Inverness Public Utility District general manager resigns, staff steps up

11/07/2018

Change is afoot at the Inverness Public Utility District. Ken Eichstaedt, the district’s general manager since May 2016, resigned last Wednesday for undisclosed reasons. “I enjoyed making positive changes to the infrastructure and administration at IPUD and wish the organization well,” Mr. Eichsteadt, an Olema resident with more than 30 years of experience as a civil engineer, told the Light in an email. The board of directors formally accepted his resignation at a special meeting last Friday, and approved reconfigurations to the time and pay of existing and new staff to fill his role until a more permanent replacement is found. Wade Holland, who served as general manager at IPUD between 1985 and 2001, will help fill Mr. Eichsteadt’s position in the short term as the district's administrator. He told the Light that the proximity of the resignation to an article in this newspaper about the possibility that elevated corrosivity in the district’s water is leading to increased lead levels at the tap was merely “an unfortunate coincidence.” Mr. Holland, who also volunteers as a proofreader for the Light, is increasing his time at IPUD from one day a week to three days. He will share primary managerial responsibilities with Jim Fox, the district’s water system superintendent and fire chief. Mr. Fox, who has loose plans to retire and has been chipping away at hundreds of hours of stored vacation time, will also increase his hours. Kaaren Gann, another former general manager, will take over the financial duties, and her daughter, Shelley Redding, will cover the remainder of the tasks as an associate administrator. The change also means a financial hit for the district, which agreed to pay Mr. Eichstaedt his salary—about $9,500 per month—until next February. Although Mr. Holland has encouraged the board to act quickly to find a replacement, at last week’s special meeting, board members waffled over whether to hire a new general manager right away or look for someone who could simply fill the administrative duties—their most pressing need. Mr. Holland, who plans to draft a job description for the board to consider in December, commended Mr. Eichsteadt for his role in the projects the district undertook during his tenure. Those include the planning and engineering of the Tenney tanks and the replacement of both a water main on Camino del Mar and the Stockstill tanks—all key aspects of the district’s infrastructure. As district employees work to pick up Mr. Eichsteadt’s normal responsibilities, they are also pressing ahead to complete another round of tests for the California State Water Resources Control Board this month, required after three out of 20 homes tested in April showed lead levels that exceeded the federal limit. It remains unclear whether the problem is isolated to a few homes with aging infrastructure or is more systemic, the result of an overall increased corrosivity of the water that passes through the district’s nanofiltration system, which came online in 2015. In an effort to troubleshoot the problem, the district plans to replace the faucets at the three test homes before conducting more testing.