Santa Fe Irrigation District Announces Hiring of New General Manager

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The Santa Fe Irrigation District has hired a new general manager to lead the district, following the retirement in December of longtime general manager Michael Bardin.

Albert Lau, currently director of engineering and planning at the Padre Dam Municipal Water District in East County, will assume his new role on Monday, March 4. The Santa Fe District supplies water to approximately 20,000 residents of Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach, and Fairbanks Ranch.

At a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, the Santa Fe District Board of Directors unanimously approved an employment contract with Lau, said Michael Hogan, chairman of the board.

Under the agreement approved by the Board of Directors, Lau will earn $ 215,000 per year and be eligible for a 4% salary increase following his first annual review by the Board of Directors in July 2020.

Lau has worked for the Padre Dam agency since 2000. In total, he has 24 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry, Hogan said. In his current role, he is responsible for planning, engineering, capital improvements, contract negotiations and interface with elected officials and the public.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are delighted to have Albert Lau on board as the new head of the organization,” Hogan said.

Among his duties at Padre Dam, which serves residents of the Santee-Lakeside area, he oversaw a $ 500 million project to convert wastewater to potable water, known as the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, has Hogan said.

The project, which is currently in planning and licensing, involves multiple agencies and is reportedly the first of its kind in California. When operational, the program will provide about 30 percent of Eastern County’s drinking water, Hogan said.

“This is one of the most innovative water supply projects in San Diego County,” Hogan said. “I think this project provides insight into Mr. Lau’s knowledge and skills.”

Currently, the Santa Fe District is part of a study with other North County water agencies, which seeks to develop new local water supplies. Lau will participate in these efforts in his new role as chief executive, Hogan said.

Lau holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly Pomona, a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado, and an MBA from San Diego State University.

Lau’s hiring culminated in a six-month search for a replacement for Bardin, who served as the Santa Fe District General Manager for 14 years.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board discussed a way forward after a majority voted 3-2 in December to reject a proposed new rate plan, which would have allowed rate increases of 3% on average per year over the next three years.

Hogan said district staff had prepared financial forecasts, which showed that for the next six months, the district can maintain operations at its current rates, without dipping into reserves. After that period, he said, the district will have to dip into reserves to cover shortfalls caused by rate increases billed by the San Diego County Water Authority, the district’s wholesale water supplier, and San Diego. Elijo Joint Powers Authority, which supplies recycled water.

The council’s goal is to resolve its rate issues within the next six months, Hogan said. A workshop will be held soon, where council members can discuss the pricing situation and ask questions about the recent “cost of service study” that was used to prepare the proposed three-year pricing plan.


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