Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.” The District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate.
Each year, the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s water storage tank uphill from South Mission Road is painted with new numbers. There’s a story about local Fallbrook history behind the fresh design on the “Rattlesnake Tank.”
The Fallbrook Public Utility District changes the painted numbers on the tank to reflect the year incoming seniors at Fallbrook High School will graduate. Staff recently painted over the “20,” changing it to “21” to welcome the graduating class of 2021.
The reason for the annual external makeover dates back 35 years. Prior to painting the tank, Fallbrook High seniors took on a longstanding dare. They would climb up the hill in the middle of the night, scale the tank and then paint it themselves.
“Since it’s a long way down, our staff of more than 35 years ago became concerned for their safety,” said Fallbrook’s Noelle Denke. “So we installed a fence around the tank.”
But it didn’t deter the energetic students. Instead, they just began jumping the fence in the middle of the night. So the District struck a deal with the students. If they would stop risking their safety for the dare, the district would safely paint the tank every year to commemorate them.
“And we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Denke.
Safely saluting seniors with 25-foot high signage
It takes District staff about eight hours to paint the 25-foot-tall numbers onto the 3.6 million-gallon tank. Since the tank shares the space with several cell towers, the Fallbrook Public Utility District makes arrangements with them to power-down their towers. Then crews safely hoist themselves up to the tower and get to work painting.
Rattlesnake Tank was built in the early 1950s and is one of Fallbrook’s oldest and most visible water tanks.
Jack Bebee, general manager of Fallbrook Public Utility District, earned his performance bonus but will not receive that money.
A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Aug. 24, gave the $5,000 that Bebee would have received to the rest of FPUD’s staff. Each staff member will receive a $75 stipend.
“Instead of paying me a performance bonus this year, we divided the money that was set aside,” Bebee said. “My recommendation to the board was to do that. They’re incurring more challenges during this period that I am.”
When all staff positions are filled, FPUD has 67 employees including Bebee. Three positions are currently vacant, so 63 FPUD employees will receive a stipend.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District will be refinancing its debt for the wastewater treatment plant.
A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Aug. 24, approved the development of a financing plan and debt documents. FPUD expects to reduce its payments by $1.1 million over a 15-year period, or approximately $73,000 annually.
“With the current low interest rate environment, we had the opportunity to save a substantial amount of money,” Jack Bebee, FPUD general manager, said.
San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission requires a deposit to process applications to LAFCO for jurisdictional changes, and the Fallbrook Public Utility District will be providing an additional deposit to process the application for FPUD to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District.
A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Monday, Aug. 24, authorized an additional $62,220 deposit to LAFCO. The deposit is expected to cover an additional 510 hours of LAFCO staff time at LAFCO’s rate of $122 per hour.
When the Fallbrook Public Utility District approved FPUD’s 2020-2021 budget $500,000 was appropriated for the district’s valve replacement program. The July 27 FPUD board meeting reallocated some of that amount for the purchase of backflow prevention devices.
“It’s just a project to maintain and upgrade some of the backflow devices,” Jack Bebee, general manager of FPUD, said.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District is in the process of replacing Automatic Meter Reading meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure meters, and a July 27 FPUD board vote approved the purchases for the fifth year of the program.
The 5-0 vote approved $532,088.90 of purchases including sales tax for meters, encoder receiver transmitters, and antennas. The purchases will provide the district with 1,308 Badger meters of various sizes from National Meter and Automation Inc. for $320,785 plus sales tax and 1,301 Itron encoder receiver transmitters and antennas from Inland Works Water Supply Company for $173,730.50 not including sales tax.
The replacement of the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s Martin Tank will be complemented by additional landscaping.
A 5-0 FPUD board vote, July 27, approved an additional $45,000 for landscaping expenses. The full amount allows the planned landscaping to proceed if expenses exceed the estimated $38,974 for 19 trees and irrigation infrastructure.
“The board felt it was a reasonable step to invest in the landscaping,” Jack Bebee, general manager of FPUD, said.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, public agencies have found creative solutions to holding meetings in compliance with the State of California’s meeting laws. Recently, Fallbrook Public Utility District board members stepped away from their video screens, using the opportunity to take a field trip to view a new project while conducting a traveling board meeting.
The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.
Fallbrook PUD board members view construction project
At the time of the tour, the project had been under construction for 250 days. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, board members and others who attended the traveling meeting stayed in their cars. While behind the wheel, board members wove through parts of Fallbrook to follow the path of the new pipeline. With their smartphones turned on and hands-free, representatives followed each other in a single file parade while listening to a live conference call with the project contractor. Board members learned about construction progress, and saw where and how the pipe will be installed.
The tour and the project began at the treatment plant on Alturas Road, where bulldozers and heavy machinery are moving earth to build the pipeline and a water treatment plant. The pipeline will transport water from the plant through parts of central Fallbrook, ending at McDonald Road. The project also includes a new four million-gallon storage tank, where the tour ended. Participants discussed the possibility of a subsequent tour to view ongoing progress with construction of the facilities.
The entire construction process will take approximately two years to complete, with the pipeline becoming fully operational by 2022.
The Fallbrook Public Utility District adopted a resolution declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus epidemic.
A 5-0 FPUD board vote, April 27, authorized Jack Bebee, general manager of FPUD, and Dave Shank, the district’s chief financial officer, to submit any necessary requests for emergency-related financial assistance to the state’s Office of Emergency Services or to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We’re only doing it just because there’s a timeline to submit it,” Bebee said. “Right now, we’re not planning to submit anything.”