Over the last few months we’ve been approached by several members who have asked why the Water Co. doesn’t take credit cards, PayPal, or some other electronic payment option. Great question and one that we recently spent some time researching and discussing.
Here’s what we’ve learned
Credit cards, while convenient for the purchaser, are not necessarily so for the vendor. Depending on the credit card company (i.e. Visa, Mastercard, American Express) the vendor is charged approximately 2-3% (or more) per transaction and by law, the vendor IS NOT allowed to pass on that fee as part of the transaction. They can, however, give a discount for cash or ACH (Automated Clearing House); or can charge more for the service for which the card is used, thereby recouping the transaction fee.
PayPal, for all intents and purposes, works just like credit cards. It charges 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction and it makes clear on its website that a PayPal “vendor” cannot charge a higher fee for PayPal transactions than non-PayPal transactions.
What does that mean?
Using PayPal as an example, for the current quarterly residential bill of $240.00:
1. The Water Co. could “eat” the $7.26 charge ($6.96 + $.30) 2. The Water Co. could “bake in” the above charges but would have to do so for ALL MEMBERS, not just those that pay by PayPal (or credit card) and therefore our rates would go up. 3. In an informal survey of some of our members we learned that the majority of members WERE NOT in favor of paying more so that some would be able to pay their bill with a credit card or PayPal.
So, what are members’ options, then?
Certainly, we can continue to pay our bill by mailing in a check. Some have asked, by the way, why a check just can’t be dropped off.
The simple answer is that: 1) we don’t have a time stamp option at our business office, which is our secretary’s home, and 2) frankly we wouldn’t want members dropping off payments at someone’s home anyway and 3) the postmark is used by our secretary to determine if payment was sent timely.
We get it! We’re members too. It seems silly sometimes to write a check, put it in an envelope, take it to the post office here in town, have them cancel it (not sure if they do that here or if the mail is sent to a larger location) and then put it in our box. However, due to the constraints we’ve outlined, that appears to be the only option.
Well, not entirely!
Bill pay is a fantastic option that would eliminate the need for postage and therefore the requisite trip to the post office while at that same time ensuring that we get the necessary time stamp (postmark) at the business office.
Funny story…After Mark did the research outlined above and presented his findings to the other members of the Board, our President, Mary Young, said something to the effect of “I don’t think we need to go down this credit card/PayPal path; I just use Bill Pay.”
For those of you who know Homer Simpson, it was somewhat of a “Doh!” moment for Mark. Of course! Bill Pay! “Honey, can you set that up, please?”
Depending on your bank you may have different ways of accessing or setting up Bill Pay. On Wells Fargo, for example, you’ll find it under the “Transfer and Pay” tab. For El Dorado Savings Bank it’s located under the “Payments” label. Your bank, or bank’s website, should be able to provide assistance/guidance if you need it.
So, if you’re not already using Bill Pay, and you can, it is a great option. If you can’t, or prefer not too, then yes, we ask that you continue to follow the old-school path and mail in that hard copy check.
At our last board meeting we realized we hadn’t posted an update on the goings on related to our planning grant since May. So Mary Young, our President, put this report together:
We are moving forward on our planning grant. You may have seen our geotechnical engineer performing soil boring operations or maybe you saw our surveyors setting control for an aerial topographic survey. This is all part of the design of over $10,000,000 in system improvements.
Construction of these improvements will be funded through a construction grant. Both the planning and construction grants are funded by the State of California Division of Financial Assistance program for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program.
The figure below shows the improvements currently being designed and a list of the improvements is also shown in the table at the end of this post:
Here is a brief summary of the benefits of the Project:
–Replaces existing pipelines most vulnerable to failure, dramatically reducing lifetime O&M costs associated with pipeline repair.
–Addresses all recommended hydraulic improvements, achieving dramatic improvements to available fire flows and increased turnover of Pleasant Valley Tank.
–Increases system reliability by placing the Pleasant Valley Tank feed pumps at the water treatment plant, where a standby propane generator can provide power during a utility outage.
–Provides two tiers of disinfectant byproduct (DBP) control approaches: source control at the water treatment plant (via removal of DBP precursors in GAC reactors, as well as potential improvements to the performance of the DBP precursor removal in the raw water storage / settling tank); and mixing and ventilation at the Pleasant Valley Tank to promote volatilization and removal of a fraction of DBPs.
We are excited to continue working with our engineers on the design of this project as well as working with our partners at the State to complete the construction grant application.
Evaluation of MWC’s water treatment and distribution systems has resulted in the following list of recommended infrastructure improvements:
—Pipeline Replacement. Approximately 17,700 lineal feet (LF) of existing pipelines are recommended for replacement. Replacement pipeline diameters generally range from 6 inches to 10 inches. Segments of replacement piping are placed into three groups based on their relative priorities (i.e., Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 pipelines). Existing service connections and fire hydrants would be replaced along segments of replaced piping. Several new fire hydrants would be included to improve fire protection and assist with unidirectional flushing of the distribution system.
—Relocation of Pleasant Valley Pump Station. The existing pump station would be relocated to MWC’s water treatment plant (WTP) to allow electrical backup of the pumps by the standby propane generator MWC has recently installed, and to make room for a new pressure reducing station in the general location of the existing pump station.
—New Pressure Reducing Station. A new pressure reducing station would facilitate a reconfiguration of the existing MWC distribution system, allowing the downtown Markleeville area to be fed by water stored in the Pleasant Valley Tank. This change would increase turnover of the tank, thereby reducing water age and improving water quality in parts of the distribution system. Additionally, this change, when coupled with pipeline replacements, will dramatically improve flows to hydrants in the downtown area during a fire event.
—Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) Reactor Vessels at WTP. New GAC reactor vessels would be installed at the WTP to provide additional removal of DBP precursor material before finished water enters the distribution system. The vessels would be configured to allow bypassing during periods in which DBP precursor materials easily managed by existing WTP operations.
—Tank Mixing Equipment at Pleasant Valley Tank. New mixing equipment would be installed inside the existing tank to promote volatilization and removal of certain DBP species, thereby reducing DBP concentrations in the distribution system. Ventilation equipment would also be installed to promote exchange of tank headspace and facilitate removal of volatilized DBPs.
—Replacement Storage Tank(s) at WTP. Replacement of one or more existing tanks at the WTP may be required to accommodate the relocation of the Pleasant Valley Pump Station and the installation of new GAC reactor vessels. Each of the WTP’s existing tanks are over 30 years old and have reached the ends of their useful lives. If the raw water storage tank is replaced, improvements to chemical injection, clarification, and solids removal capabilities may be incorporated to increase removal of DBP precursor material and reduce the quantity of solids reached the WTP’s existing pressure filters.
Relative priorities for the above improvements are presented in Table 1-1 below:
Table 1-1. Relative Priorities of Recommended Improvements
Improvement Element / Proposed Bid Item
Priority (1 = highest priority)
Priority 1 Pipeline Replacement and Affiliated Service Connections and Hydrants
Relocate Pleasant Valley Pump Station
New Pressure Reducing Station
Priority 2 Pipeline Replacement and Affiliated Service Connections and Hydrants
GAC Reactor Vessels at WTP
Replacement Storage Tank(s) at WTP
Tank Mixing Equipment at Pleasant Valley Tank
Table 1-1. Relative Priorities of Recommended Improvements
For previous posts on this subject you can search “grant” or “planning grant” on our home page.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com.
Since it’s been awhile since our last post, we thought we’d provide an update in several areas. Here you go!
Operational Meetings & Board Meetings
We held several weekly meetings (the first one was April 1), as we mentioned in this post, and thankfully we didn’t have any emergencies to address. The extra communication that took place was necessary early on but now it isn’t. The systems put in place by our Operator, Buck McLelland, and Kris Hartnett, one of our directors, have paid, and continue to pay, dividends. Buck and Kris communicate daily and anything that needs to be handled is done so quickly and efficiently. So, we have discontinued the weekly meetings BUT are still holding our monthly meetings (virtually still at this point, thanks to Zoom). Remember, members are welcome to attend. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the meeting details. We meet on the 3rd Saturday of the month starting at 8:30 a.m.
Work is progressing on the planning grant funded by the State of California Division of Financial Assistance (DFA) program; part of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program. Our consultant, West Yost Associates, submitted a draft of the Preliminary Engineering Report on May 15th. Once finalized, this report with be submitted to the State for approval of the recommended project. Once approved, environmental review and engineering design will begin. The primary objectives of the undertaking are to replace aging, failure-prone distribution piping and to implement distribution system changes intended to increase turnover of stored water as well as reductions in the incidence of disinfection byproduct exceedances. Operational changes over the past few years have already reduced these exceedances considerably, so the top priority of the project will be replacing those pipelines. This is a long-term effort, as you know, so continue to stay tuned for further updates.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to finish the install of the generator due to other, more pressing priorities. We have poured the pad and secured the generator to it. We’ve also gotten the propane tank installed and the electrical is almost completed. Finishing this project remains high on our list, especially in light of fire season, and we hope to have it operational soon.
Unfortunately, due to the dry winter, and per the California Drought Early Warning System, Alpine Co. is in the midst of a moderate drought. Because of this, we ask that you continue conserving water where you can. We also want to remind you that our Water Use Rules & Guidelines (snippet below) remain in effect and can be viewed in their entirety by clicking here.
Landscape watering is allowed at even-numbered physical addresses only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, any time between 6 and 10 AM and between 6 and 10 PM.
Landscape watering is allowed at odd-numbered physical addresses only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, any time between 6 and 10 AM and between 6 and 10 PM.
Landscape watering is NOT allowed on Sundays in order to give our finished water tanks time to refill/replenish.
Total landscape watering time is allowed up to two hours per day.
The Truckee Meadows Water Authority has a detailed “Assigned-Day Watering” page which we used as a guide for developing our Rules & Guidelines. Click here to check it out as it has some water saving tips and other relevant articles.
Oh, and by the way, if you are planning on doing any pressure washing at your home, which is allowed per our Water Use Rules & Guidelines, please give us a heads up and keep in mind that your pressure washing unit should be turned off when it’s not in use.
Thank you for being a member! We appreciate you continuing to be a good water steward and wish you, and your families and friends, good health. Continue to stay safe!
The Board held its first meeting (via Zoom) under the Covid-19 restrictions and it was a success! A couple directors joined via their computer and others joined via phone. Buck McLelland, our Plant Operator, and two corporation members, Becky and Fritz Thornburg, were also in virtual attendance, as was our former President, Steve Martin.
Speaking of meetings…At Buck’s suggestion we have decided to hold ½ hour bi-weekly operational meetings so that we can quickly discuss current water systems operations, business operations, and website and communications. It will also allow us to stay in sync with the latest news and best practices as things develop during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first of these will be held on April 1st at 6:30 p.m. You can find the latest agenda, including how to RSVP for any of these meetings, on our Important Documents page.
Buck and Kris brought us up to speed on what they are doing to maximize safety and minimize contact as it relates to the Covid-19. They are no longer working at the plant, or anywhere else, together so that if one of them gets sick, the other won’t be compromised. They are in direct contact via phone, daily, as they have been for years.
Additionally, the board discussed contingency plans if both of them were down and not able to travel for any reason. Steve Martin, our former president, has the necessary experience to take over and can do so under Buck’s direction. Other board members can also step in, with direction from Buck via phone or facetime, for example, as the plant and our systems are set up accordingly.
We’ve recently this FAQ (and answer) to our FAQ page:
What do I do if I need to make payment arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic?
If you are under financial hardship due to the pandemic, please contact our secretary, Joanne Oehlerking at 530-694-2924. It should be noted that Markleeville Water Company is considered a critical infrastructure utility and as such needs income in order to continue to operate and supply clean, potable water to our corporation members.
You’ll also find a few others, including one that answers the question: Who do I contact if I have a water emergency?
Updated Important Documents
We’ve added the agenda from Saturday’s meeting, as well the operations report; the approved minutes from last month’s meeting and the agenda for our first operational meeting. On this page, you’ll also find our Schedule of Rates & Fees and a 3-year waiver for testing of organic synthetic materials that we rec’d late last year. Kudos to Director Hartnett for his hard work and persistence in getting that waiver, by the way – not having to do that testing so often will save us money and give Kris a little more time back in his day.
Lastly, we want to let you know that our planning grant initiative is moving along nicely. We’ve had lengthy, detailed discussions on timing, cost and possible options. Some options will likely increase members’ rates but it’s too soon to tell for sure how much. We are VERY cognizant of the impact increased rates could have and will not make any such decisions without members’ input. We are discussing how and when we could host a meeting for members to bring you up to speed and get your feedback. It’s likely that the Covid-19 pandemic would have an impact on that meeting; right now it’s too early to tell. Once we have some certainty, however, we’ll post something on the website, and email and mail notice to all members.
Be Safe and Stay Healthy!
We wish you and your families well during this difficult time and urge you to follow all guidelines issued by the county and state. Urge your family and friends to do the same, too.
If we all stick together and do it for each other then we’ll get through this.
Alpine County’s Public Health Director has said: “There should be no gatherings of any kind.”
In keeping with this directive, MWC Board meetings will be in the form of a telephone conference call until further notice. Qualified Persons may call in to attend. Please e-mail us at email@example.com for information on how to call in.
Everyone calling in must identify themselves and we will restrict comments to the public comment period of the meeting or to specific agenda items on which action may be taken.
The United States EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the following information on drinking water supplies and COVID-19:
FROM THE EPA
EPA has established regulations with treatment requirements for public water systems that prevent waterborne pathogens such as viruses from contaminating drinking water. These treatment requirements include filtration and disinfectants such as chlorine that remove or kill pathogens before they reach the tap. Additionally, WHO (World Health Organization)notes that, “conventional, centralized water treatment methods which utilize filtration and disinfection should inactivate COVID-19 virus.” https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-drinking-water-and-wastewater
FROM THE CDC
The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html
FROM THE MWC
Markleeville Water Company uses filtration and disinfection to treat surface water. The water in the system is then tested to ensure the water has the proper amount of residual disinfection in our pipe system. Markleeville Water Company reports this information to the State and the County, and we are in compliance with their water quality regulations.