The Kennewick Irrigation District board is starting 2012 by forming a citizen-based planning committee, a new practice of recording calls from irate customers and it hopes to start charging for election recounts.
Tuesday's board meeting also saw Gene Huffman chosen as board president and Patrick McGuire as vice president.
Chuck Freeman, district secretary-manager, said recording phone calls would be useful for training, for assessing employees' performance and for documenting unfriendly callers who "could present threats to KID staff or business."
State law requires a caller consent to being recorded, which is why KID's phone system will answer incoming calls with a message advising the call may be recorded.
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KID employees will have discretion to start the recording by simply pushing a button, Freeman said.
"We feel even having the warning about recording will help discourage bad behavior on the phone," he noted in a memo to the board.
The recording of incoming calls takes effect immediately, he said.
KID also would like to see new legislation this year to allow irrigation districts to start charging for election recounts.
Other municipal agencies, excluding irrigation districts, already are allowed by state law to collect a deposit before a recount is done, with the amount not used to be refunded, or the excess charges to be paid by the citizen who asked for the recount.
But irrigation districts, which are governed by a separate set of laws in the Revised Code of Washington, do not have that authority.
Irrigation district elections are held in December, while municipal and state elections are in November.
-- The KID board voted to create a planning committee that will meet monthly to review long-term water supply planning, drought mitigation, how to manage surplus land, future rate changes, planning for private line areas and issues involving annexations and levels of service.
Two members of the Water Rates Advisory Committee have agreed to serve on the planning committee: Tim Berk and Jeff Lutz. People interested in serving up to four years on the committee must complete an application and be available for an interview in February.
Applicants must be KID water users or property owners in the district.
The committee will be set up to have members representing perspectives of each of three categories of water users: urban, rural and agricultural.
Committee members will serve without pay.
-- The board decided to set pay for the new position of comptroller/treasurer at $5,371 to $6,854 per month. The newly created job will help ensure a separation of duties involving handling of cash deposits, which was a concern in a recent state audit.
-- The board decided to approve assessments for 2012, which reflect no increase for the third consecutive year in base charges for KID customers irrigating less than 8 acres.
The assessments do not include other mandatory charges of $53.09 for the 2012 capital project fund and federal project construction loans and local improvement district charges.
-- The board will meet Feb. 23 for an all-day retreat to discuss how to manage KID's real estate holdings, and water supply and development issues for Red Mountain.
-- The board will invite 50 KID customers to volunteer in an online survey intended to help in a redesign of KID's website.
Each customer would receive a $35 credit on their 2012 water bill in return for spending up to three hours in the online process.
Colleen Storms, district treasurer, said the online survey with 50 participants would be effective and cost much less than the $8,000 it would cost to print and mail surveys to all 22,000 KID customers.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; email@example.com