Candidates for Idyllwild Water vacancies address public

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Shannon Ng moderated the forum for four individuals seeking to fill one of the two vacant seats on the Idyllwild Water District board last Thursday evening at Town Hall. From left, are Dr. Charles Schelly, Geoffrey Caine, David Hunt and Vic Sirkin.Photo by Peter Szabadi

Shannon Ng moderated the forum for four individuals seeking to fill one of the two vacant seats on the Idyllwild Water District board last Thursday evening at Town Hall. From left, are Dr. Charles Schelly, Geoffrey Caine, David Hunt and Vic Sirkin. Photo by Peter Szabadi

The Idyllwild Water District lost two of its five directors in September. Former President James Billman and Director Mike Frietas resigned unexpectedly within the same week.

The remaining directors have not be able to appoint replacements because Vice President John Cook prefers to wait and hold an election in March 2017. Regardless of the victors, the newly elected directors would have to stand for re-election again in August 2017.

California Government Code section 1780, subdivision (f)(1), authorizes a county’s board of supervisors to appoint replacements after 60 days of the resignation. 

Four individuals — Geoffrey Caine, David Hunt, Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Vic Sirkin — have decisively expressed their interest in serving on the IWD board.

Whether IWD ultimately holds an election or the Supervisors appoint the replacements, the Idyllwild Town Crier organized a forum for these individuals to speak to the district residents. The forum was last week, Thursday, Nov. 10.

Below are some of the questions posed to the candidates and their responses. More of the discussion will be in next week’s paper.

Q. If appointed, would you run for the 4-year term next year [in August 2017]?

Each person answered differently. First, David Hunt strongly said “No.” Geoffrey Caine said he did not know for sure at this time. Dr. Schelly unequivocally said, “Yes” and Vic Sirkin replied, “I’d take that option.”

Q. Please summarize your take on advantages and disadvantages of merging the three local water districts [— Fern Valley, Idyllwild and Pine Cove]. Is it feasible?

VS: Yes it’s desirable and ideal in the right circumstances, but it’s not feasible right now. It will take one or two years for IWD to improve its image in the other districts.

GC: I’d love to see that. Until other issues are taken care of, I can’t see us at the district beginning to connect with them.

DH: I don’t think that’s feasible. Fern Valley is a different type of district. [IWD is a county water district governed by its registered voters. FVWD is a state water district governed by its property owners, whether they live in district or not, and they have more votes the more property they own.]

Pine Cove wants nothing to do with us unless it’s a hostile take over. While it’s not feasible, we can work together more.

CS: If we would move in that direction and they want to move, today is the best time. If there are problems with consolidation, it’s something to work toward.

Q. What do you believe is the main purpose of a water district?

CS: Safe water and sewer service

GC: We need to work at two levels. Provide reliable water — good and healthy — for the district’s customers. Secondly, given the magnitude of the district’s impacts, we have a larger role to help build community.

DH: Provide safe water quality, reliable wells, and let the community know the water company works for them.

VS: Well restoration, reliable and clean, safe water, sound financial judgment, maintenance of infrastructure and treat everyone with empathy and compassion. We need to be a transparent board.

Q. What are your thoughts on a tiered billing rate system for water use?

DH: It serves conservation and you pay more if you use a lot.

VS: It’s certainly important to have a tiered system. The higher charges are a way to encourage water savings. But you can’t charge more for water than the cost of production. A tiered system prevents some of the public from using excessive water. I’d be in favor of charging more if justified.

GC: I’d be generous in tier 1 so people, who are not well off, get adequate water. And charge more for tier 2 and higher.

CS: I’d be aware of how much money it brings in above the base rate. For me this is very personal. We have a low flow toilet, low flow showers, and three kids and with a lot of laundry. That adds up. I’d offer a tier for families trying to conserve water. Even if a family has three, four or five kids, it would be nice to qualify for the base rate if you’re not wasting water. Then I’d have two or three more tiers.

Q. Of what concern to you are the by-laws or operating procedures for IWD? What would you consider doing to make these more transparent to the people of Idyllwild?

CS: I’d go back to get a certificate from the special district’s Center for Excellence. Things should be posted on our web site before the meetings under Brown Act. A lawyer tells you the minimum you must do to comply with the law. But we should go beyond for the public and provide information for public. Website doesn’t cost anything to print for paper or ink. We can put documents online so public has all the information at its fingertips.

VS: I’ve asked for a copy of Idyllwild’s bylaws, but they have no bylaws. I received a pile of paper with various policies and procedures. I’d research the bylaws of the other districts, then extract the best to create a set of bylaws. Then we’d have something we could use.

GC: I’ve been researching how to set up special districts. Why don’t we have any bylaws?  We have to have a set of procedures.

The second issue, I don’t know what we can do. We need a simple set of bylaws. [GC then referred to an incident at a meeting where one of the directors had to step away from the dais. Cook would not delay a vote to wait for the director’s return.] We need a foundation of etiquette to work together as human beings. We can begin small and grow.

To be continued in November 24 edition of the Town Crier.

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