"I have reluctantly decided that it is in the best interests of the community that I resign my position as general manager and allow the board of directors and the community an opportunity for a fresh start," wrote Rich Williamson, general manager for Borrego Water District, in his November 17 resignation letter.
Williamson's resignation comes three years after he was hired as head of the water district.
During those three years, many of Borrego Valley's 2015 residents have lost faith in their water district, which pumps and supplies water from a large underground freshwater basin. No one knows for how long the basin will supply water to residents and agricultural companies. According to recent studies, water levels inside the basin are dropping, and engineers from the state's Department of Water Resources have described the current levels of water usage as "untenable."
Water levels aren't the only thing dropping in Borrego. During the past three years, cash reserves have plummeted by nearly $5 million.
There are some residents who consider Williamson's tenure a success. There are others, such as Dennis Dickinson, webmaster for borregowaterunderground.org, who are angered by the district's inability to regulate water usage on large farms and resort golf courses located in the valley. Not to mention, the "generous and unnecessary" termination agreements that the board agreed to give Williamson.
According to the severance agreement, the former general manager will receive approximately $85,000 in severance pay, including $19,581 for vacation pay and $4300 in health benefits.
"The lame-duck board rubber-stamped the termination agreement," wrote Dickinson in a November 29 email. "[There were] a number of protests from members of the public and incoming board members to delay ratifying the agreement until the new board members could be seated."
In addition to his severance agreement, Williamson also received a letter of recommendation from the president of Borrego's board of directors, Katherine King. In the letter, King listed some of Williamson's achievements, including the creation of water credits and planning and designing additional pipelines for water importation.
"Mr. Williamson leaves his position with considerable support in the community and among members of the board of directors," read King's letter.
December 17 will be Williamson's final day as head of the Borrego Water District.