to Sullivan (Murieta Club Properties LLC) and let the ponds rot and create smell issues.”

The letter said the club is responsible for its own business strategies and financial priorities, and it offered this bottom line: “Based on these facts and beyond the questionable legality of a public agency gifting public funds to a private entity, we believe it would be unreasonable to expect the remainder of the RMCSD ratepayers, including a majority of homeowners who are not club members, to cover the cost for replacement of the reclaimed water pumps for which the RMCC should have budgeted over the years.”

The letter concludes with the request that future matters be brought to the CSD through proper channels, so district leaders and the public can be fully aware.

In a statement at the meeting, read aloud and distributed with Martin’s letter, Merchant added that the club had previously asked the CSD to have its lawyer evaluate the possibility of charging each ratepayer a fee for disposing of the community’s water on club property.

“A healthy RMCC benefits everyone who lives inside the gates of Rancho Murieta,” Merchant read from his statement. “It was the primary reason our CSD board chose to explore opportunities involving owning the land under the golf courses and to construct a community center to enhance the RMCC. We painstakingly pursued this idea with complete transparency. Unfortunately, we could not agree on a structure favorable to all the parties involved and we were informed by the lessor that the property was not for sale.”

Speaking later, Martel said he was disappointed that he recently spent 30 or 40 minutes chatting with Merchant on a range of topics, and this never came up. He called Merchant’s motivation political, as he’s involved with Saving Our Lakes & Open Spaces, the group that works to steer development, and SOLOS is backing two candidates for the CSD board in next month’s election.

“What he’s suggesting, I guess, is no more presidents meetings, or general managers meetings,” Martel said, referring to off-the-record get-togethers by leaders of the community’s organizations. Martel also criticized the CSD’s private meetings on the potential acquisition of undeveloped land and the club, the six-month effort that Merchant kicked off last year.

The conversation with Martin “wasn’t what John is trying to portray in his letter,” Martel said, “and it wasn’t like it was a secret.” Martel said he brought up the topic at one of the presidents meetings, with the heads of the CSD and Rancho Murieta Association present.

He said all six pumps broke at the same time, and there were no reserve funds to replace them. Club finances have had a good stretch recently, he said, and the club has been able to replace three or four of the pumps on its own.

“I don’t think we should force anything on anybody,” Martel said of the rumored forced-membership approach that could buoy the club’s finances. “Do I think down the road, should we offer it up as a vote? Yeah, I think that’s how America works. I think you put something on the ballot.”

AttachmentSize
PDF icon CSD letter to Country Club157.33 KB
PDF icon John Merchant statement175.3 KB

Jan Kays's picture
Joined: 05/06/2008
Posts: 114
Post rating: 97

OMG.......I am beyond words. 

OMG.......I am beyond words.   There has to be some middle ground or do MEN just want to do a scorched earth, kill them all and then we start a new society.

Janet Nicholson's picture
Joined: 10/28/2007
Posts: 234
Post rating: 377

*SMH*

Can't you boys just all get along for once?  Maybe all the boards should be filled with women who understand the concepts of collaboration and negotiation.  Just think what could happen if the RMCC, RMA, and CSD worked TOGETHER instead of trying to prove whose genitals are bigger.

Larry Shelton's picture
Joined: 01/29/2015
Posts: 23
Post rating: 28

Please do some research and

Please do some research and vote wisely.  Everyone on these Boards was elected by the residents.  How well has your choice performed?

Ashley Low's picture
Joined: 01/10/2012
Posts: 17
Post rating: 15

Middle Ground

The answer to your question is right in front of you. Truth CAN'T hide. The history of the world is of Men and power, sovereignty and control. We are all allowed to Vote Use it Wisely. heart

 

Ashley Low

Karl Gebhardt's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 46
Post rating: 35

Middle Ground?, Haha, that's a funny title.

Yes, vote for someone based solely on their gender, race or sexual orientation.  That is the most inteligent thing to do.  

Bunky Svendsen's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 141
Post rating: 184

Pumps

Ok... We'll pay for your pumps...but you have to open the driving range to all residents.(un-limited balls) :)

RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27494
Post rating: 1371

Martel offers letter of response

Club President Mike Martel chats with a group that just heard him read a response to CSD Director John Merchant.

At the end of Thursday night's Country Club board meeting, Mike Martel, the board president, read a letter he had written in response to John Merchant's claims at last week's Community Services District meeting. (Martel began reading the letter at the conclusion of the meeting, but there was noise from a competing event, so the meeting was adjourned and he read the letter for anyone who cared to join him in one of the club's offices.)

Here is what he wrote and read:

RESPONSE TO CSD AND TO DIRECTOR MR. JOHN MERCHANT MEMORANDUM DATED AUGUST 30TH AND OCTOBER 17TH, 2018.

I was approached by RM.com for comments regarding the CSD meeting held Oct. 17th, 2018, in which I was the topic of discussion.

At the CSD meeting a memo written by Mr. Mark Martin, G.M., CSD on Aug. 30th was read and passed out at the meeting.

RM.com shared that correspondence with me, although it was supposedly sent to me, and I had never received it, and it was the first time I read it.

The second memorandum passed out is authored by John Merchant, Director, CSD, dated Oct. 17th, 2018, which expressed his opinion of what occurred at the meeting he was not present at.

On or around June of this year, the presidents and G.M. met to discuss global issues and to inform other associations of relative updates, it was then that the issue of the inoperable pump conditions came up for discussion. RMCC asked Mr. Martin to pose to the CSD attorney to review Government Code to see if there was any possibility of assistance to fix the pumps from CSD.

As most of you know the RMCC was on the brink of filing bankruptcy protection from the burden of the employees unfunded retirement obligation. Elections were held and the direction of the CC changed, and steps were taken to stabilize the financial situations. As we were struggling, one by one the pumps stopped worked and needed replacing.

The CC board took steps to evaluate and address the issue, reviewing water agreements. We acknowledge then, and still, that the responsibility of the pumps belongs to the CC.

The CC disposes of the wastewater for the community, and in the past, the whole community by being members of RMCC shared the benefits of green golf courses, but also in the cost of maintaining the mechanics of this system. Since the club membership ceased to be part of residency in the community, only RMCC members bear the cost of equipment failure but the whole community benefits from a healthy CC, green courses, and property values. In light of that, we knew we were obligated to still pay for the pumps, and the question was asked if there was maybe a possibility for CSD to assist. It was discussed that if the money could not be generated to fix the pumps the community would suffer with stagnant water, odors, etc. In the meantime, the CC has been improving financially and has since fixed the pumps. So, basically this is a moot point.

Mr. Merchant and I had a conversation that Monday prior to the CSD meeting, and at no time did he mention that I would be discussed at the CSD meeting. He never invited me to the meeting to rebut or to discuss the issues that were brought up at the meeting he was not present at. He was not transparent.

In the past, Mr. Merchant, in my opinion, has not followed his own advice and violated the spirit and trust of the community with his claim to be transparent. He negotiated in private the MBA, the land use agreements between the CSD and the developers for the use of the spray fields that lifted the cease and desist and gave EDU's outside the boundaries to adjacent property.

Mr. Merchant refers to conflict of interest that some residents may have if they are RMCC members and serve on the CSD board, and he has used the CSD meeting to inform the public that "we need to take specific procedural measures to protect the CSD board from a conflict of interest, recusals that could result in the ability to maintain a quorum a potential of litigation over gifts/misuse of public funds."

Mr. Merchant talks about conflicts of interest and yet he is active in and the VP of SOLOS (save our lakes and open space), "whose mission is to invade our local governing agencies to be more supportive towards preservation of open space." Did Mr. Merchant recuse himself when CSD spent tens of thousands of dollars to purchase developer land along with the purchase of the country club? My question to him is SOLOS a 501c3 nonprofit? Is SOLOS a PAC (Political Action Committee)? Where does the money go? SOLOS claims over 1,000 members. Should they be banned from running for local boards to avoid conflict of interest? The SOLOS website does not publish their contributors, their members, nor do they make their financial statements public information.

Again in John's dual role in CSD and SOLOS he supported spending thousands and thousands of dollars pursuing the purchase of land and in those meetings I requested the public and the press be invited.

Mr. Merchant claims RMCC members that are elected to CSD will force ratepayers to join RMCC. He mentions that twice in his memorandum and my response is "Really, John?" That's ludicrous and you know it, and anyone reading your memo knows it.

John you used your position inappropriately when you used a CSD meeting to improperly present your opinion to influence an election. Please save your opinion for the editorial section of the Dot.com and newspaper.

In closing, I have supported SOLO's positions on development, and have made my comments and concerns public and testified at County meetings. It is my opinion that the community be involved in all conversations about the district. Transparency and honesty is required, and we all need to work together to provide the best for all residents.

Sincerely,
Mike Martel

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 472
Post rating: 462

Um, no

The Club is a private business closed to all CSD ratepayers who are not members.  Signs everywhere, set one foot and you're a trespasser.  The land being irrigated with those pumps is developer land.  Accepting FREE WATER is not a favor.  Imagine what their water bill would be without it.  That structure was put in place BY the developer to benefit the developer, and continues to do so.  A supermarket is also a great asset to the community and a plus to property values, but nobody would suggest we subsidize the Raleys Corp.  What is proposed is an unlawful gift of public funds to a private entity.  We're supposed to be a bunch of free marketers out here.  The club needs to stop 'rent seeking' and address its own poor business decisions, such as blocking outside play because it believes elitism trumps revenue.

 

John Hein's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 343
Post rating: 408

As usual

Wilber, had to reference Trump! You don't even play golf! Funny stuff. Care to wager on the midterms? 

John Hein

Bunky Svendsen's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 141
Post rating: 184

John...read again

John. There was no refrence to Donald Trump in Wilburs comment. He said "elitism trumps revenue" with regard to outside play at the CC. And Wilbur...your comment was spot on.

Betsy Guzzetta's picture
Joined: 10/09/2007
Posts: 122
Post rating: 140

Reference by John

Bunky - I think John “red” into it.  Pun intended!  

Betsy Guzzetta

John Hein's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 343
Post rating: 408

Indeed I did

Betty,

Yep, I did. Wilber and Bunky are died in the wool leftists. Not liberals anymore. Leftists!

John Hein

Betsy Guzzetta's picture
Joined: 10/09/2007
Posts: 122
Post rating: 140

My name is not Betty

John - the name is Betsy.  I sure wish we could stop using labels for people.  People have differing opinions based on a myriad different reasons .  Let’s stop feeding the divide.  We are all Americans.  

Betsy Guzzetta

John Hein's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 343
Post rating: 408

Elitism "trumps" revenue

Yes indeed, I read something into it as a back handed jab. Intentional or not.

John Hein

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 472
Post rating: 462

Hundred on the House

Your victimhood-seeking is adorable, John.  Hundred on House majority.  Deal?

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